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.

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December 6 in Literary History: Anthony Trollope Dies

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

1478: Baldassare Castiglione is born. This Italian soldier and diplomat is best remembered for The Book of the Courtier (1528), a book written over many years in the form of a philosophical dialogue. It sums up Renaissance Europe: when an English translation appeared in 1561 it helped to define the idea of the English gentleman.

1658: Baltasar Gracián dies. A Spanish writer and philosopher, his wisest witticism, for our money, is the following: ‘A synonym is a word you use when you can’t spell the other one.’

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December 5 in Literary History: Christina Rossetti Born

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.

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Five Fascinating Facts about the Limerick

By Dr Oliver Tearle

1. Nobody knows for sure why limericks are named limericks.

There have been numerous theories put forward for why the five-line verse known as the ‘limerick’ is so named, but none of them is conclusive. The name ‘limerick’ was first applied to the five-line form in the late nineteenth century, and one theory holds that comic verses once contained the line ‘Will [or won’t] you come (up) to Limerick?’

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December 4 in Literary History: Charlotte Brontë Meets William Makepeace Thackeray

The most significant events in the history of books on the 4th of December

1131: Omar Khayyám dies. This Persian poet and mathematician wrote the Rubaiyat (or ‘quatrains’), later translated into English by several Victorian poets, most famously by Edward FitzGerald.

1835: Samuel Butler is born. This unusual Victorian novelist is best known for The Way of All Flesh (1903), a semi-autobiographical novel that attacked Victorian hypocrisy and religion so vehemently that Butler arranged for the novel only to be published after his death.

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