This Day In Literary History
On April 25th, 1719, Robinson Crusoe, the classic novel by the legendary English writer Daniel Defoe, was published. Although he would write other classic novels such as A Journal of the Plague Year and Moll Flanders, Robinson Crusoe would be his most famous book.
This classic adventure novel was inspired by the true story of a shipwrecked Scottish sailor named Alexander Selkirk. It tells the story of the title character, who as a young man, first hears the call of the sea.
Against the wishes of his parents, Robinson Crusoe sets sail on his first ocean voyage. In a prelude to the events to come, Crusoe's first vessel is shipwrecked in a storm. He survives, but the ordeal fails to silence the call of the sea.
On his next voyage, his ship is captured by Moroccan pirates. Crusoe is made a slave. After two years of slavery, he manages to escape in a boat.
Rescued by the captain of a Portuguese ship, Crusoe is befriended by the man, who helps him become the owner of a plantation. Years later, Crusoe joins an expedition to procure and transport slaves from Africa.
Once again, Crusoe is shipwrecked. This time, however, he finds himself the sole survivor, marooned on a deserted island in the West Indies. With only the captain's dog and two cats for company, Crusoe names his new home the Island of Despair.
Overcoming his despair, he bucks up and determines to survive. He gathers arms, tools, and supplies from his ship before it sinks, then stakes out a stretch of land near a cave.
There, Crusoe survives by hunting game, growing barley and rice, and storing fruit for the winter. He also raises goats, adopts a parrot as a pet, and learns to make pottery. Taking solace in his bible, Crusoe is thankful for his survival instead of bemoaning his fate.
Years pass, and Crusoe discovers that the island is not deserted after all. He finds natives and discovers that a cannibal tribe visits the island occasionally to hunt them and take them prisoner.
Crusoe considers killing the cannibals, but changes his mind, realizing that they are so primitive, they don't know what they're doing. A native prisoner of the cannibals escapes, and Crusoe befriends him.
Naming the man Friday, Crusoe teaches him English, converts him to Christianity, and makes him his personal servant. When Crusoe and Friday happen upon another tribe about to partake in a cannibal feast, they kill most of the cannibals and save two of their prisoners.
One of the prisoners is Friday's father, the other is a Spaniard who tells Crusoe that other Spaniards were shipwrecked on the mainland. A plan is made wherein the Spaniard and Friday's father will return with the other Spaniards, then they'll all build a ship and sail to a nearby Spanish port.
Before the Spaniards return, a British ship arrives at the island. Mutineers have taken control of the ship and are planning to abandon the captain on the island. Crusoe helps the captain and his loyal sailors take back the ship.
In exchange for their help, the captain takes Crusoe and Friday to England. Back home, Crusoe discovers that his family believed he was dead, so his father left him nothing in his will. Crusoe goes to Lisbon to reclaim the wealth he'd accumulated from his plantation.
Afterward, he and Friday return - via land - to England, and in one last adventure, fight scores of starving wolves while crossing the Pyrenees mountains.
For nearly three hundred years, Robinson Crusoe has inspired countless tales of castaways - everything from The Swiss Family Robinson to the TV series Gilligan's Island, whose theme song's lyrics state, "Like Robinson Crusoe, it's primitive as can be."
The novel has been adapted numerous times for the screen and is rightfully considered one of the all time classic works of English literature.
Quote Of The Day
"I hear much of people's calling out to punish the guilty, but very few are concerned to clear the innocent." - Daniel Defoe
Today's video features a complete reading of Daniel Defoe's classic novel, Robinson Crusoe. Enjoy!
Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Tuesday, April 24, 2018
This Day In Literary History
On April 24th, 1891, The Picture of Dorian Gray, the classic novel by the legendary Irish writer Oscar Wilde, was published. Like most novels of the time, it previously appeared in a serialized format. It had been published in Lippincot's Monthly Magazine the previous year.
For its debut in book form, Wilde had tweaked the manuscript, revising some sections and adding new chapters. This was the only novel that Wilde, who was best known as a playwright, ever wrote.
A famous, anonymously published gay erotic novel called Teleny, or The Reverse of the Medal (1893) would be credited to Wilde, but it was most likely a collaborative effort written by his friends, with Wilde serving as editor.
Unlike his famous satirical comic plays, The Picture of Dorian Gray is a horror novel and considered one of the all time classics of the genre. But it's really more than a horror novel - it's an intriguing philosophical and satiric study of human nature - specifically, the nature of sin.
The novel opens with sensitive artist Basil Hallward painting the portrait of a handsome young man named Dorian Gray. Hallward is awestruck by Dorian's beauty and obviously infatuated with him.
In Dorian, he has found his muse. He believes that the young man's beauty is responsible for boosting his stagnant creative juices to new heights. While Hallward paints his portrait of Dorian, his friend, Lord Henry "Harry" Wotton, observes them and lectures them in his hedonistic philosophy.
To Lord Henry, the only things that matter in life are beauty and the fulfillment of the senses. The shallow, narcissistic Dorian Gray couldn't agree more. Realizing that his good looks will fade with age, Dorian proclaims that he'd sell his soul if only his portrait could age while he remains young and beautiful.
He decides to become Lord Henry's protege and explore the pleasures of the senses. His first stop is the theater, where he becomes smitten with Shakespearean actress Sibyl Vane. Dorian courts Sibyl and proposes marriage. She accepts, deliriously happy at the idea of marrying the handsome young man she refers to as her Prince Charming.
Her protective brother, James, suspicious of Dorian's character, vows to kill him if he harms her. Dorian invites Basil Hallward and Lord Henry to see Sibyl perform in Romeo and Juliet. More interested in love than in acting, Sibyl gives a lackluster performance and Dorian dumps her.
He tells her that her only beauty was in her acting, and now that it's gone, he's no longer interested in her. He leaves her heartbroken and returns home to find that his portrait has adopted a subtle sneer and aged a little.
Dorian decides to reconcile with Sibyl, but it's too late - Lord Henry informs him that she committed suicide. He dismisses the tragic act and decides to devote his life to the pleasures of the senses.
Over the next eighteen years, Dorian Gray explores every possible desire on his path of debauchery. He never ages, remaining young and handsome while his portrait becomes an aged, hideously ugly reminder of his sins that torments him.
One night, Basil Hallward pays Dorian a visit to see if the rumors of his decadence are true. He's shocked to find that Dorian hasn't aged. Dorian shows him the hideous portrait.
Blaming the artist for what the portrait and he himself has become, Dorian murders Basil in a fit of rage. Then he blackmails a chemist friend into helping him dispose of the body and takes off to France.
At an opium den in Paris, Dorian crosses paths with Sibyl Vane's vengeful brother James, who tries to shoot him. Dorian talks James into believing that he's too young to be Dorian Gray. After Dorian flees, a woman tells James that the young man was Dorian - a man who never ages.
Dorian fears for his life until James is killed in a hunting accident. Later, Dorian tells Lord Henry of his strange fate and vows to change his ways and become a good man. He begins by not breaking the heart of his latest paramour, Hetty Merton.
Wondering if his portrait has changed, Dorian finds that it has become uglier than ever. He realizes that his actual motivations for becoming a good man were selfishness and curiosity rather than genuine atonement for his sins.
Dorian knows that he can only be absolved by making a full and honest confession to the murder of Basil Hallward. But he fears the repercussions of doing so. Left with no other alternative, Dorian picks up the knife that he killed Basil with, and in a rage, plunges it into the heart of his portrait.
Aroused by the scream heard from within Dorian's locked room, his servants call the police. This is what they find:
When they entered, they found hanging upon the wall a splendid portrait of their master as they had last seen him, in all the wonder of his exquisite youth and beauty. Lying on the floor was a dead man, in evening dress, with a knife in his heart. He was withered, wrinkled, and loathsome of visage. It was not till they had examined the rings that they recognized who it was.
The publication of The Picture of Dorian Gray caused a sensation and a furor in Victorian England. Although Wilde had toned down the homoeroticism prevalent in the original serialized version, it remained in the book. That wasn't the only objection.
One newspaper's literary critic denounced the novel for "its effeminate frivolity, its studied insincerity, its theatrical cynicism, its tawdry mysticism, its flippant philosophizing, its contaminating trail of garish vulgarity."
Oscar Wilde said of his novel, "I wrote this book entirely for my own pleasure... whether it becomes popular or not is a matter of absolute indifference to me."
Five years after it was published, Wilde (the married father of two children) would be publicly outed as a homosexual by the Marquess of Queensberry, the brutal, hateful father of his boyfriend, Lord Alfred "Bosie" Douglas.
Convicted of "gross indecency" - the legal term for homosexual acts that were illegal under British law - Wilde would serve two years in prison for the crime of being gay in Victorian England.
Quote Of The Day
"There is no such thing as a moral or immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all." - Oscar Wilde
Today's video features a complete reading of Oscar Wilde's classic novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray. Enjoy!
Monday, April 23, 2018
Friday, April 20, 2018
This Day In Literary History
On April 20th, 1953, the famous English writer Sebastian Faulks was born in Newbury, England. His father Peter Faulks was a lawyer and decorated World War II veteran who became a judge. His maternal grandfather was a decorated veteran of World War I.
Sebastian Faulks would not follow in the family tradition and become a lawyer or a judge. His first ambition was to be a taxi driver.
Then, at the age of fifteen, he read George Orwell and determined to become a novelist. He first attended Wellington College, then studied English at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he would later be elected as an honorary fellow.
After university, Faulks took a teaching job at the Dwight-Franklin International School. He also took up journalism, becoming a features writer for the Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph.
Later, he would be recruited as Literary Editor by The Independent, then become Deputy Editor of its Sunday edition, The Independent on Sunday. He would also write columns for The Guardian and The Evening Standard.
Sebastian Faulks' first published novel was released in 1984. It was titled A Trick of the Light. Had it not been published, Faulks claimed he would have given up on writing, as two previous novels had been rejected.
While A Trick of the Light wasn't hugely successful, it did get the author noticed. His next novel, The Girl at the Lion d'Or (1989), made his name as a writer.
The first in a trilogy of novels - the French Trilogy - The Girl at the Lion d'Or was set in 1930s France. It told the story of Anne Louvert, a French girl left orphaned and homeless when her legal guardian abandons her after she refuses to be his mistress.
This so-called guardian was a Nazi sympathizer who moved to America, deserting his right wing comrades as well as Anne. She finds work at the village inn, The Lion d'Or, where she meets Charles Hartmann, a kind, sensitive, wealthy older Jewish man.
Hartmann is a decorated veteran of the Great War, where Anne's father was executed for mutiny, an event that drove her mother to suicide. Although Hartmann is married, he and Anne fall in love and have a passionate affair.
When Hartmann ends the affair, Anne is devastated but refuses to commit suicide like her mother did. Instead, she courageously faces the dark days ahead, as the rise of the Nazis threatens France.
The second novel in Sebastian Faulks' French Trilogy, Birdsong (1993), proved to be a huge commercial success, selling three million copies. Ten years after its publication, it would be ranked at #13 on the BBC's "Big Read" list of Britain's 200 best loved novels.
Birdsong told the story of Stephen Wraysford, a young Englishman living in France just before the outbreak of World War I, as his granddaughter Elizabeth researches his experiences during the Great War.
The third volume of the French Trilogy, Charlotte Gray, was published in 1998. The tale of a young Scotswoman's involvement with the French Resistance during World War II was adapted as an acclaimed feature film in 2001, starring Cate Blanchett in the title role.
Faulks' 2001 novel On Green Dolphin Street was a Cold War drama set in the 1950s. The main character, Mary van der Linden, is the wife of a British diplomat stationed in Washington. Her husband Charlie is a talented and effective diplomat.
Unfortunately, he's also a self-loathing alcoholic suffering from existential angst. When Mary meets American journalist Frank Renzo at a party, he becomes attracted to her. They have an affair, which troubles Mary deeply, as she still loves her husband. She finds herself torn between both men.
Faulks continues to write great novels. In 2007, he was commissioned by the trustees of the Ian Fleming estate to write an official James Bond novel. The result, Devil May Care, was published in 2008 to commemorate the centennial anniversary of Fleming's birth.
Set in the 1960s, the novel pitted the legendary British secret agent against the evil Dr. Gorner, a manufacturer of legitimate pharmaceuticals who plans to flood Europe with cheap narcotics and launch a terrorist attack against the Soviet Union, the retaliation for which would devastate the UK.
Faulks' most recent novel, Where My Heart Used to Beat, was released in January of 2016. Set in London circa 1980, it tells the story of Dr. Robert Hendricks, a psychiatrist and writer who has plunged into a quagmire of loneliness and depression.
Then he receives a letter from Dr. Alexander Pereira, a neurologist and World War I veteran, who proclaims his admiration for Hendricks' published work. Hendricks travels to Pereira's home on a secluded island off the South of France to meet him.
There, Hendricks is forced to confront his traumatic memories of the carnage and injury he experienced as a young British officer during World War II and of the Italian woman he met and fell deeply in love with during the conflict. Confronting these memories could lead Hendricks to redemption - or insanity.
Sebastian Faulks has also written nonfiction works. He remains one of the most popular writers in the United Kingdom.
Quote Of The Day
"The difference between a peasant community in fourteenth-century Iran and modern London, though, is that if with their meager resources the villagers occasionally slipped backward, it was not for lack of trying. But with us, here in England, it was a positive choice. We chose to know less." - Sebastian Faulks
Today's video features Sebastian Faulks reading from and discussing his most recent novel, Where My Heart Used to Beat on BBC Newsnight. Enjoy!
Thursday, April 19, 2018
This Day In Literary History
On April 19th, 1824, the legendary English poet Lord Byron died in Aetolia-Acarnania, Greece, at the age of 36. Born George Gordon Byron in January of 1788 in Dover, England, he established himself as one of the greatest English Romantic poets of all time.
He was also a master of dramatic verse, and his epic poems, such as The Corsair (1813), The Siege of Corinth (1816), and the unfinished Don Juan (1819-1824), are among his most memorable works.
In life, Byron proved to be as romantic and flamboyant as his poetry. He was brilliant, most likely bipolar, and an agnostic. Although a nobleman himself, he had little use for the British aristocracy and even less use for the monarchy.
He once gave a stirring speech before Parliament condemning the Church of England (the official clerical body of the British Empire) for its intolerance of other faiths.
An outspoken liberal and libertine, Byron's intellect, literary talent, charisma, flamboyance, excesses, and scandals made him a huge celebrity - a rock star of his time. Openly bisexual though he preferred women, Byron criticized the persecution of homosexuals by British law.
He also condemned the pro-Christian legal system's discrimination against atheists. His best friend, the legendary poet Percy Shelley, was denied custody of his children because he didn't believe in God.
Of his many female lovers, Lord Byron's most notorious relationship was with the married Lady Caroline Lamb, who had famously described him as "mad, bad and dangerous to know" - yet it was she who went mad after Byron ended their relationship.
Refusing to take no for an answer, she began stalking him, both privately and publicly, resulting in a huge scandal. It wouldn't be the only scandal to plague Byron.
He was also accused of homosexuality (considered both a disgrace and a crime in 19th century England) and having an incestuous affair with his older half-sister Augusta Leigh, resulting in her pregnancy.
While Byron was openly bisexual, the idea that he had an affair with his half-sister, to whom he was very close, is highly debatable. When he wasn't writing poetry, Lord Byron dedicated himself to political causes.
In 1809, he took a seat in Parliament's House of Lords, which he used to strongly advocate for social reform. He opposed capital punishment and laws that compromised one's civil liberties and / or encroached on the private lives of British subjects.
An animal lover, Byron kept many exotic pets, including a fox, an eagle, a crocodile, and an Egyptian crane. He kept a bear as a pet while studying at Trinity College, Cambridge, in response to the college's prohibition of keeping dogs as pets.
He publicly suggested that the bear should apply for a fellowship at Trinity. Byron's favorite pet was his dog - a Newfoundland called Boatswain.
When the dog contracted rabies, Byron nursed him until he died, unafraid of contracting the disease himself. He eulogized Boatswain in a poem called Epitaph to a Dog (1808).
By 1816, embittered and plagued with scandal, (thanks to Lady Caroline Lamb's public smear campaign) Byron left England and lived throughout Europe, mostly in Italy and Greece, until his death in 1824.
A year earlier, Byron had left his home in Genoa to join the famous Greek statesman Alexandros Mavrokordatos in his fight for Greece's independence from the Ottoman Empire. It would not be Byron's first voyage to Greece or his first conflict with the Ottoman Empire.
Byron had visited Athens several years earlier, interested in both Greek culture and the country's acceptance of homosexuality. While staying there, he met a handsome French boy named Nicolo Giraud who became his friend, traveling companion, and lover.
While living in Venice in 1816, Byron became acquainted with a Mechitarist (Armenian Catholic) priest who introduced him to Armenian culture. Fascinated, Byron attended lectures on Armenian history and learned the Armenian language.
He would help introduce Armenian culture to Western Europe and publicly support Armenia's struggle for independence against the Ottoman Empire. Since the Armenians were largely Christian, the Muslim Ottomans oppressed them ruthlessly.
So, in August of 1823, when Byron learned of Greece's struggle against the Ottomans, he set sail for Kefalonia in the Ionian Islands. His first mission was to help rebuild the Greek naval fleet, and he spent £4000 of his own money (the equivalent of £72,000 in today's money) to prepare the fleet for war.
By December, he joined Alexandros Mavrokordatos, to whom the Greek military was loyal, in Messolonghi. After he and Mavrokordatos supervised the training of the troops, Byron was given command of a regiment. The plan was to attack the Turkish-held fortress of Lepanto, located at the mouth of the Gulf of Corinth.
Before the fleet could set sail for Lepanto, Byron fell ill. Although the bloodletting treatment (it was thought that draining a patient of small quantities of blood would speed up the healing process) weakened him further, he began to recover. By April, he caught a nasty cold which was aggravated by more bloodletting.
Lord Byron lapsed into a violent fever and died on April 19th. He was 36 years old. It is believed that Byron contracted sepsis (blood poisoning) as the result of bloodletting treatments performed with unsterilized medical instruments.
After he died, Greece's national poet, Dionysios Solomos, wrote a poem in his honor called To the Death of Lord Byron. His body was embalmed, his heart and lungs were removed, and the rest of his remains were sent to England.
The fate of Byron's heart and lungs is unclear. An urn containing the ashes of both organs was supposedly lost when the city of Messolonghi was sacked by the Ottomans in 1825. Some believe that the urn only contained the ashes of Byron's lungs, and that his heart is still in Messolonghi.
To this day, he is considered a national hero in Greece. It has been said that had he lived and led his men to victory against the Ottomans, he might have become the King of Greece, but that's highly unlikely.
When news of Lord Byron's death reached England, people were shocked and saddened despite the scandals that had plagued him in life. Huge crowds came to pay their respects as he lay in state in London. Byron was denied a Christian burial at Westminster Abbey for reason of "questionable morality."
He would later be buried at the Church of St. Mary Magdalene in Hucknall, Nottingham. At her request, Ada Lovelace, the love child he never knew, was buried next to him.
Ada became famous in her own right for her collaboration with Charles Babbage on the analytical engine, a precursor to the computer.
After his burial, Byron's friends raised a thousand pounds for a statue of him to be made by legendary Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen - an admirer of Byron's.
The statue would languish in storage for ten years, as most British institutions refused to host it on their premises. Finally, his alma mater, Trinity College, Cambridge, agreed to place the statue in its library.
Quote Of The Day
"Those who will not reason are bigots, those who cannot are fools, and those who dare not are slaves." - Lord Byron
Today's video features a reading of Lord Byron's classic poem, Darkness. Enjoy!
Wednesday, April 18, 2018
This Day In Literary History
On April 18th, 1958, a federal court ruled that the famous American poet Ezra Pound be released from a hospital for the criminally insane in Washington, DC. It would mark the third act in a life drama of genius tempered by insanity - and ignorance.
Pound had been committed to the psychiatric hospital in 1946 after doctors found him not competent to stand trial for treason. During the war, Pound, who had lived in Italy for twenty years, had recorded propaganda radio broadcasts for the Mussolini regime.
After his arrest, Pound was sent to a brutal military prison where he was put in one of the "death cells" - a 6x6 foot cage perpetually lit by floodlights.
There, he spent three weeks in isolation, denied a bed, reading material, physical exercise, and communication with everyone but the chaplain. To prevent him from killing himself, his belt and shoelaces were confiscated.
Pound lost what little sanity he had left. Diagnosed as a schizophrenic with narcissistic personality disorder, he was sent back to the United States and committed to the St. Elizabeth hospital for the criminally insane, where he would languish for over a decade.
Ezra Pound was born in Idaho in 1885, but grew up in Pennsylvania. He came from a fiercely conservative Protestant family whose religion was steeped deep in anti-Semitism. His grandfather was a powerful Republican congressman.
As a boy, Pound attended military school, where the erratic, self-destructive pattern of behavior that governed his life took root. There, he learned well the importance of discipline and submission to authority for the greater good.
And yet, he was also an intelligent, conceited, and independent young man who believed that discipline and submission were tools with which to shape the unwashed, barely literate masses into a decent orderly society - not for superior people like him. He wanted to be a poet.
When it came to his own liberty, the young fascist in training took great pleasure in challenging authority. In 1907, after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, he taught Romance languages at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana.
Although fiercely conservative himself and teaching at a conservative college, Pound described the conservative town of Crawfordsville as "the sixth circle of Hell" - he hated conservative small towns.
Pound's landladies caught him in flagrante delicto with a stranded chorus girl he'd invited to stay in his apartment and kicked him out. When word of his scandalous transgression got back to the college, he was fired.
Finding his own country hopelessly provincial, Pound went to Europe, which he loved. When he was thirteen, he'd gone on a European tour with his mother and aunt. On his return, he settled in London, where he struck up friendships with the great poets of the day.
Pound also burst onto the literary scene himself. Along with his old girlfriend, the famous poet Hilda Dolittle, he founded the Imagism movement, the opposite of Romantic poetry. He aimed for verse with clear imagery and devoid of unnecessary wordiness.
During the first world war, Pound championed the works of James Joyce, T.S. Eliot, and other authors whose works were considered too experimental for publication. He helped get Joyce's classic debut novel Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man published.
Pound also began writing his most famous work - an unfinished epic poem called The Cantos, the first volume of which was published in 1924. It's rightfully considered one of the most important works of 20th century modernist poetry - and one of the most controversial.
The horrors of the Great War led Pound, who was already an anti-Semite, to believe in the anti-Semitic mythology spawned by the conflict. Pound believed that the war had been engineered and manipulated - on both sides - by Jewish bankers.
Regarding the English as the willing slaves of the Jews, he moved to Paris in 1921. There, he connected with the great writers of the Lost Generation, including Tristan Tzara and Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway and Pound became good friends.
Like most of Ezra Pound's literary friends, Hemingway admired his talent and liked him as a friend, but had no use for his politics. Another of Pound's friends, the famous poet Marianne Moore - who was herself conservative - also deplored his fascism.
After living in Paris for three years, Pound's physical health was deteriorating, and he had suffered what Hemingway called "a small nervous breakdown," He moved to the warmer climate of Italy, where he became enamored with dictator Benito Mussolini.
In 1927, Pound launched his own literary magazine, which would feature the works of his friends, including Hemingway, E.E. Cummings, William Carlos Williams, and William Butler Yeats. Yet, the magazine ultimately flopped because of Pound's own writings.
As his mental state worsened, so did his writing. His editorials were often rambling, incoherent, and just plain bizarre. The man who championed fascism also praised Lenin and Confucius in his editorials!
When war came to Europe again, Ezra Pound, now totally demented and paranoid, believed that if the Allies won, the world would be enslaved by the Jews. So, he wrote and recorded propaganda radio broadcasts for which he was paid well.
These ten-minute broadcasts, filled with anti-Semitism and paranoid rants, aired on English language radio stations in Italy and Germany. After Mussolini was overthrown and executed, Pound and his mistress were seized by armed partisans, but later released.
Fearing for their lives, they turned themselves in at a nearby U.S. military post. While Pound awaited trial in a military prison, a reporter for the Philadelphia Record managed to get an interview with him.
Pound described Mussolini as an "imperfect character who lost his head" and Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler, who had just committed suicide following Germany's defeat, as a modern day male Joan of Arc - "a saint."
Ezra Pound's release from the psychiatric hospital in 1958 came about mostly due to letter writing campaigns launched by his friends, including Ernest Hemingway, who used his clout as a recent Nobel Prize winner.
Pound's friends all agreed that he was just a poor, sick, nasty yet harmless old man who should be pitied. The psychiatrists agreed that he was no longer a danger to himself or others. After his release, he moved to Naples. When he arrived, he gave the press the fascist salute.
Prior to his release, Pound publicly claimed to have renounced his anti-Semitism, but privately, he had corresponded with John Kasper, a prominent Ku Klux Klan leader who was later jailed for bombing a school because it allowed a black girl to attend.
In his later years, Pound tried to finish his magnum opus, The Cantos, but found that his talent had dried up. He couldn't write anymore, so he abandoned the work. One of the finest poets of his time, yet his legacy was forever tarnished.
Ezra Pound finally found clarity of thought and genuine repentance in his old age. In 1967, at the age of 82, he met with legendary poet Allen Ginsberg in Venice. During their talk, Pound summed up his personal and artistic failings:
My own work does not make sense. A mess... my writing, stupidity and ignorance all the way through... the intention was bad, anything I've done has been an accident, in spite of my spoiled intentions the preoccupation with stupid and irrelevant matters... but my worst mistake was the stupid suburban anti-Semitic prejudice, all along that spoiled everything... I found after 70 years that I was not a lunatic but a moron. I should have been able to do better... it’s all doubletalk... it’s all tags and patches ... a mess.
Quote Of The Day
"Great literature is simply language charged with meaning to the utmost possible degree." - Ezra Pound
Today's video features a rare recording of Ezra Pound reading from his classic epic poem, The Cantos. Enjoy!
Tuesday, April 17, 2018
This Day In Literary History
On April 17th, 1981, the original, unexpurgated version of Sister Carrie, the classic, controversial novel by the famous American writer Theodore Dreiser, was published by the University of Pennsylvania Press.
Dreiser, then 28 years old, wrote the original manuscript of Sister Carrie in eight months, between 1899 and 1900. The first publisher he approached found his writing "[Not] sufficiently delicate to depict without offense to the reader the continued illicit relations of the heroine."
Fearing the novel would never be published in its original version, Dreiser began work on a major rewrite. With help from his wife and his friend and fellow writer Arthur Henry, he cut 40,000 words and made other changes, including an alternate ending.
When Dreiser approached publisher Doubleday, Page and Company with his new manuscript, junior partner Walter Page loved the novel and accepted it for publication, offering the author a verbal contract. Unfortunately, senior partner Frank Doubleday had a different reaction.
Doubleday found Sister Carrie extremely distasteful and unsuitable for publication, but Page's contract with Dreiser was binding, so he couldn't cancel it. So, he decided to sabotage the novel instead. He refused to promote the book in any way.
Not only that, Doubleday gave it a bland, red cover, with only the names of the novel and the author on it. Less than 500 copies were sold. When Doubleday's wife complained that the novel was too sordid, he withdrew it from circulation completely.
Theodore Dreiser earned only $68.40 from the ill-fated first publication of Sister Carrie. The ordeal drove the writer to a nervous breakdown and turned him off writing for ten years. Ironically, it also ended up saving his life.
In 1912, Dreiser had originally planned to book passage home from England on the Titanic. Unable to afford tickets for the ill-fated luxury ocean liner, he sailed home earlier on a less expensive passenger ship.
Sister Carrie was later republished when Frank Norris, a reader for Doubleday, sent a few copies to reviewers who raved about it. All future editions of the novel would come from the edited version of the manuscript.
Still controversial even in its edited version, the novel told the story of 18-year-old Caroline "Carrie" Meeber, a young girl living an unhappy life in rural Wisconsin. So, Carrie takes a train to Chicago, where she has made arrangements to move in with her older sister Minnie and her brother-in-law, Sven.
On the train, Carrie meets a traveling salesman named Charles Drouet. He is attracted to her and they exchange information. Carrie finds life at her sister's apartment not much happier than it was in Wisconsin. To earn her keep, Carrie takes a job at a shoe factory.
She finds her co-workers (both male and female) vulgar and the working conditions squalid, and the job takes a toll on her health. After getting sick, Carrie loses her job. She is reunited with Charles Drouet, who is still attracted to her.
He takes her to dinner, where he asks her to move in with him, lavishing her with money. Tired of living with her sister and brother-in-law, Carrie agrees to be Drouet's kept woman. Later, Drouet introduces Carrie to George Hurstwood, the manager of his favorite bar.
Hurstwood, an unhappily married man, falls in love with Carrie, and they have an affair. But she returns to Drouet because Hurstwood can't provide for her financially. So, Hurstwood embezzles a large sum of money from the bar and persuades Carrie to run away with him to Canada.
In Montreal, Hurstwood is trapped by both his guilty conscience and a private detective and returns most of the stolen money. He agrees to marry Carrie and the couple move to New York City, where they live under the assumed names George and Carrie Wheeler.
Carrie believes she may have finally found happiness, but then she and George grow apart. After George loses his source of income and gambles away the couple's savings, Carrie, who has been trying to build a career in the theater, leaves him.
She becomes a rich and famous actress, but finds that wealth and fame don't bring her happiness and that nothing will. Sister Carrie would be rightfully considered a classic American novel, and its author would finally be recognized as one of America's greatest novelists.
Dreiser would go on to write more classic novels, including his Trilogy of Desire - The Financier (1912), The Titan (1914), and The Stoic (1947) - and his masterpiece, An American Tragedy (1925).
For the rest of his life, Theodore Dreiser was haunted by the ordeal he suffered in getting Sister Carrie published. Like his anti-heroine, Dreiser had prostituted himself to survive. He died in 1945 at the age of 74.
Though he wouldn't live to see it, his original manuscript for Sister Carrie would finally be published - over eighty years after the edited version was released. In 1930, during his Nobel Prize Lecture, Sinclair Lewis said this about the novel and its author:
Dreiser's great first novel, Sister Carrie, which he dared to publish thirty long years ago and which I read twenty-five years ago, came to housebound and airless America like a great free Western wind, and to our stuffy domesticity gave us the first fresh air since Mark Twain and Whitman.
Quote Of The Day
"Words are but the vague shadows of the volumes we mean. Little audible links they are, chaining together great inaudible feelings and purposes." - Theodore Dreiser
Today's video features a complete reading of Theodore Dreiser's classic novel Sister Carrie. Enjoy!