A Sideways Glare at Contemporary Society
1866 – H. G. Wells, an author who, like Jules Verne, was one of the greatest science fiction writers of all time. His novels and non-fiction (Anticipation ) successfully predicted all kinds of things that we take for granted in the 21st century. He also wrote two books, Floor Wars and Little Wars, which virtually invented that notorious time eater: recreational war gaming.
1947 – Stephen King, a contemporary novelist. His books are so frightening that you don’t even have to read them. Even if they just sit on your bookshelf in the basement, they scare the hell out of you.
1897 – To all those people yippin’ and moanin’ when Christmas shows up at Costco and Wal-mart the day after Hallowe’en this appeared in the New York Sun newspaper on this date in 1897. It was written by Virginia O’Hanlon and Francis Pharcellus Church.
“DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
“Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
“Papa says, ‘If you see it in THE SUN it’s so.’
“Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?
“…. Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished. …”
Now don’t you feel foolish. So just shut up and enjoy yourself.
1937 – J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit was published by George Allen & Unwin Ltd. The original press run was 1,500 and the book contained original drawings by Tolkien who also designed the cover and the dust jacket. In 2010, if you had a copy of that 1st Edition in mint condition, you would have enough money to buy the Shire and put all of the hobbits to work as slaves.
19 BCE – Virgil, whose epic poem The Aeneid ranks with The Iliad and The Odyssey as the bases of all European literature. Although he was once considered essential reading for any educated person, he is mostly ignored today. He is not even remembered for his contribution to the clichés of our language – “Omnia vincit amor” or “Love conquers all” and “Facilis descensus Averni” (“the road to Hell is paved”).
1832 – Sir Walter Scott, an early 19th century, Scottish author, who re-invented chivalry with his novel Ivanhoe (1819) and invented Scottish Highland culture with Rob Roy (1817). His works were so popular that by the time Queen Victoria showed up in 1837, his romantic version of history was widely accepted and set the standard for many of the attitudes of the Victorian Age.