November 18 in Literary History: George Bernard Shaw Turns Down Nobel Prize Money

The most significant events in the history of books on the 18th of November

1307: According to Tschudi, it is on this day that William Tell shot the arrow off his son’s head in Swiss legend.

1836: W. S. Gilbert is born. Gilbert is best known for his songwriting partnership with composer Arthur Sullivan, which would result in the Savoy Operas such as HMS Pinafore and The Pirates of Penzance. Gilbert died in May 1911, after diving into a lake to save a drowning girl and suffering a heart attack.

1865: Mark Twain’s short story ‘The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County’ is published in the New York Saturday Press. You can read the story here.

1882: Wyndham Lewis is born Percy Wyndham Lewis, reputedly on his father’s yacht in Nova Scotia, Canada. He would be an important figure in the modernist scene in London, active as a novelist and short-story writer Proust2(producing, among others, Tarr and the collection The Wild Body) and as an artist. He was an associate of Ezra Pound and T. E. Hulme (the latter of whom he once boxed in Soho Square).

1922: Marcel Proust dies. Earlier in the year, on 18 May, he had attended an interesting dinner party also attended by James Joyce. The two writers spent much of the duration of the meal discussing their ailments, and admitted they hadn’t read each other’s work. (Also present at the dinner party were Pablo Picasso and Igor Stravinsky.) Proust’s magnum opus is the seven-volume À la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time), one of the most important works of French modernist literature.

1926: George Bernard Shaw refuses to accept the money for his Nobel Prize. ‘I can forgive Alfred Nobel for inventing dynamite’, he writes, ‘but only a fiend in human form could have invented the Nobel Prize.’ He instead asked that the prize money be used to subsidise the translating of Swedish works of literature into English.

1939: Margaret Atwood is born. Later today, we’ll have a new post detailing our five favourite facts about the great Canadian novelist and poet.

1953: Alan Moore is born, best known for his graphic novels such as V for Vendetta, about a dystopian post-nuclear 1990s world.

Image: Marcel Proust in 1900, Wikimedia Commons, public domain.


  1. Pingback: This day in lit history | Rose Read

  2. 1922 – so interesting.That was all new to me.
    GBS – I had read somewhere that he refused a prize but didn’t know why.
    Atwood – one of my favourites – a great writer – lloking forward tp your post.