Oct. 15, 1999
Poem: "Saturday Morning" by Hugo Williams from Dock Leaves, published by Faber and Faber.
It's the birthday of Italian novelist Italo Calvino, born in Santiago de Las Vegas [sahn-tee-AH-goh day lahs VAY-gahs], Cuba (1923)best known in America for his Italian Folktales (1956), 200 traditional Italian stories retold in their regional dialects.
It's the birthday of author Sir P(elham) G(renville) Wodehouse [WOOD-house], born in Guildford, Surrey (1881). A master of 'light fiction,' he wrote 90 novels about an England that never was, featuring Bertie Woosteran idiotic, likable aristocrat and member of the Drones Cluband Jeeves, his sensible valet and protector. Wodehouse excelled at producing incidents of controlled incongruity played out by loony, memorable characters. Among his characters were Gussie Fink-Nottle, Puffy Benger, Galahad Threepwood, Hermione Brimble, Boko Bickerton, and Stiffy Byng.
It's the birthday of philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche [NEE-chuh], born in Prussia (1844). His greatest works were Thus Spake Zarathustra (1884), Beyond Good and Evil (1886), and On the Genealogy of Morals (1887).
It's the birthday of novelist Helen Hunt Jackson, born in Amherst, Massachusetts (1830)a lifelong friend of Emily Dickinson. After her book A Century of Dishonor (1881) lambasted federal policy toward the Indians, she was appointed Special Commissioner to investigate the plight of Mission Indians. She despaired that official redress would help, and so resorted to fiction, next writing her best known work, the novel Ramona (1884), which owes its enduring popularity more to its romantic appeal than its political themes.
It's the birthday of Roman poet Virgil (Publius Vergilius Maro), born near Mantua, 70 miles southwest of Verona, (70 B.C.). His father was a laborer, but married his employer's daughter and was able to give his son an education usually reserved for upper class children. Virgil studied in Cremona and Milan, then in Rome, where he studied rhetoric, medicine, and mathematics before focusing on philosophy. This prepared him to practice lawthe only alternative career track in those days was militarybut he was a shy young man, and stammered, and appeared in court only once. Under the court patronage of Maecenas, he published the Eclogues (37 BC), a collection of pastoral poems. At the request of Emperor Augustus, he worked on his masterpiece, the Aeneid, an epic poem combining Greek myth and Roman history. The 12 completed books of the Aeneid celebrate the birth of Romefirst the legendary founding by Aeneas of Troy, then its unification, after 30 years of civil war, by Augustus. (Virgil left instructions that the unfinished epic be burned; Augustus ignored his wish.) Virgil's tomb is in Naples. Written on it is this epitaph, dictated from his death-bed: "Mantua brought me life; Calabria death; now Naples holds me: I sang of flocks and farms and heroes."
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