Tom's Book of Days
      November 1-10  

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November 1



1532: Francois Rabelais is appointed physician to the Grand Hotel-Dieu de Notre Dame de Pitie du Pontdu-Rhone in Lyon.

1755: The Great Lisbon Earthquake, although not the strongest or most deadly ever, is still a pretty big one, estimated at nearly 9.0 on the Richter scale. It begins at 9:30 AM and lasts ten minutes (in three distinct jolts). The epicenter is in the Atlantic Ocean, about 200 km WSW of Cape St. Vincent. A devastating fire following the earthquake destroys a large part of Lisbon. That being a seafaring city, many of its residents seek safety in ships after the earthquake, but sometime after 10:00 a series of tsunamis swamp the coasts not only of Portugal but also of France, Great Britain, Ireland, Belgium, Holland, Madeira, and the Azores, and even across the Atlantic in Antigua, Martinique, and Barbados, dragging many people out to sea. The earthquake has a profound affect on European art and literature.

1875: Henry James writes of Anthony Trollope: "he is the dullest Briton of them all." (And he should know.)

1897: The first US Library of Congress building opens its doors to the public.


November 2


1811: Luddite weavers and knitters smash machines that threaten their jobs..

1795: James Knox Polk is born.

1815: George Boole is born. He would invent algebraic logic, which would be called Boolean algebra. He would should that symbols could be substituted for logical operations and then manipulated mathematically. Symbolic logic, which is basic to computer functions, would be an outgrowth of this conception. Boole would die on December 8, 1864.

1927: T. S. Eliot becomes a British subject.

1947: The Goose soars: Howard Hughes flies his enormous wooden plane, the Spruce Goose, over Long Beach Harbor. The first plane with eight engines, it had a wingspan of nearly 320 feet. Lasting about a minute, this would be the plane’s only flight.

1989: American nun Diana Ortiz is kidnapped, beaten, raped, and tortured near my old home town, Guatemala City. The US Embassy claims Ortiz staged her own abduction and rape.


November 3


Georg Trakl

1718: John Montague, the 4th Earl of Sandwich, is born.

1839: Two British frigates engage several Chinese junks, beginning the Opium Wars in China, as Britain fights ruthlessly for the right to pump China full of opium.

1871: Walt Whitman writes Anne Gilchrist, declining her offer of marriage.

Anne Gilchrist had published An Englishwoman's Estimate of Walt Whitman in the Boston Radical in May 1870--a sensitive and passionate piece of literary criticism which touched Whitman deeply. Years later he would recall to Traubel: "You cannot imagine what a thing her Estimate meant to me at that time. Almost everybody was against me--the papers, the preachers, the literary gentlemen, nearly everybody with only her a dissenting voice."6 At first his communication to Anne Gilchrist was through their mutual friend William Rossetti, but on Sept. 3, 1871, Anne went into the English fields near her home and poured out her soul to Whitman in a long love letter, which deeply moved the poet but bewildered the man. It took Whitman three months to respond, as he finally did on Nov. 3, with a cautious letter in which he apologizes,saying he was "waiting for the right mood to answer your letter in a spirit as serious as its own with the same unmitigated trust and affection," and goes on to add that he is "not insensible to your love. I too send you my love," but cautions that his "book is my best letter, my response, my truest explanation of all."7 From 1871 until her "trans-settlement in America" Anne wrote most of the letters to Walt, who responded much less frequently and much more cautiously, though always sending tokens of esteem and friendship--his writings, clippings, even a ring--which indicated the value he placed on her intellectual companionship. On March 20, 1872, he wrote Anne to discourage her idealization of him saying: "The actual Walt Whitman is a very plain personage and entirely unworthy of such devotion."8 In 1876 Anne moved her entire family to Philadelphia to join Whitman. Even though the poet's prior letters "disapprove[d] of this American trans-settlement,"9, Anne wrote back on March 30,1876, urging Whitman not to warn her against a "purpose resting on strong faith since 1869"10 and saying she was determined to have Whitman "take me to your breast forever and forever."11 When she arrived in Philadelphia on September 10,1876, Whitman took John Burroughs with him to meet her and her family at their Philadlephia hotel. Finding with relief that he actually liked them all, he became fast friends with the entire Gilchrist clan and for the duration of her sojourn in Philadelphia became a frequent visitor in Mrs. Gilchrist's home, where she set aside for him a room to accommodate him.
      --From THE FRAILEST LEAVES OF ME: A Study of the Text and Music for Whitman's To What You Said by Thomas Hampson and Carla Maria Verdino-Süllwold, reprinted from The Walt Whitman Quarterly Review (Winter 1995) (link has gone bad)

1914: Georg Trakl dies of an overdose of cocaine.


November 4


r. mapplethorpe

1842: In Springfield, Illinois, thirty-three-year-old Abraham Lincoln marries Mary Todd, twenty-three. According to one guest, the groom looked "pale and trembling as being driven to slaughter."

1946: Robert Mapplethorpe is born.

1922: The entrance to Tutankhamen's tomb is discovered in Egypt in the Valley of the Kings. A workman in an expedition led by former commercial artist turned archaeologist Howard Carter stumbled on a step that was eventually discovered to lead to a sunken stairway opening on the virtually intact tomb.

1969: The Chicago Eight trial becomes the Chicago Seven trial when Bobby Seale is cited for contempt and sentenced to four years in jail. The most serious charges against Seale would later be dismissed, and in 1973 he would run unsuccessfully for mayor of Oakland.

1969: Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin is assassinated.

12003: My old home town: Bolinas residents pass Measure G, which ... um ... Well, here it is:

MEASURE G: Vote for Bolinas to be a socially acknowledged nature-loving town because to like to drink the water out of the lakes to like to eat the blueberries to like the bears is not hatred to hotels and motor boats. Dakar. Temporary and way to save life, skunks and foxes (airplanes to go over the ocean) and to make it beautiful.


November 5


Guy Fawkes

1840: Following the death of Ranjit Singh, the "Lion of the Punjab," problems of succession plague the Sikh kingdoms. Kurrach Singh dies on this day (his favorite wife and three female attendants are sacrificed along with him on the funeral pyre). Succession then falls to Nebal Singh, but he is killed by a falling beam on his way back from the funeral.

1606: Guy Fawkes Day is established. In The Gunpowder Plot of 1605, a group of men, including Guy Fawkes, planned to blow up parliament with the apparent object of restoring Catholicism to Britain. Under torture, Fawkes ratted out his companions, and they all were hanged, drawn, and quartered; the heads of some were displayed on pikes. Now, exactly one year after the bombing was to have occurred, parliament celebrates not having been blown up by establishing a day of thanksgiving that will continue to be celebrated in the UK as Guy Fawkes Day.
      Also known as Bonfire Night, Guy Fawkes Day is observed by burning effigies of the conspirator, while repeating this verse:

            Please to remember
            The 5th November:
            Gunpowder, Treason and Plot.
            We know no reason
            Why Gunpowder Treason
            Should ever be forgot.


November 6


Building of Noah's Ark (Breviary of Martin of Aragon, 15th c.)

1948 BCE: By tradition, the birthday of Noah.

1528: Texas discovers Cabeza de Baca.

1813: The Chilpancingo congress declares Mexico independent of Spain.

1999: What were they thinking? Australians vote to keep the Queen of England their official head of state.

2002: Winona Ryder is convicted of shoplifting.

2005: The Sunday Telegraph, citing research it had commissioned itself, reports that cocaine is is present in the Thames in detectable quantities. Extrapolating from their measurements the Telegraph's researchers estimate that 150,000 lines of coke are snorted in London every day -- about 15 times higher than the Home Office's official estimate.


November 7


chrsanthemum pattern

1790: Chrysanthemums are introduced to England from China (some sources say November 11).

1908: Ernest Rutherford announces that he has isolated a single atom of matter.

If your experiment needs statistics you ought to have done a better experiment.... All science is either physics or stamp collecting.
      -- Ernest Rutherford (Nobel Prize for chemistry, 1908)

1917: Bolshevik forces in Russia overthow the government of Alexander Kerensky.

1929: New York's Museum of Modern Art opens to the public.

Dead artists always bring out an older, richer crowd.
      --Elizabeth Shaw, Public Relations Director, Museum of Modern Art, quoted in NYT, March 26, 1976

1997: China's Yangzi River is dammed, preparing for world's largest--and most appalling--hydroelectric damn project.

Given the evidence that the dam may not achieve its stated aims and may in fact cause irreparable damages, many critics wonder why the Chinese government continues the project. Their conclusion seems to be that the primary motive is political. The dam would be the world’s largest hydroelectric dam, which would confer prestige on China and confirm its technological prowess and the superiority of socialism.
     -- (link at has gone bad )


November 8


Figure Five in Gold

1519: Hernan Cortés and Moctezuma meet for the first time.

1740: Samuel Richardson's Pamela is published.

1883: Charles Demuth is born. His Figure Five in Gold (1928, shown) alludes to the opening of a William Carlos Williams poem:

The Great Figure

Among the rain
and lights
I saw the figure 5
in gold
on a red
fire truck
to gong clangs
siren howls
and wheels rumbling
through the dark city
      --William Carlos Williams

1929: Jean Giraudoux's Amphitryon '38 premieres in Paris.

1973: The right ear of John Paul Getty III is delivered to a newspaper by kidnappers frustrated by the slowness of the 16 year old's frugal grandfather, J. Paul Getty, to cought up a ransom. (To the Getty patriarch is attributed the quote "The meek shall inherit the earth -- but not the mineral rights.") Eventually the billionaire paid $1 million to free his grandson -- in the form of a loan to the boy's father (philanthropist and cricket enthusiast J. Paul Getty, Jr.) at 4 percent interest. The teenager would be said to have been permanently affected by his ordeal, and in 1981 he would end up paralyzed and rendered blind and speechless by an ill-advised combination of drugs and alcohol.


November 9


Dylan Thomas

1818: Ivan Turgenev is born

1938: In the darkness of night and into the morning, at the instigation of Joseph Goebbels (with the approval of Adolf Hitler), store and house windows are smashed throughout Jewish neighborhoods in Germany. Synagogues and shops are burned to the ground, and thousands of books fuel the bonfires. Many Jews are killed and more than 30,000 are arrested, mostly to be imprisoned and tortured in the concentration camps of Dachau, Buchenwald, and Sachsenhausen. It is Kristallnacht (Crystal Night or Night of Broken Glass), the first organized, all-out attack on the Jewish populations of Germany and Austria.

1953: Dylan Thomas dies at thirty-nine, following a six-day coma brought on by drinking 18 straight whiskeys in a New York tavern.


November 10



1697: William Hogarth is born.

1739: Samuel Richardson begins his first book, Pamela, at the age of fifty, providing inspiration for all us old farts.

1770: "If God did not exist it would be necessary to invent Him." --Voltaire, in "Epitre a l'auteur de livre des trois imposteurs."

1808: This daybook does not normally memorialize deaths, but on this day poor Boatswain passed away. He was Byron's labrador, and he was eulogized by John Cam Hobhouse with the eloquent sentence, "There lies Boatswain, a dog." Hobhouse then fell down, upon which Byron remarked, "There lies Hobhouse, a pig." Oh, those witty British romantics!

1973: In Drake, North Dakota, the school board burns Kurt Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse 5" as a "tool of the Devil," and the teacher who assigned it for reading is fired.

continue to November 11


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