Oct. 30, 1999
Adam Lay I-bounden
Poem: "Adam Lay I-bounden" anonymous 15th century lyric.
It's the birthday of the United States' second President, John Adams, born in Braintree (now Quincy), Massachusetts (1735). After graduating from Harvard, Adams taught studied law, and, in 1765, argued against "taxation without representation" before the royal governor. At the Continental Congress in 1776, he did more than anyone to push Thomas Jefferson's ‘Declaration of Independence' through committee. After the Revolution, he was elected the United States' first Vice President. Adams and Jefferson were rivals to succeed Washington as President in 1797. The two longtime rivals and friends both died on the 4th of July, 1826, exactly 50 years after signing the Declaration of Independence. Adams's last words were: "Jefferson still lives." He couldn't have known that Jefferson had died, in Virginia, three hours earlier.
It's the birthday of playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan, born in Dublin (1751). His father pressed him to go into law, but after spending one week in a legal office, Sheridan turned to the stage for his livelihood. Besides writing The Rivals (1775), The School for Scandal (1777), The Critic (1779), and many other comic plays, he was known as a great orator and served in Parliament, as a Whig politician, for the second half of his life.
On this day in 1811, the novel Sense and Sensibility was brought out anonymously by publisher Thomas Egerton. Jane Austen was so wary of being caught at novel writing that she scribbled on bits of paper she could slip under the blotter whenever visitors popped into her drawing room. Only when she died, 6 years after Sense and Sensibility came out, did her brother Henry tell the world she had been its author and had also written Pride and Prejudice (1813) and Mansfield Park (1814). Persuasion and Northanger Abbey were published after her death.
It's the birthday of poet Ezra (Weston Loomis) Pound, born in Hailey, Idaho (1885). At 15 he entered the University of Pennsylvania, where he became friends with William Carlos Williams, and had a brief romance with Hilda Doolittle. In London during and after the First World War, both as poet and editor, he did much to steer poetry away from stale Victorianism to vibrant modernism. Among the many struggling writers he helped were Robert Frost, T. S. Eliot, and James Joyce; he worked as secretary and literary guide to William Butler Yeats during the Irish poet's most productive years. In 1921 he moved from London to Paris, and 4 years later moved on to the Italian Riviera, where he stayed for 20 years and where, in his tragic middle age, he came unglued. His speech grew erratic; he neglected his poetry; he raved against Jews as the source of all economic wrongs. During World War Two he made weekly broadcasts from Italy, in English, condemning American participation in the war. In 1943 he was indicted by a Washington grand jury, in absentia, for giving aid and comfort to the Axis powers. After the war ended he was held in a mental hospital in Washington, D.C.. Visited daily by his wife, he worked on his poems and his translations of Sophocles. In 1949 his collection Pisan Cantos was given the Bollingen Prize by the Library of Congress, which set off a renewed furor in political circles. In 1958, when Robert Frost and others petitioned for his release, Pound was allowed to return to Italy, where he lived out his years largely in silencemeant, he said, to show remorse for the errors of his fascist period.
It's the birthday of novelist Larry Woiwode [WIE-wuh-dee], born in Carrington, North Dakota (1941)best known for his first novel, What I'm Going to Do, I Think (1969), a study of two newly married young people who struggle to adjust to each other and to the responsibility of an unwanted pregnancy. His early yearsbefore moving to Illinois at age 8were spent in Sykeston, North Dakota, a German settlement of a few hundred people. The harsh climate, stark beauty, and loneliness of this corner of Americaand its fatalistic Nordic populaceprovided the material for much of his work. Other novels include Beyond the Bedroom Wall: A Family Album (1975), Poppa John (1981), Indian Affairs (1992), and So He Says (1999).
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