Tom's Book of Days
      January 1-10  

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January 1



1662: Samuel Pepys records the following in his diary:

Waking this morning out of my sleep on a sudden, I did with my elbow hit my wife a great blow over her face and nose, which waked her with pain---at which I was sorry.

1834: "On the first of January, 1834, I left Mr. Covey, and went to live with Mr. William Freeland, who lived about three miles from St. Michael's. I soon found Mr. Freeland a very different man from Mr. Covey. Though not rich, he was what would be called an educated southern gentleman. Mr. Covey, as I have shown, was a well-trained negro-breaker and slave-driver."
-The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave

1854: Sir James Frazer is born in Glasgow. His The Golden Bough: A Study in Comparative Religion will strongly influence D.H. Lawrence and T.S. Eliot, and his Totemism and Exogamy will be a prime source for Freud's Totem und Taboo.

1879: E.M. Forster is born in London. "Only connect..."

1894: Thomas Edison copyrights the first motion picture in America under the title Edison Kinetoscopic Record of a Sneeze.

1895: Sean Aloysius O'Fearna (John Ford) is born.

"Of course we had our techniques, and we had directors that focused on that, but the fact is the characters and the story came first. A lot of these young folks today, they have so much of this technology thing going for them they forget to make a movie, tell a story, create a world."
1909: Marcel Proust bites into tea-soaked cookie and recalls his childhood. His character Swann will have a similar experience in A la Recherche du temps perdu.

1919: J.D. Salinger (pictured) is born in New York City.

1942: Country Joe McDonald is born in El Monte, California.

January 2


Maxwell Perkins

1920: 725: 18-Rabbit, Mayan king of Copan, installs Cauac-Sky as ruler of Quirigua.

1492: Granada capitulates to the Spanish. The expulsion of Jews and Moors from Spain is part of a "holy war" mentality that will send the once great nation into a tailspin--by 1600 Spain, despite its wealth from the Americas, will be in marked decline, and it will remain one of the poorer and weaker nations of Europe for hundreds of years.

1929: On their first meeting, Thomas Wolfe, with his "wild hair and bright countenance," reminds his editor, Maxwell Perkins (pictured), of Shelley.

1942: Sinclair Lewis and Dorothy Thompson are divorced in Woodstock, Vermont, after 13 years of marriage.

2001: ALEXANDRIA, Egypt (Reuters)
      An Egyptian sheep destined for sacrificial slaughter forestalled its owner's plans by pushing him to his death from a three-storey building in Alexandria, police said on Tuesday.
      They said Waheeb Hamoudah, 56, who worked in the police tax evasion department, had been feeding the sheep he had tethered on the rooftop when it butted him.
      Neighbours found Hamoudah lying bleeding and concussed on the ground below, with several broken bones, on Monday. He died soon after reaching hospital.
      Hamoudah had been fattening the sheep for the past six weeks and planned to kill it for Eid al-Adha, the Muslim feast of sacrifice, in early March.

January 3


oscar wilde

106 BCE: Marcus Tullius Cicero is born near Arpinum.

1521: Martin Luther is excommunicated by Pope Leo X.

1882: Docking in New York, Oscar Wilde is asked by customs officials if he has anything to declare; he replies: "Nothing but my genius."

1888: Cigarette holder manufacturer Marvin C. Stone of Washington, DC, invents the spiral-wound wax drinking straw. (Previous straws were natural rye grasses.) Originally his straws were hand rolled; the wax kept the paper from getting soggy.

1892: J.R.R. (John Ronald Reuel) Tolkien is born in Bloemfontein, South Africa. <Map of Middle Earth> <Hobbit House>

1898: Zasu Pitts is born in Parsons, Kansas. She will star in in Erich von Stroheim's classic Greed (1924).

1980: Conservationist Joy Adamson (author of Born Free) is killed by a servant in a dispute over wages.

January 4


M. Maurice Mac-Nab

41: Caligula is murdered.

1785: Jakob Grimm is born in Hanau, near Frankfurt-am-Main.

1856: Maurice Mac-Nab is born in Vierzon. He will be best known as the consumptive postal clerk who will be one of the best-loved satirists at the famous cabaret Le Chat Noir, and as author of Métingue du Métropolitain, a parody that will become a kind of alternative classic. This drawing of him is from L'Éphéméride anarchiste.

1960: Albert Camus ("You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of; you will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life") is killed near Sens in an automobile accident.

1965: T.S. Eliot dies in London. The Daily Bleed offers this commentary from Kenneth Rexroth:

How can they write or paint
In a country where it
Would be nicer to be
Fed intravenously?"

January 5


Alfred Lord Byron

1978: Lord Byron (pictured) on Sir Walter Scott, in his diary: "Wonderful man! I long to get drunk with him."

1974: Alexandre Dumas, pere, 23 years old, fights his first duel, in which his trousers fall down.

1895: Henry James's play Guy Domville opens at the St. James's Theatre in London. When the playwright, arriving too late to assess the audience's reaction, steps forward to cries of "Author! Author!" he is jeered and hissed offstage. At 52, James turns his back on the theater and returns to prose.

1896: The word hamburger first appears in print, in a Walla Walla newspaper (it is named after the German city of Hamburg).

1921: Friedrich Durrenmatt is born at Konolfingen, Bern.

1932: Umberto Eco is born in Alessandria, Italy.

1933: Work begins on the Golden Gate Bridge.

San Francisco, open your golden gates

2004: Rioters destroy 30,000 ancient manuscripts, books, and palm leaf inscriptions at the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute; 72 people are arrested. The rioters are upset by statements in the book Shivaji: Hindu King in Islamic India by James Laine.
According the book’s publisher, Oxford University Press, “James Laine traces the origin and development of the Shivaji legend, examining its meaning for those who have composed and read it, and painting a complex picture of the past four centuries of Hindu-Muslim relations.”
     OUP withdraws the book from the Indian market, and Laine issues a statement: "It was never my intention to defame the great Maharashtrian hero. I had no desire to upset those for whom he is an emblem of regional and national pride, and I apologise for inadvertently doing so…. I foolishly misread the situation in India and figured the book would receive scholarly criticism, not censorship and condemnation." His apology, however, fails to quell the outrage among some West Indians.
     In response to the incident, another scholar, Gajanan Mehendale, destroys more than 400 unpublished pages of a biography of Shivaji, saying there is no place for scholars in a society ruled by “mobocracy.”

According to, “Customers interested in Shivaji: Hindu King in Islamic India may also be interested in: Meet sexy single Indians, Browse many sexy, single indian women and men,”

January 6


Tonya Harding

1720: The Committee of Inquiry on the South Sea Bubble publishes its findings in England. The “South Sea Bubble” is the term given to a period of overheated speculation in the South Sea Company that occurred between 1711 and 1720. It was ended with the collapse of company shares in September 1720. The bubble was predicated on trading rights granted for South America and the supposed opportunities for fabulous enrichment that these rights presented. In fact the company, which was financed with substantial sums of government bonds, did not even make a voyage to South America until 1717. In 1719 the company proposed to take on the entire national debt of Britain (amounting to about 50 million pounds) in exchange for more bonds. The result of all this was a frenzy of speculation, followed by a loss of confidence, and the collapse. (One of those who would lose a fortune in the scheme was Sir Isaac Newton; one who did well by selling when stocks were high was Alexander Pope.)
A couple of centuries later overheated speculation in internet projects despite their lack of apparent income prospects would lead a similar outcome, the dot com collapse.

1854: William (or Thomas) Sherlock Scott Holmes is born at the farmstead of Mycroft, near Sigerside, in the North Riding of Yorkshire. He will always have a pipe in hand, wear a deerstalker cap, play the violin, and use cocaine when bored. He lives at 221B Baker Street.

1895: Former Hawaiian Queen Liliuokalani is arrested after a failed coup against the government of Sanford Dole.

1927: US Marines invade Nicaragua yet again.

1931: E. L. Doctorow is born in New York City.

1958: e.e. cummings wins the Bollingen Prize for Poetry.

1994: Ice maiden Nancy Kerrigan is attacked by Tonya Harding's bodyguard.


January 7


Charles Peguy

ST. DISTAFF'S DAY: On the day after Twelfth Day, when the Christmas festivities terminated, women returned to their "distaffs" or daily occupations. It is also called Rock Day, a distaff being called a rock (because rocks were used in spinning, according to E. Cobham Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, 1894).
"What! shall a woman with a rock drive thee away?
Fye on thee, traitor' "
      --Digby, Mysteries

"Give St. Distaff all the right,
Then give Christmas sport good night,
And next morrow every one
To his own vocatiön."

(See January 10.)

1841: Victor Hugo is elected to the Academie Francaise on his fifth attempt.

1873: Charles Peguy (pictured on stamp) is born in Orleans.

Premier jour
Comme elle avait gardé les moutons à Nanterre,
On la mit à garder un bien autre troupeau,
La plus énorme horde où le loup et l'agneau
Aient jamais confondu leur commune misère.

Et comme elle veillait tous les soirs solitaire
Dans la cour de la ferme ou sur le bord de l'eau,
Du pied du même saule et du même bouleau
Elle veille aujourd'hui sur ce monstre de pierre.

Et quand le soir viendra qui fermera le jour,
C'est elle la caduque et l'antique bergère,
Qui ramassant Paris et tout son alentour

Conduira d'un pas ferme et d'une main légère
Pour la dernière fois dans la dernière cour
Le troupeau le plus vaste à la droite du père

1927: The Harlem Globetrotters make their debut.

1972: John Berryman jumps off a bridge into the Mississippi, a suicide at 58.


January 8



Abdul Aziz ibn Saud

1775: English printer and type designer John Baskerville, 68 or 69, dies, and at his request is buried in the family garden in Bimmingham. Printer to Cambridge University since 1758--and manufacturer of his own paper and ink--he published his masterpiece, a folio Bible, in 1763. For a discussion of Baskerville's type, go here.

1824: Wilkie Collins is born in London.

1913: In London, Harold Munro opens the doors of the Poetry Bookshop, through which pass Robert Frost and Ezra Pound, meeting for the first time.

1926: Abdul-Aziz ibn Saud becomes the King of Hejaz and renames it Saudi Arabia. Hejaz, now a region in northwest Saudi Arabia, is best known as the site of the holy city of Mecca. During World War I it was encouraged to rebel against its Ottoman overlords by T. E. Lawrence. On May 20, 1927, the United Kingdom would recognize Abdul Aziz's independence as "the Kingdom of Hijaz and Nejd." In 1932, the two regions would be officially unified as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.


January 9


Virginia Woolf

1924: Virginia Woolf moves with her husband Leonard Woolf to 52 Tavistock Place in Bloomsbury Square, near the British Museum.

1973: Mick Jagger is refused Japanese visa because of 1969 drug bust. Jagger is quoted: "I don't approve of drugs, and I don't approve of people taking drugs, unless they're very careful."

1980: In Saudi Arabia, sixty-three Islamic fundamentalists are beheaded for their part in the occupation (in November 1979, when 27 Saudi soldiers and more than 100 rebels were killed) of the Mecca's Great Mosque as part of their call for the overthrow of the Saudi government.


January 10


Thomas Paine

PLOUGH MONDAY: The Monday after Epiphany--the first Monday after Twelfth Day--is considered the end of the Christmas holidays, the day when men return to their plough or daily work. To mark the day, farmers in the North Country of England would drag a plough from door to door and beg "plough-money" for drink and feasting at a banquet overseen by a queen called Bessy (see January 7).

1776: Thomas Paine (pictured) publishes Common Sense, one of this country's all-time best-sellers. It advocates independence of the American colonies from England, and Paine would donate all of the proceeds from its sales to the revolution. Paine had failed at several careers before finding his calling as an editor, journalist, and author. He was against monarchy, slavery, and organized religion, and his anti-religious writings would lose him his popular following. He would be imprisoned in France (ironically, for opposing the execution of Louis XVI) but the American leaders he had so generously befriended would turn their backs on him when he sought release as a U.S. citizen. Like many journalists he had a weakness for drink, which would damage his health, and he would die a pauper in New York City in 1809. His epitath in the local paper, The New York Citizen, would be reprinted in papers throughout the country: "He had lived long, did some good and much harm."

1845: Relative unknown Robert Browning writes a love letter to Elizabeth Barrett after she praises one of his poems in print. They will elope four years later. Years later, after her death, Orientalist and translator Edward FitzGerald said in a letter to a friend that he had thanked God that she was dead, so that no more poems would come. (He also expressed the opinioni that a woman's place is in the kitchen not at a writing desk.) After Fitzgerald's death, Browning continued the cycle of arguing with the dead, composing a vicious poem to FitzGerald, in which he said that even if Fitzgerald were alive he would resist the impulse to spit in his face since he would be "spitting from lips sanctified by hers."

1921: Zion City, Illinois, bans smoking and jazz.

continue to January 11


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