Oct. 19, 2000

The Day with a White Mark

by C. S. Lewis

Broadcast date: THURSDAY, 19 October 2000

Poem: "The Day with a White Mark," by C.S. Lewis, from Poems (Harcourt, Brace, Javanovich).

It was on this day in 1781 that British General Cornwallis surrendered his men to General George Washington in the port of Yorktown, Virginia, effectively ending the Revolutionary War. The British troops had been under a night-and-day bombardment by the French fleet for three weeks when Washington and 17,000 circled the British fort. On October 17th, Cornwallis waved a white flag from the fort wall. On the 19th, he surrendered as his band played an old British tune, "The World Turned Upside Down," which has the words:

"If ponies rode men and grass ate cows, And cats were chased into holes by the mouse . . . If summer were spring and the other way round, Then all the world would be upside down."

On this day in 1849, Elizabeth Blackwell became the first woman in the United States to receive a medical degree. She had applied to medical colleges all over the country, and was rejected by all but one: Geneva College Medical School in New York State. After graduation, she found it impossible to find work, so she moved to Paris, then London, where she trained at St. Bartholomew's Hospital. She returned to New York when she was 31 years old, set up a practice, and the following year established the New York Infirmary for Indigent Women and Children.

It's the birthday of spy novelist John le Carré, born David John Moore Cornwell in Poole, England (1931). He wrote The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1963), Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (1974) and other suspense-filled spy novels, many featuring the shrewd but self-effacing British Intelligence agent, George Smiley.

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