November 13 in Literary History: Robert Louis Stevenson Born

The most significant events in the history of books on the 13th of November

1850: Robert Louis Stevenson is born. However, as we’ve revealed elsewhere he legally renounced all rights to the 13th of November as his birthday, in a characteristic act of kindness (for more of which, see below). Stevenson is probably best known for the Gothic horror classic Jekyll and Hyde and the adventure story Treasure Island, though he also wrote verse for children (A Child’s Garden of Verses), ghost stories (‘Markheim’, ‘The Body Snatcher’), and travel writing (Travels with a Donkey).

1861: Arthur Hugh Clough dies. This Victorian poet was mocked by many of his contemporaries, such as Swinburne Robert Louis Stevenson(who thought him a bad poet) and Alfred, Lord Tennyson (who thought him dull). However, he wrote one of the most famous little gems of Victorian poetic satire, his poem ‘The Latest Decalogue‘ (which rewrites the Ten Commandments), as well as the popular poem advocating courage in adversity, ‘Say not the struggle nought availeth‘.

1907: Francis Thompson dies. This poet studied medicine at Owens College, Manchester, but his heart wasn’t in it and he left the north for the bright lights of London. However, he ended up sleeping rough for a number of years, and his later years would be blighted by opium use and the tuberculosis that eventually killed him. Thompson is best known for ‘The Hound of Heaven’, which can be read here.

And finally … as it’s World Kindness Day today, we’ll leave you with some of the finest observations and quotations about kindness from great authors.

Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for a kindness. – Seneca

Always try to be a little kinder than is necessary. – J. M. Barrie

Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind. – Henry James

Image: Photo of Robert Louis Stevenson (by Lloyd Osbourne, date unknown), Wikimedia Commons.

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