Oct. 21, 1998

The Burial of Sir John Moore after Corunna

by Charles Wolfe


Today's Reading: "The Burial of Sir John Moore after Corunna" by Charles Wolfe.

It's the anniversary of the FALL OF AACHEN, 1944, the first German city to be captured by the Allies in WWII. Hitler called it the seat of the First Reich and ordered his officers to hold Aachen "to the last man, and if necessary, allow himself to be buried under its ruins." The American soldiers took the motto, "Knock 'em all down" and used some of their heaviest artillery, firing point-blank into the houses to make holes into which GI's ran and fought room-to-room.

It's the birthday of URSULA LEGUIN, born in Berkeley, California, 1929, the author of science fiction novels like The Left Hand of Darkness which came out in 1969, and four books called The Earthsea Series that she started at about the same time, intending them to be for children, but which attracted adults as well. She said, "Art and Entertainment are the same thing, in that the more deeply and genuinely entertaining a work is, the better art it is.

It's the anniversary of the LIGHT BULB, first demonstrated by Thomas Edison in 1879, in his Menlo Park, New Jersey lab.

It's the anniversary of THE BATTLE OF TRAFALGAR, in 1805, the decisive sea battle of the Napoleonic Wars. Admiral Horatio Nelson and a fleet of 27 British ships defeated a combined French-Spanish fleet of 33 ships off Spain's southwest coast, capturing 17 of them. Nelson's words before the battle, "England expects that every man will do his duty," are still quoted in the British military today.

It's the birthday of poet and essayist SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE, born 1772, Devonshire, England, and remembered for poems like "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner." In his early 20s, Coleridge and another poet planned to build a utopian society in America, on the banks of the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania. But the plan fell through and Coleridge stayed in England where he met poet William Wordsworth. And together they published in 1798 a book called Lyrical Ballads: their own poems that praised nature and the individual and that were written in everyday language — the beginning of the Romantic movement in England.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




  • “Writers end up writing stories—or rather, stories' shadows—and they're grateful if they can, but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough” —Joy Williams
  • “I want to live other lives. I've never quite believed that one chance is all I get. Writing is my way of making other chances.” —Anne Tyler
  • “Writing is a performance, like singing an aria or dancing a jig” —Stephen Greenblatt
  • “All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • “Good writing is always about things that are important to you, things that are scary to you, things that eat you up.” —John Edgar Wideman
  • “In certain ways writing is a form of prayer.” —Denise Levertov
  • “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Let's face it, writing is hell.” —William Styron
  • “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” —Thomas Mann
  • “Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials.” —Paul Rudnick
  • “Writing is a failure. Writing is not only useless, it's spoiled paper.” —Padget Powell
  • “Writing is very hard work and knowing what you're doing the whole time.” —Shelby Foote
  • “I think all writing is a disease. You can't stop it.” —William Carlos Williams
  • “Writing is like getting married. One should never commit oneself until one is amazed at one's luck.” —Iris Murdoch
  • “The less conscious one is of being ‘a writer,’ the better the writing.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is…that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is my dharma.” —Raja Rao
  • “Writing is a combination of intangible creative fantasy and appallingly hard work.” —Anthony Powell
  • “I think writing is, by definition, an optimistic act.” —Michael Cunningham
The Writer's Almanac on Facebook

The Writer's Almanac on Twitter

Subscribe to our daily newsletter for poems, prose and literary history every morning
An interview with Jeffrey Harrison at The Writer's Almanac Bookshelf
Current Faves - Learn more about poets featured frequently on the show
O, What a Luxury

Although he has edited several anthologies of his favorite poems, O, What a Luxury: Verses Lyrical, Vulgar, Pathetic & Profound forges a new path for Garrison Keillor, as a poet of light verse. Purchase O, What a Luxury »