Nov. 1, 1998


by Roy Daniells


Today's Reading: "Noah" by Roy Daniells from THE CHEQUERED SHADE, published by McLelland & Stewart.

Two Shakespeare plays debuted on this day: the tragedy OTHELLO opened at the Whitehall Palace in London in 1604; and exactly seven years later in the same theater, his drama, THE TEMPEST.

It's the birthday of writer STEPHEN CRANE, author of the Civil War novel, The Red Badge of Courage, born the youngest of 14 children in 1871, Newark, New Jersey. Crane never fought in any war, but worked as a journalist covering them for New York newspapers. The Red Badge of Courage was unique for being the first war novel to tell the story from the perspective of an ordinary soldier, in this case Union soldier Henry Fleming, who goes into his first battle full of patriotism, but witnesses a panicked retreat by other Union soldiers. "A shell screaming like a storm banshee went over the huddled heads of the reserves. It landed in the grove, and exploded flinging the brown earth. Bullets began to whistle among the branches and nip at the trees. Twigs and leaves came sailing down, as if a thousand axes were being wielded. The billowing smoke was filled with horizontal flashes. Men rushing swiftly emerged from it. They grew in numbers until it was seen that the whole command was fleeing. Wild yells came from behind the walls of smoke. A sketch in gray and red dissolved into a moblike body of men who galloped like wild horses. The new regiment was breathless with horror. They shrank back and crouched as if compelled to await a flood." Crane was at work on the book in 1894 at the same time he was touring Midwestern mining towns looking for stories. He stopped at the University of Nebraska and Willa Cather, who was a student, interviewed him, and she later wrote, "I have never known so bitter a heart in any man as he revealed to me that night." Crane died of tuberculosis when he was 28 years old.

The STAMP ACT went into effect on this day in 1765, the first direct tax imposed by British Parliament on the American colonies, created to help pay the cost of maintaining British troops here. It covered just about anything printed in the colonies: newspapers, pamphlets, even a deck of cards. Americans, who did not elect members of Parliament, opposed the act not only because many couldn't pay it, but because it violated the principle of "No taxation without representation." Tensions immediately increased between the colonies and Britain.

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