November 30 in Literary History: Mark Twain Born

The most significant events in the history of books on the 30th of November

1554: Sir Philip Sidney is born. This Elizabethan poet wrote one of the earliest sonnet sequences in English (Astrophil and Stella), and in his prose romance the Arcadia, he invented the name Pamela. The name means ‘all sweetness’ (from pan meaning all, and mela from the Latin for ‘sweet’ or ‘honey’, whence ‘mellifluous’). Sidney’s The Defence of Poesy (published posthumously in 1595) is widely regarded as the first sustained piece of literary criticism (or even literary theory) written in the English language.

1667: Jonathan Swift is born. He is best remembered for his 1726 novel Gulliver’s Travels, which is variously viewed Mark Twain in bedas a fantasy novel, a children’s book, and a satire on science and humanity (this last one is probably the main reading intended by Swift himself).

1835: Mark Twain is born Samuel Langhorne Clemens. Indeed, he is born two weeks after Halley’s Comet appeared, and died the day after it next made its return in 1910. He had correctly predicted that he would die when the comet returned to the skies. Check out Twain’s wise (and funny) rules for writers here.

1872: John McCrae is born. His classic poem ‘In Flanders Fields’ is featured in our pick of the best poems of the First World War.

1900: Oscar Wilde dies in Paris – not of syphilis (as is sometimes claimed) but of cerebral meningitis. We’ve put together some of Wilde’s best quotations here.

Image: Mark Twain lying in bed, 1906 (author: Underwood & Underwood), Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

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