November 26 in Literary History: Lewis Carroll Sends Alice Liddell His Book

The most significant events in the history of books on the 26th of November

1607: King Lear is entered on the Stationers’ Register. The ‘booke called Mr. William Shakespeare his historye of King Lear’ was entered on the Stationers’ Register by Nathaniel Butter and John Busby.

1607: Also on this day, 26 November 1607, John Harvard is born. Harvard University is named after him. Harvard spent only one year of his life in America, and died of tuberculosis aged just 30.

1731: William Cowper is born. This poet is best known for such poems as ‘The Castaway’ and for the Olney Hymns, which he wrote with John Newton for Newton’s parish of Olney in Buckinghamshire, England, just a few miles north of the new town of Milton Keynes.

1857: Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure, a leading theorist of semiotics (the ‘science of signs’), is born. His Carroll1Course in General Linguistics was published posthumously in 1916, three years after his death. Saussure didn’t write the book: it was compiled from notes made by his students during his lectures and classes.

1864: Lewis Carroll sends Alice Liddell the handwritten manuscript for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Several years earlier, on 4 July 1862, Carroll – real name Charles Lutwidge Dodgson – had entertained the young Alice Liddell during an Oxford boat ride. The story that he told her became Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, which was published in 1865 to huge acclaim.

1909: Eugène Ionesco is born. This Romanian-French playwright was a leading figure in twentieth-century French theatre, and his work has close ties to the Absurdism of Samuel Beckett, although Ionesco’s style is his own. Perhaps his masterpieces are The Chairs (1952) and Rhinoceros (1959).

1919: Frederik Pohl is born. This author of science fiction co-wrote one of the most acclaimed SF novels of the twentieth century, The Space Merchants, which he wrote with fellow SF pulpster Cyril Kornbluth. Kingsley Amis called it the best science-fiction novel yet produced; this was a few decades ago, though John Sutherland has more recently echoed this sentiment.

1943: Marilynne Robinson is born. This American novelist and critic has won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (2005) and the National Humanities Medal (2012). Her novels include Gilead (2004) and Home (2008).

Image: Lewis Carroll, 1863, Wikimedia Commons, public domain.