November 19 in Literary History: Thomas Shadwell Dies

The most significant events in the history of books on the 19th of November

1692: Thomas Shadwell dies. He had been appointed Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom in 1689, after the Glorious Revolution had put William and Mary on the English throne. The Catholic Dryden found himself out of favour with the new monarchical double act, and he became – as well as the first official UK Poet Laureate – also the first Poet Laureate to be sacked. Dryden would outline his successor by eight years.

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Five Fascinating Facts about Margaret Atwood

Fun facts about Margaret Atwood, the author of The Handmaid’s Tale

1. Atwood has had a record number of nominations for the Booker Prize. The Canadian novelist has been nominated five times for the prestigious award, and on one of those occasions, Atwood won the coveted prize, for The Blind Assassin. Her 2009 book The Year Of The Flood, a dystopian novel, reportedly infuriated the chair of the Man Booker panel so much that he threw it across the room. John Sutherland reports this in his hugely entertaining Lives of the Novelists: A History of Fiction in 294 Lives: the book was hurled with such anger that it dented the judge’s bedroom wall!

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November 18 in Literary History: George Bernard Shaw Turns Down Nobel Prize Money

The most significant events in the history of books on the 18th of November

1307: According to Tschudi, it is on this day that William Tell shot the arrow off his son’s head in Swiss legend.

1836: W. S. Gilbert is born. Gilbert is best known for his songwriting partnership with composer Arthur Sullivan, which would result in the Savoy Operas such as HMS Pinafore and The Pirates of Penzance. Gilbert died in May 1911, after diving into a lake to save a drowning girl and suffering a heart attack.

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November 17 in Literary History: Sylvia Beach Opens Shakespeare and Company

The most significant events in the history of books on the 17th of November

1603: Sir Walter Raleigh goes on trial for treason. Although found guilty, he would be imprisoned in the Tower of London for much of the next fifteen years (T. E. Hulme wrote a little poem about it); his neck would eventually meet the cold blade of the exeuctioner’s axe on 29 October 1618.

1866: Voltairine de Cleyre, American anarchist writer and feminist, is born. She spoke out against the ways in which religion impinged upon the individual freedoms of women in the United States, and wrote and published widely on the issue, among many others.

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15 Great Words Coined by Famous Authors

A collection of great coinages from famous writers, from ‘blatant’ to ‘nerd’

We put together the following picture a few weeks ago and shared it on our Twitter feed, where it proved popular enough for us to repost it here. It’s designed to be a colourful illustration of how many of the most descriptive and delicious words in the English language owe their existence to famous authors, whether it’s James Joyce or Lewis Carroll, John Milton or Dr Seuss.

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