Nov. 22, 1998

The Guardian Angel

by Stephen Dunn

SUNDAY 11/22

Poem: "The Guardian Angel," by Stephen Dunn, in BETWEEN ANGELS (W.W. Norton, 1989).

It was on this day in 1963, while riding in his convertible from Love Field to the Trade Mart in Dallas, PRESIDENT JOHN F. KENNEDY was assassinated.

It's SAINT CECILIA's DAY, the patron saint of music, believed to have lived in the 3rd century. Scholars aren't sure if she was even a real person or several people. The first reference to a Cecilia was found in the early 16th century. It read, "The day arrived on which her wedding was to be held, and while musical instruments were playing, she was singing in her heart to God alone." Artists began depicting Cecilia seated at an organ, and she became the patron saint of music.

It's the birthday of the English novelist GEORGE ELIOT, born Mary Ann Evans in Warwickshire, 1819, author of The Mill on the Floss, Silas Marner, Middlemarch, and other books that came out in the 1860s and '70s and made her one of the best-selling authors in England of the time. She was brought up in strict religious surroundings, which she ultimately rebelled against, and when she was 23 years old had to strike a deal with her father: she was free to think exactly what she wanted, but she had to go to church every Sunday with him and "appear respectable" — which she did for seven years until he died.

It's the birthday of the explorer RENE-ROBERT CAVELIER DE LA SALLE, in the French city of Rouen, 1643, the man who in 1682 canoed the Mississippi River from St. Louis to the Gulf of Mexico, claiming it and all its tributaries for King Louis the 14th of France, and naming it Louisiana.

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