November 15 in Literary History: J. G. Ballard is Born

The most significant events in the history of books on the 15th of November

1869: Charlotte Mew is born. This English poet spanned both the Victorian and modernist periods in English poetry; it is fitting, then, that among her admirers were both Thomas Hardy and Virginia Woolf. Among her most famous poems are ‘In Nunhead Cemetery‘ and ‘The Farmer’s Bride‘.

1887: Marianne Moore is born. An important American modernist poet, she was once asked by the Ford Motor Just William book cover designsCompany to come up with names for new cars. One of her suggestions was ‘Mongoose Civique’.

1890: Richmal Crompton is born. She was the prolific author of the Just William series of books featuring the mischievous schoolboy William Brown, although the title ‘Just William’ is something of a misnomer, as we’ve revealed in our compilation of great facts about Crompton and her William books. Crompton was a bright child who was offered a scholarship to study Classics at Cambridge. But she chose to go to Royal Holloway, London instead. After graduating she became a schoolteacher. Although she wrote some 30 books for adults, none of them attracted anything like the readership that William Brown did. She would soon come to resent the shadow that her schoolboy creation cast over her ‘serious’ fiction.

1916: Henryk Sienkiewicz dies. This notable Polish author of historical novels was the recipient of the 1905 Nobel Prize for Literature.

1930: J. G. Ballard is born. Known as ‘the Seer of Shepperton’, after the Surrey town where he lived for much of his life, Ballard spent several of his formative childhood years in a Japanese internment camp in Shanghai. Among his most notable books are The Drowned World, an important work of New Wave post-apocalyptic fiction; High Rise, about a tower block; and Crash, later filmed by David Cronenberg, in which the relationship between sex and cars is, shall we say, pushed to the extreme. Ballard also predicted that Ronald Reagan would one day become US President.

Image: A selection of book covers from reissues of the Just William books.

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