Apr. 11, 1998

The April Lovers

by Virginia Hamilton Adair


Today's Reading: "The April Lovers" by Virginia Hamilton Adair from ANTS ON THE MELON, published by Random House (1996).

It's the FIRST DAY OF PASSOVER, the holiday commemorating the Jews' liberation from slavery in Egypt and the "passing over" of the plague that killed the Egyptians' firstborn. Passover actually began last night at sundown with the "seder" meal and lasts eight days; no leavened bread is to be eaten this week, in order to remember the speed with which the Jews had to leave captivity when there was no time for the bread to rise.

F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel, THE GREAT GATSBY, was published on this day in 1925; the story told by the gentleman from Princeton, Nick Carroway, about Jay Gatsby, the Midwesterner on fire to realize the American Dream. Fitzgerald wrote it during the previous fall and winter when he was living in France, and Scribners brought it out with an initial print run of 21,000 copies, then ran another 3,000 copies a few months later.

Abraham Lincoln gave his LAST PUBLIC SPEECH on this date in 1865 in Washington. The Civil War had ended just a few days earlier and Lincoln outlined his ideas for reconstruction. He didn't have many details, but his first priority was bringing the Confederate states back into the Union. He took a flexible approach: he was going to allow states like Virginia and North Carolina to keep using their Confederate governments as a transition, but in states like Louisiana and Tennessee he wanted to see brand new governments. Three days later he was assassinated at Ford's Theater.

It's the birthday in London, 1755, of JAMES PARKINSON, the doctor who first diagnosed a disease he called "the shaking palsy" that we now know as Parkinson's. He was famous in London for going where not many other doctors would go into the insane asylums, poorhouses and the slums and he began to notice the similarity of symptoms between patients whose hands shook and whose legs and arms were rigid and who had difficulty balancing. He classified this as its own disease. Parkinson's is actually several degenerative neurological diseases and their cause is still unknown.

WILLIAM AND MARY were crowned on this day in 1689. England rejoiced because their previous king, James II, was pretty much going insane the last few months of his reign: he'd dissolved the Parliament, sacked nearly all his advisers who weren't Roman Catholic, and tried to set up the country as an exclusively Catholic nation. William, who was from Holland, and Mary, from Scotland, were both Protestants and the commoners saw them as their heroes. William and Mary ruled jointly and re-established Parliament as the dominant form of government in England; and made key alliances around Europe, keeping England out of war with France for the first time in years.

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