Sep. 28, 2000

His Excuse for Loving

by Ben Jonson

Broadcast date: THURSDAY, 28 September 2000

"His Excuse for Loving," by Ben Johnson (1572-1637).

It's the birthday of singer-songwriter Ben E. King, born Benjamin Earl Nelson in Henderson, North Carolina (1938). His family moved to New York when he was eleven. His father opened a luncheonette in Harlem, and it was there that he began singing with a group called The Five Crowns, which was renamed The Drifters (1959). Signed by Atlantic Records, they produced a series of hit songs, including "Spanish Harlem" and "Stand by Me."

It's the birthday of English novelist and mystery writer Ellis Peters, the pseudonym of Edith Mary Pargeter, born in Shropshire, England (1913). She began publishing novels under her own name before the war, and adopted the Ellis Peters pseudonym in the 1950s to distinguish her mysteries from her other writing. In A Morbid Taste for Bones (1977), she introduced Brother Cadfael, a twelfth-century detective, who has since appeared in more than fifteen of her books.

It's the birthday of cartoonist Al Capp, born Alfred Gerald Caplin in New Haven, Connecticut (1909), creator of the syndicated comic strip "Li'l Abner." It first appeared in The New York Mirror in 1934, beginning a forty-three-year run. The strip was set in the backwoods hamlet of Dogpatch, U.S.A.

It's the birthday of the playwright, novelist, and civil libertarian Elmer Rice, born in New York City (1892). He wrote nearly thirty plays, including The Adding Machine (1922) and Street Scene (1929), for which he won the Pulitzer Prize. In that play, the stage is occupied by the facade of a shabby brownstone apartment house. The tenants go in and out, sit on the steps, lean out the windows, gossiping, scolding, laughing and quarreling. Inside the building, behind a scrim, a husband discovers his wife's infidelity and murders her and her lover. The play became the basis of an opera by composer Kurt Weill and poet Langston Hughes.

It's the birthday of educator and children's author Kate Douglas Wiggin, born Kate Smith in Philadelphia (1856). Her family moved to Maine and then to California. She grew up with the novels of Walter Scott and Charles Dickens, which her family read aloud. In 1878, she was hired to run the Silver Street Kindergarten in San Francisco, the first free kindergarten on the West Coast. A gifted storyteller, she was eager to help children recognize "the possibilities of language and its inner meaning." She became a prolific writer of children's books, including The Birds' Christmas Carol and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm.

It's the birthday of the French man of letters Prosper Mérimée, born in Paris (1803). He wrote many stories and novellas, which often treated shocking subjects with ironic detachment. The best-known of these is Carmen, published in 1845--the source for Georges Bizet's opera of the same title.

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