Jan. 29, 1999

No Speech from the Scaffold

by Thom Gunn


Poem: Thom Gunn, "No Speech from the Scaffold," from Thom Gunn: Collected Poems (Noonday Press of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1994)

It's the birthday in 1939 of writer GERMAINE GREER, born in Melbourne, Australia, author of several influential books of the feminist movement in the 1970s, including The Female Eunuch.

It's the birthday of the comedian W.C. FIELDS—William Claude Dukenfield—born in 1880 in Philadelphia, the star of films in the 1940s including The Man on the Flying Trapeze, My Little Chickadee, and Never Give a Sucker an Even Break.

It's the birthday in 1843 of WILLIAM McKINLEY, 25th president of the United States, born in Niles, Ohio. He was a Civil War veteran and served in Congress for 14 years before he was elected in 1897, defeating the Democratic populist candidate William Jennings Bryan.

The designer of the first Christmas card was born on this day—JOHN C. HORSLEY, born in 1817 in London, known as "Clothes" Horsley because of his refusal to paint nudes. The first card was made in 1843 for a friend, Sir Henry Cole, and 1,000 cards were made and put on sale in London.

It was on this day in 1813 that Jane Austen's book PRIDE AND PREJUDICE was published, which opens with the lines: "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered as the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters."

It's the birthday of the writer THOMAS PAINE, born 1737 in Thetford, England, the author of the political treatise Common Sense, published in early 1776, which sold more than 500,000 copies and paved the way for the Declaration of Independence.

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




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