The most significant events in the history of books on the 5th of December
1784: Phillis Wheatley dies. The first black poet of the Americas to publish a book, Wheatley was an eighteenth-century black slave taught to read by her owners. She composed over 100 poems in her lifetime. You can read some of her poetry in this interesting post about her.
1830: Christina Rossetti is born. Her best-known poems are probably the long narrative poem Goblin Market (1862), and ‘A Christmas Carol’, a poem that is better known under the title ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’ (after its first line), as the words to a famous festive carol. We include her sonnet ‘Remember’ as one of the eight poems we discuss in our very short history of English poetry.
1870: Alexandre Dumas dies. His name at birth was Dumas Davy de la Pailleterie. Dumas’ death was eclipsed by the Franco-Prussian War which was raging at the time. Despite enjoying considerable popularity during his lifetime, he died in poverty and his reputation declined rapidly after his death. However, The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo remain firm favourites with readers. Dumas has a station on the Paris Metro named after him.
1934: Joan Didion is born. She once observed, ‘Had I been blessed with even limited access to my own mind there would have been no reason to write.’
1954: Hanif Kureishi is born. His most popular novel is probably The Buddha of Suburbia (1990), a heavily autobiographical account of a mixed-race British Asian teenager in 1970s London, who wishes to escape the confines of his suburban upbringing. Kureishi also wrote the screenplay for the 1985 film My Beautiful Launderette, about a Pakistani teenager living in Thatcher’s Britain. My Beautiful Launderette gave Daniel Day-Lewis one of his first major film roles.
Image: Portrait of Christina Rossetti by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1866), public domain.