November 3 in Literary History: French Playwright is Guillotined

The most significant events in the history of books on the 3rd of November

A significant day in the history of Charles Dickens’s career, as he completes another successful book on this day, November the 3rd, in 1844…

1793: Olympe de Gouges is guillotined in France. A female French playwright, Gouges was also a political campaigner (a feminist and an abolitionist) who fell foul of the Revolutionary government during the Reign of Terror and was executed. Among her political writings, Declarations of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen (1791) remains the most widely known.

1844: Charles Dickens finishes writing his follow-up to A Christmas Carol. Having spent the latter part of October Dickens3working furiously on it, Dickens completes work on The Chimes and celebrates by having ‘a real good cry’. We tend to think that Dickens failed to repeat the success of A Christmas Carol in any of his later Christmas books (he wrote five in total). This may be true in critical terms, and posterity has certainly not been as kind to the other Christmas books (few read The Battle of Life now), but commercially, The Cricket on the Hearth – the third Christmas book Dickens wrote – actually outsold A Christmas Carol at the time.

1958: Boris Pasternak is offered a way out, but says no. On this day in 1958, Nikita Khrushchev offered the Nobel Laureate (or rather, the would-be Laureate: Khrushchev wouldn’t let Pasternak collect the prize) the chance to leave the Soviet Union without fear of dishonour. But Pasternak declined, saying that his life and his identity were too deeply bound up with Russia. ‘Pasternak’, by the way, means ‘parsnip’ in Russian.

Image: Charles Dickens, public domain.

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