Feb. 14, 2000
A Red, Red Rose
Poem: "A Red, Red Rose" by Robert Burns, from The Oxford Book of English Verse (Oxford University Press).
Today is Valentine’s Day, originally the Roman feast of Lupercalia [loo-per-KALE-ee-uh], a celebration of fertility. In 270 A.D. the holiday was Christianized (and the date changed from February 15 to 14) to commemorate the martyred Saint Valentine. By the late Middle Ages, the modern traditionof exchanging paper love declarations, called ‘Valentines’evolved.
It’s the birthday of journalist and author Carl Bernstein [BURN-stine], born in Washington D.C. (1944). Interested from an early age in journalism, by 22 Bernstein was a reporter for the Washington Post, where he and Bob Woodward, another young reporter, were assigned to check out a bungled burglary at the Democratic Party’s office in the Watergate apartment complex in the District of Columbia. For their nervy, relentless exposé, Woodward and Bernstein were awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1973, the year before Nixon resigned rather than face impeachment. They went on to collaborate on the best-seller All the President’s Men (1974).
On this day in 1921, the literary journal The Little Review faced obscenity charges in New York City for having published installments of James Joyce’s novel Ulysses (1919 and 1920).
It’s the birthday of Canadian poet A(braham) Moses Klein, born in Ratno [raht-noh], Russia (1909). His collections include Hath Not a Jew… (1940) and The Hitleriad [hit LEHR ee ud] (1944). He’s also the author of the novel The Second Scroll (1951).
On this day in 1895, Oscar Wilde’s play The Importance of Being Earnest opened in London. It was a year of great success for Wildehis play An Ideal Husband was also a hit on the West Endbut also a year of personal despair. Just 3 months after The Importance of Being Earnest had its premiere, a jury convicted Wilde of ‘gross indecency’ for his involvement with Lord Alfred Douglas, a man 16 years younger than he was. Wilde was sentenced to two years of hard labor, which he served in Reading Gaol [red-ing jail]an ordeal that destroyed his health. He spent the last 3 years of his life drifting about France and Italy, and writing his long prison poem, The Ballad of Reading Gaolwhich was printed in 1898. He died in Paris, in his room at the Hotel d’Alsace [dahl-sahss], most likely of meningitis. He was just 6 weeks past his 46th birthday (1900).
It’s the birthday of comedian Jack Benny (Benjamin Kubelsky), born in Waukegan, Illinois (1894), the son of a saloonkeeper. A violin prodigy, he hoped for a concert career but by 17 was playing in vaudeville, where he discovered he was not only musical, he was also very funny. His NBC radio program, The Jack Benny Show, began in 1932 and ran weekly for 23 years. His on-stage character was a sour, exceedingly stingy person, a remarkably awful violin player, and perpetually 39 years old.
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®