Nov. 8 in Literary History: Margaret Mitchell Is Born, Milton Dies, and Shakespeare Finally Get Published

Reading between the lines.
Nov. 8 2013 8:00 AM

A Reader’s Book of Days: Nov. 8

Hundreds of years of literary history, day by day.

Kazuo Ishiguro, BIG MACHINE, William Shakespeare
Kazuo Ishiguro, Big Machine by Victor LaValle, William Shakespeare

Photo illustration by Lisa Larson-Walker. Photos by Getty & Wikimedia Commons

Excerpted from A Reader’s Book of Days: True Tales From the Lives and Works of Writers for Every Day of the Year by Tom Nissley, out now from Norton. Slate will be excerpting the book every day this week.

BORN:

1900: Margaret Mitchell (Gone with the Wind), Atlanta
1954: Kazuo Ishiguro (Never Let Me Go), Nagasaki, Japan

Advertisement

DIED:

1674: John Milton (Paradise Regained, Samson Agonistes), 65, London
1998: Rumer Godden (Black Narcissus), 90, Courance, Scotland

1602: The Oxford University library, having been emptied in an anti-Catholic purge, was reborn with money from Sir Thomas Bodley, who had married a widow made wealthy by the sardine trade, and reopened on this day as the Bodleian Library.

1623: The booksellers Edward Blount and Isaac Jaggard registered on this day at the Stationers’ Company a new publication: “Master William Shakspears Comedyes, Histories, and Tragedies.” “As where (before) you were abus’d with diverse stolne, and surreptitious copies, maimed, and deformed by the frauds and stealthes of injurious impostors,” the editors promised, the plays “are now offer’d to your view cur’d, and perfect of their limbes.” Copies of what became known as the First Folio sold for roughly 15 shillings (binding was extra), but the late author’s reputation was slow in climbing to the level of his peers like Ben Jonson. The first recorded auction sale of a secondhand First Folio, which would later command upward of $6 million, was for eight and a half shillings, barely half its original price.

1763: It says something about the market for intellectuals in the 18th century that Adam Smith, having made his philosophical reputation by publishing his Theory of Moral Sentiments, found it an easy decision to resign his post as Professor of Moral Philosophy at the University of Glasgow to become instead the tutor to a teenager, the young, wealthy, and well-connected Duke of Buccleuch. The benefits of his new position included a doubled salary, a lifetime pension, a new appreciation for expensive clothes and the opera, and entree to the intellectual salons of Europe, where he met Voltaire and others and further developed the ideas he would spend the 10 years after his return to Great Britain in 1766 fashioning into his masterwork, The Wealth of Nations.

1975: The Washerwomen had run before. Calling themselves “priests without a parish,” the Washerwomen—three middle-aged sisters, Gina, Karen, and Rose—rewrote the Bible (replacing “Israelites” with “Negroes,” among other things) and preached, with a vitality that attracted a loyal few, that “every church was broken” except their own. They first fled from Jacksonville, Fla.—where they had, in their righteousness, murdered the rest of their family—to found their church in Queens, and now they were packed and ready, along with their tiny flock, to run again. But with the police at the door, their flight became another massacre, a “Night of Thunder” from which few escaped, among them Ricky Rice, a child who, in Victor LaValle’s intricate novel of doubt and belief, Big Machine, grows up to find himself in battle against another suicidal cult.

---

Reprinted from A Reader’s Book of Days: True Tales from the Lives and Works of Writers for Every Day of the Year by Tom Nissley. Copyright © 2014 by Tom Nissley. With permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

TODAY IN SLATE

Foreigners

The World’s Politest Protesters

The Occupy Central demonstrators are courteous. That’s actually what makes them so dangerous.

The Religious Right Is Not Happy With Republicans  

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:58 PM The Religious Right Is Not Happy With Republicans  

The Feds Have Declared War on Encryption—and the New Privacy Measures From Apple and Google

You Might Not Be Crazy if You Think You Can Hear the Earth Humming

These “Dark” Lego Masterpieces Are Delightful and Evocative

Crime

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.

Politics

Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

Activists Are Trying to Save an Iranian Woman Sentenced to Death for Killing Her Alleged Rapist

Piper Kerman on Why She Dressed Like a Hitchcock Heroine for Her Prison Sentencing

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 1 2014 7:26 PM Talking White Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 2:16 PM Wall Street Tackles Chat Services, Shies Away From Diversity Issues 
  Life
Outward
Oct. 1 2014 6:02 PM Facebook Relaxes Its “Real Name” Policy; Drag Queens Celebrate
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 6:39 PM Spoiler Special: Transparent
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Commissioner Thinks Keeping Nude Celeb Photos in the Cloud Is “Stupid”
  Health & Science
Science
Oct. 1 2014 4:03 PM Does the Earth Really Have a “Hum”? Yes, but probably not the one you’re thinking.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?