The most significant events in the history of books on the 8th of November
1308: Duns Scotus dies. He was a philosopher and theologian from whom we get ‘dunce’, on account of later ridiculing of his ideas, but the general consensus seems to be that he was a very intelligent thinker. Gerard Manley Hopkins admired him, and wrote a poem, ‘Duns Scotus’s Oxford‘, about the city where both men studied.
1342: Julian of Norwich is (possibly) born. Nobody knows for sure, but then nobody knows much about her in general. Her name probably wasn’t even Julian: she is referred to as such because her anchoress’s cell was built alongside the Church of St Julian in Norwich. She is famous for writing down the visions she received while seemingly on the point of death; her account of these visions became the Revelations of Divine Love, the first book written in English by a woman.
1602: The Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford opens its doors to the public for the first time.
1674: John Milton dies. His masterpiece is Paradise Lost, a long narrative poem about the Fall of Man (and Satan’s role in bringing it about), published in 1667. It introduced the world to the word ‘pandemonium’, which Milton coined (with a capital P) as the name of the capital city of Hell.
1710: Sarah Fielding is born. The sister of Henry Fielding, she was the author of the 1765 book The Governess, one of the first children’s novels in English.
1847: Bram Stoker is born. Best-known as the author of the 1897 novel Dracula, Abraham Stoker was also a successful stage manager in late nineteenth-century London, as well as the manager of actress Ellen Terry (who called him ‘Mum’). He also married Florence Balcombe, whom Oscar Wilde had had his eye on (but Florence chose Bram rather than Oscar).
1900: Margaret Mitchell is born. She is remembered for her one novel, Gone with the Wind, which was published in 1936 before reaching a much larger audience three years later when it was filmed with Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable in the lead roles. Mitchell would die while crossing the road in 1949.
1954: Kazuo Ishiguro is born. He is the author of numerous acclaimed novels including The Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go.
1998: Rumer Godden dies. Godden was a prolific novelist who, among other things, gave her name to Rumer Willis, the actress daughter of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore, and to Rumer, the musician born Sarah Joyce.
Image: Bram Stoker in 1906, by W. & D. Downey; Wikimedia Commons.