December 7 in Literary History: Robert Graves Dies

The most significant events in the history of books on the 7th of December

43 BC: Cicero is assassinated. As well as being an influential orator and writer, Cicero rose to be a hugely powerful statesman in Rome, and he clashed with the consul, Mark Antony, who declared Cicero an enemy of the state. Before Cicero could leave Rome, he was set upon and killed by two men. As well as his speeches he wrote a huge number of treatises on various political subjects.

1873: Willa Cather is born. The American writer’s 1913 novel O Pioneers! remains popular. The novel focuses on a Swedish family of immigrants living in Nebraska.

1915: Leigh Brackett is born. As well as writing popular science fiction and fantasy novels (including Sea-Kings of Leigh BrackettMars), Brackett was also a successful Hollywood screenwriter. Her film credits include The Big Sleep (1945) and The Empire Strikes Back (1980), the second Star Wars film to be made.

1947: Anne Fine is born. This British writer for children wrote Madame Doubtfire (1987), the book on which the Robin Williams film Mrs Doubtfire was based.

1975: Thornton Wilder dies. The American playwright won three Pulitzer Prizes for his work, which includes the 1938 play Our Town, about a small American town and its inhabitants.

1985: Robert Graves dies. He had been pronounced dead nearly 70 years earlier: at the Battle of the Somme he was expected to die of his wounds. He survived to write a memoir about the war, Goodbye to All That (1929), as well as novels such as I, Claudius (1934). A lesser-known later novel is King Jesus (1946), a semi-historical work of fiction that presents Jesus as rightful heir to the throne of Judea rather than the son of God.

Image: A photograph of noted science-fiction author and screenwriter Leigh Brackett, taken in 1941 (author unknown), Wikimedia Commons.

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