Jul. 11, 1998

The Tropics in New York

by Claude McKay


Today's Reading: "The Tropics in New York" by Claude McKay from THE SELECTED POEMS OF CLAUDE McKAY, published by Harcourt Brace (1957).

It's the birthday of ELWYN BROOKS WHITE, E.B. WHITE, born in Mount Vernon, New York, 1899. After graduating from Cornell University he worked as a reporter, wrote advertising copy and signed on as a messboy on a ship to the Aleutian Islands and the Arctic. Finally he joined the fledgling weekly magazine The New Yorker as a writer and contributing editor in 1927 and stayed on for the rest of his career. He collaborated with James Thurber on Is Sex Necessary? (1929), but he is best known for his three classic books for childrenk – Stuart Little (1945) Charlotte's Web (1952) and The Trumpet of the Swan (1970). To generations of writers and students he is also known for Elements of Style, co-written with William Strunk. He advises writers to: "Place yourself in the background; write in a way that comes naturally; work from a suitable design; write with nouns and verbs; do not overwrite; do not overstate; avoid the use of qualifiers; do not affect a breezy style; use orthodox spelling, avoid fancy words…"

It's the ANNIVERSARY OF THE FAMOUS DUEL in 1804 BETWEEN VICE PRESIDENT ARRON BURR and former treasury secretary ALEXANDER HAMILTON. Burr challenged his longtime political enemy to a duel because of some remarks Hamilton had supposedly made about Burr at an April dinner party. They rose early the morning of July 11 on the heights of Weehawken, New Jersey. Hamilton was shot and died the following day.

It's the birthday of the sixth U.S. president, JOHN QUINCY ADAMS, born in Braintree, Massachusetts, 1767. He served a single term as president (1825-1829) and then spent 17 years in Congress, where he opposed the expansion of slavery, and presented a constitutional amendment that every child born in the country after 1842 should be born free.

It's the birthday of the king who freed Scotland from English rule, ROBERT THE BRUCE, born in the village of Cardross, Scotland, in 1274. He was involved with the Scottish resistance as a young man and in 1307 defeated the English at Loudoun Hill and again seven years later (in 1314) at the Battle of Bannockburn. But it wasn't until 1328 that Scotland's independence and Bruce's right to the throne was finally recognized with the Treaty of Northhampton.

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