Aug. 23, 1998

243 I've known a Heaven, like a Tent

by Emily Dickinson


Today's Reading: "I've known a Heaven, like a Tent –" Emily Dickinson.

Hitler's BLITZ on London began on this day in 1940. This was part of the Battle of Britain, the air war over southeastern England meant to neutralize the Royal Air Force before a German invasion of the island. Hitler was infuriated that British bombers had just started hitting Berlin — something his advisers had told him would be impossible. So he hit back at London, and on the 23rd of August, commanded his bombers to begin night raids on the city, and Londoners took to the subways and basements.

It's the birthday in 1912, Pittsburgh, of dancer GENE KELLY. He majored in economics at the University of Pittsburgh and starred in football, hockey, and gymnastics. He starred in Anchors Aweigh in 1945, Singin' in the Rain in 1952, and Brigadoon in 1954.

It was on this day in 1902 that FANNY FARMER opened up a cooking school in her hometown of Boston. She opened her Miss Farmer's School of Cookery, giving weekly demonstrations in the morning for homemakers and in the evenings for professional cooks. This was six years after her Boston Cooking School Cookbook came out and became a nationwide hit.

It's the birthday of EDGAR LEE MASTERS, born in Garnett, Kansas, 1869, and author of Spoon River Anthology. His first book of poems came out when he was 31 years old, followed by a book of poems or a play or novel nearly every year until he died in 1950. But he is best known for his 1915 Spoon River Anthology, a set of 245 poems spoken as epitaphs by the deceased residents of a dreary midwestern village, the fictitious Spoon River. Folks like Lucinda Matlock would speak:

"Degenerate sons and daughters,
Life is too strong for you —
it takes life to love life."
Or this woman:
"I am Anne Rutledge who sleeps beneath these weeds, Beloved in life of Abraham Lincoln.
Out of me unworthy and unknown,
the vibrations of deathless music."
Besides poems and a follow-up to Spoon River nine years later, Masters wrote biographies of Walt Whitman, Abraham Lincoln, and Mark Twain.

It's the birthday in 1754 of LOUIS XVI, the last king of France before the French Revolution. His whole reign had been marked by indecision and laziness. When things got tough, Louis went hunting or pursued his hobbies of making locks and doing masonry work. He spent the final year of his life in prison, arguing his case before the revolutionary courts, but both he and his wife, Marie-Antoinette, were sentenced to the guillotine.

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