Saturday

Feb. 16, 2008

Beautiful Dreamer Serenade

by Stephen C. Foster

Beautiful dreamer, wake unto me,
Starlight and dewdrops are waiting for thee;
Sounds of the rude world heard in the day,
Lull'd by the moonlight have all pass'd a way!

Beautiful dreamer, queen of my song,
List while I woo thee with soft melody;
Gone are the cares of life's busy throng,—
Beautiful dreamer, awake unto me!
Beautiful dreamer awake unto me!

Beautiful dreamer, out on the sea
Mermaids are chaunting with wild lorelie;
Over the streamlet vapors are borne,
Waiting to fade at the bright coming morn.

Beautiful dreamer, beam on my heart,
E'en as the morn on the streamlet and sea;
Then will all clouds of sorrow depart,—
Beautiful dreamer, awake unto me!
Beautiful dreamer awake unto me!

"Beautiful Dreamer Serenade" by Stephen C. Foster. Public domain.

Henry Brooks Adams was born this day in 1838 in Boston. Although he came from a long line of successful politicians — most notably his great-grandfather John Adams and grandfather John Quincy Adams — Henry Adams preferred to be an observer of political events. In his memoir, The Education of Henry Adams, the writer spoke about himself as a man who, "never got to the point of playing the game ... he lost himself in the study of it, watching the errors of the players."

Henry Adams attended Harvard, became a journalist, and returned to his alma mater to teach medieval history in 1870. He wrote an epic nine-volume History of the United States During the Administrations of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison (1891), and distinguished himself as one of America's first memoirists with The Education of Henry Adams (1918).

Henry Adams is best known for his memoir, which was originally meant only for family and friends. Although Adams once remarked, "The proper study of mankind is woman," The Education of Henry Adams is completely void of any mention of his wife.

Adams married Marian Hooper in 1872 — the two traveled together, and Marian often helped her husband with his research. She was the model for the heroine in his satire Democracy (1880).

Marian was deeply affected by the death of her father in 1885. She took her own life shortly afterward, and Adams was shattered. In a letter to his friend E.L. Godkin that year, Adams wrote, "I admit that fate at last has smashed the life out of me; but for twelve years I had everything I most wanted on earth."

Today is the birthday of historian G.M. Trevelyan, born George Macaulay Trevelyan in 1876 near Stratford, England. Unlike Henry Adams, Trevelyan belonged to a school of historians who believed that history should be a literary as opposed to scientific art. He wrote, "The art of history remains always the art of narrative. That is the bedrock." Trevelyan is most famous for his books England Under the Stuarts (1907), British History in the Nineteenth Century (1922), and History of England (1926).

It's the birthday of ventriloquist Edgar Bergen, born Edgar Berggren in Chicago in 1903. When he was in high school, Bergen paid $36 to have a wooden dummy's head constructed for him. He developed some comedic material from a mail-order magician's manual, and Charlie McCarthy was born. Charlie, Bergen's cheeky, monocled counterpart, was to live a very exciting life for the next 59 years as the ventriloquist's signature character.

Bergen toured professionally with Charlie while studying theatre at Northwestern The pair spent the next 20 years in radio and enjoyed tremendous popularity until the arrival of television in the mid-50s.

In 1978, Bergen announced his retirement. Charlie would be donated to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., to which he replied, "Well, at least I won't be the only dummy in Washington." Only nine days after his announcement, Bergen died in his sleep after a performance at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas.

It's the birthday of novelist Richard Ford, (books by this author) born in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1944. His trilogy of novels starring Frank Bascombe has won him popular and critical acclaim. The Sportswriter (1986), Independence Day (1995), and The Lay of the Land (2006) have all won various awards; Independence Day won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1996.

Although many of his stories are set in the South, Ford has resisted critics' efforts to label him as a "Southern" writer. In an interview with Harper's he said, "Categorization (women's writing, gay writing, Illinois writing) inflicts upon art exactly what art strives at its best never to inflict on itself: arbitrary and irrelevant limits, shelter from the widest consideration and judgment, [and] exclusion from general excellence."

Ford has overcome a number of labels and difficulties in his life. His father died of a heart attack when he was 16. He was dyslexic as a child but majored in English at Michigan State University. He attempted to pursue a number of alternate career paths, even spending some time in law school, but Ford always came back to writing. Beginning in 1981, he wrote articles for Inside Sports magazine. When the publication went under, Ford accepted his wife Kristina's challenge to "write a book about a happy man." The Sportswriter was named one of the five best books of 1986 by Time magazine and went on to earn the PEN/Faulkner citation for fiction in 1987.

On this day in 1959, Fidel Castro assumed power in Cuba. Castro was born in 1926 in Birán, Cuba, and studied law at the University of Havana. He participated in revolutionary movements in the Dominican Republic and Colombia before overthrowing Cuba's dictator, General Fulgencio Batista. His first attempt to oust the dictator from power came in 1953, but the attack failed to stimulate a local uprising and Castro was captured. After he was released from prison in 1955, Castro went to Mexico to regroup. He and his brother Raúl organized a small band of exiles who landed in Cuba in 1956. They gained members and momentum, and on New Year's Day, 1959, Batista fled the country.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®

 









«

»

  • “Writers end up writing stories—or rather, stories' shadows—and they're grateful if they can, but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough” —Joy Williams
  • “I want to live other lives. I've never quite believed that one chance is all I get. Writing is my way of making other chances.” —Anne Tyler
  • “Writing is a performance, like singing an aria or dancing a jig” —Stephen Greenblatt
  • “All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • “Good writing is always about things that are important to you, things that are scary to you, things that eat you up.” —John Edgar Wideman
  • “In certain ways writing is a form of prayer.” —Denise Levertov
  • “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Let's face it, writing is hell.” —William Styron
  • “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” —Thomas Mann
  • “Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials.” —Paul Rudnick
  • “Writing is a failure. Writing is not only useless, it's spoiled paper.” —Padget Powell
  • “Writing is very hard work and knowing what you're doing the whole time.” —Shelby Foote
  • “I think all writing is a disease. You can't stop it.” —William Carlos Williams
  • “Writing is like getting married. One should never commit oneself until one is amazed at one's luck.” —Iris Murdoch
  • “The less conscious one is of being ‘a writer,’ the better the writing.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is…that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is my dharma.” —Raja Rao
  • “Writing is a combination of intangible creative fantasy and appallingly hard work.” —Anthony Powell
  • “I think writing is, by definition, an optimistic act.” —Michael Cunningham
The Writer's Almanac on Facebook


The Writer's Almanac on Twitter

Subscribe to our daily newsletter for poems, prose and literary history every morning
An interview with Sharon Olds at The Writer's Almanac Bookshelf
Current Faves - Learn more about poets featured frequently on the show
O, What a Luxury

Although he has edited several anthologies of his favorite poems, O, What a Luxury: Verses Lyrical, Vulgar, Pathetic & Profound forges a new path for Garrison Keillor, as a poet of light verse. Purchase O, What a Luxury »