November 6 in Literary History: Marian Evans Becomes George Eliot

The most significant events in the history of books on the 6th of November

1671: Poet Colley Cibber is born. He would become Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom in 1730. He was also a leading actor-manager in the London theatre world. Brash and sometimes teetering on the edge of bad taste, Cibber’s personality – and productions – would be criticised by some of his contemporaries, most famously Alexander Pope, who made Cibber the chief Dunce in his satirical poem The Dunciad. Cibber was a descendant of William of Wykeham – although, ironically, he failed to win a place to study at Winchester College, which Wykeham founded.

1692: Louis Racine, French playwright and son of Jean Racine, is born. A fellow poet tried to dissuade him from George Eliotpursuing his dream of becoming a poet, on the grounds that poetic genius is not found in two successive generations. Certainly, young Louis had big shoes to fill: Racine (Racine Senior, that is) was the author of some of the most celebrated tragedies in all of French theatre, notably Phèdre and Andromaque.

1856: Marian Evans submits Scenes of Clerical Life, her first work of fiction, for publication. It will later be published under the name ‘George Eliot’. As George Eliot she would become one of the leading Victorian novelists, earning a then-record sum of £10,000 for her novel Romola.

1952: Michael Cunningham, author of The Hours, is born. Cunningham’s novel is partly a rewriting of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway, the working title of which was ‘The Hours’.

2000: L. Sprague de Camp, author of fantasy novels, dies. After Robert E. Howard committed suicide in 1936, de Camp was one of the leading authors who continued Howard’s legacy in ‘sword and sorcery’ – de Camp would write later tales involving Howard’s creation, Conan the Barbarian.

Image: George Eliot, via Wikimedia Commons.

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