Sunday, 27 October 2013

Dylan Thomas born this day in 1914

NB All phrases in GREEN contain a Hyperlink 


 Today is the birthday of Dylan Thomas, born in Swansea, Wales (1914). His father was a failed poet who worked as a schoolmaster, and Dylan grew up terrified of his violent mood swings. The only time he seemed to calm down, and the only time Thomas enjoyed his company, was when he was reading Shakespeare aloud. After graduation, Thomas got a job at a newspaper, but he was an awful reporter. He spent all his time at pool halls and caf├ęs, and when he did turn in stories, the facts were all wrong. One of his co-workers said, "[He was] a bombastic adolescent provincial Bohemian with a thick-knotted artist's tie made out of his sister's scarf ... a gabbing, ambitious, mock-tough, pretentious young man." 

Thomas became known as a rowdy drinker and late-night storyteller, and eventually quit his newspaper job. He lived in friends' apartments, sleeping on mattresses on the floor, surviving day to day by drinking beer and eating cake. He spent much of World War II in London, where he witnessed the bombing raids, and began to feel as though the world of his childhood in rural Wales had been lost forever. After the war was over, he published the collection Deaths and Entrances (1946), which contained one of his first great poems about lost childhood, "Fern Hill."

At the beginning of the 1950s, Thomas gave a series of readings in the United States. He told people, "[I have come to America] to continue my lifelong search for naked women in wet mackintoshes." Despite his notorious reputation as a raving drunk, he won everyone over with his compelling readings of his own poetry and deep sonorous voice. In the last years of his life, Thomas worked on the verse play Under Milk Wood (1954), but he spent most of his time writing letters to ask friends for money and to apologize for being so irresponsible. In one letter, he wrote, "After all sorts of upheavals, evasions, promises, procrastinations, I write, very fondly, and fawning slightly, a short inaccurate summary of those events which caused my never writing a word." From 1946 to 1953, he wrote only nine poems, but he filled his letters to friends with poetry. In one letter, he wrote: "The heat! It comes round corners at you like an animal with windmill arms. As I enter my bedroom, it stuns, thuds, throttles, spins me round by my soaking hair, lays me flat as a mat and bat-blind on my boiled and steaming bed. We keep oozing from the ice-cream counters to the chemist's. Cold beer is bottled God."

In an effort to support his family, he went on a fourth reading tour of the United States in 1953, but he was hospitalized with alcohol poisoning just as the tour began. He told his doctor, "I've had 18 straight whiskeys. I think that's the record." He died a few days later. One of the last poems he wrote before his death was a poem about his dying father, "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night" (1952). It begins, "Do not go gentle into that good night, / Old age should burn and rave at close of day, / Rage, rage against the dying of the light."



Monday, 21 October 2013

Samuel Taylor Coleridge born this day in 1772




 

 
Today is the birthday of the Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, born in Ottery St. Mary in Devonshire, England (1772). Coleridge is the author of poems such as "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," "Christabel," and "Frost at Midnight." As a small boy, he spent a lot of time reading. His favorite book was The Arabian Nights. His father died when he was 10, and then he had to go off to boarding school at Christ's Hospital in London. It was known as the "blue-coat school," where everyone had to wear a blue gown, a blue cap and yellow stockings. Coleridge hated it there. He would later write that "I was reared / In the great city, pent 'mid cloisters dim, / And saw nought lovely but the sky and stars." But he had one teacher who helped inspire him to become a poet. He said he learned that "in the truly great poets ... there is a reason assignable, not only for every word, but for the position of every word."
Coleridge went to college in Cambridge. Then he dropped out to join the army. He didn't want anyone to know who he was, so he called himself Silas Tomkyn Comberbache. He wasn't a very good soldier, though, and soon he left to rejoin society and talk about the new ideas of the French Revolution. He also spent time with the poet Robert Southey. The two of them dreamed up an idea to start a utopian village along the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania. They said it would be a place where there was no aristocracy. Southey said, "When Coleridge and I are sawing down a tree, we shall discuss metaphysics; criticise poetry when hunting a buffalo, and write sonnets whilst following the plough."
Coleridge never went to Pennsylvania, and instead he ended up getting married to a woman named Sara Fricker. In 1797, Coleridge and Fricker moved to a small house in the country. There he tended a vegetable garden and doted over his newborn son. That same year he became good friends with the poet William Wordsworth and his sister, Dorothy. One winter evening, the three of them took a long walk in the nearby hills called the Quantocks. They timed their walk so they would be able to watch the sunlight change to moonlight over the sea. It was then that Coleridge came up with the idea for "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," a poem about a sailor who brings a curse upon his ship after he kills an albatross. In 1798, he included the poem in a collection he published with Wordsworth called Lyrical Ballads. The book was the foundation of the Romantic movement in poetry. Wordsworth said they were trying to write poems where "ordinary things should be presented to the mind in an unusual way."
Coleridge was often sick. The doctors prescribed him small doses of opium, and he gradually became addicted to it. By the age of 30, he had become very depressed. He quarreled with his wife and fell in love with Wordsworth's sister-in-law. He wrote a poem called "Dejection: An Ode" and then sailed to the island of Malta to improve his health. He gradually regained his strength and lived to write many more poems.
Coleridge said, "I could inform the dullest author how he might write an interesting book — let him relate the events of his own Life with honesty, not disguising the feelings that accompanied them." 


And

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Oscar Wilde born this day in 1854



Today is the birthday of Oscar Wilde, born in Dublin  in 1854, who was already a successful playwright when he fell into a love affair with the young aristocrat Lord Alfred Douglas. Wilde was married with two children at the time, and the affair ruined his reputation in society. He later wrote, "I curse myself night and day for my folly in allowing him to dominate my life." But it was the most creative period of his life. He wrote three plays in two years about people leading double lives, including A Woman of No Importance (1893), An Ideal Husband (1895), and his masterpiece, The Importance of Being Earnest (1895), about two men who use an imaginary person named Earnest to get themselves out of all kinds of situations, until their invented stories and identities get so complicated that everything is revealed. 

The actor who played Algernon Moncrieff later said, "In my fifty-three years of acting, I never remember a greater triumph than the first night of The Importance of Being Earnest." But that same year, Wilde was accused of sodomy by the father of his lover. Wilde might have let the accusation pass, but he chose to sue his accuser for libel, because he thought he could win the case by his eloquence alone. Private detectives had dug up so much damning evidence on Wilde that he was convicted of sodomy and sentenced to two years of hard labor. His plays continued to be produced on the stage, but his name was removed from all the programs. He was released from prison in 1897 and died three years later in a cheap Paris hotel.

Oscar Wilde, who said, "All bad poetry springs from genuine feeling." And, "An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all."



Tuesday, 15 October 2013

P. G. Wodehouse born this day in 1881.


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It's the birthday of novelist P.G. Wodehouse, born Pelham Grenville Wodehouse in Guildford, England (1881). His father was a magistrate in Hong Kong. His mother traveled back and forth between England and Hong Kong, so Wodehouse was raised by a series of aunts. He wanted desperately to go to college, but his father went bankrupt and couldn't pay for his education. Wodehouse got a job as a bank clerk instead and started writing humorous stories and poems on the side. It was as a journalist that Wodehouse first came to the United States — to cover a boxing match — and he fell in love with America right away. He said, "Being [in America] was like being in heaven without going to all the bother and expense of dying."

He moved to Greenwich Village in 1909 and started to write stories for the Saturday Evening Post about an imaginary cartoonish England, full of very polite but brain-dead aristocrats such as Bertie Wooster, who was looked after by his butler Jeeves. He said: "I was writing a story, 'The Artistic Career of Corky,' about two young men, Bertie Wooster and his friend Corky, getting into a lot of trouble, and neither of them had brains enough to get out of the trouble. I thought: Well, how can I get them out? And I thought: Suppose one of them had an omniscient valet? I wrote a short story about him, then another short story, then several more short stories and novels. That's how a character grows." 

He wrote more than 100 books, including My Man Jeeves (1919), Summer Lightning (1929), Thank You Jeeves (1934), Young Men in Spats (1936), The Code of the Woosters (1938), and Joy in the Morning (1946). 

For more information here is the relevant
Wikipedia Entry

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