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01177--Strange and interesting facts about literary figures.

Interesting Facts


·         was probably illiterate
·         inspired Alexander the Great, who carried the Iliad with him on all of his military campaigns
·         is quoted more often than any other Western poet, with the possible exception of Shakespeare

The Venerable Bede

·         invented the footnote
·         popularized the dating of events from the birth of Christ—the b.c./a.d. system

Margery Kempe

·         gave birth to 14 children
·         was ridiculed for dressing all in white when married women customarily wore dark clothing
·         so annoyed the archbishop of York that he paid a man five shillings to escort her out of town
·         was captured and held for ransom while fighting for England in the Hundred Years’ war
·         held various jobs, including royal messenger, justice of the peace, and forester
·         portrayed himself as a foolish character in a number of works
·         survived the Black Death when it struck Florence, Italy, in 1348
·         fell in love with a woman whom he called “Fiammetta,” or “little flame,” who inspired his early writing
Sir Thomas Malory

·         completed Le Morte d’Arthur while in Newgate Prison
·         spent more than ten years in prison, accused of violent acts
·         worked as a servant to pay for his room and board at college
·         wrote a satire that was censored because it insulted Queen Elizabeth I and other English notables
·         never attended a university
·         was denounced early in his career by a jealous writer who called him an “upstart crow”
·         is often referred to as “the Bard”—an ancient Celtic term for a poet who composed songs about heroes
·         introduced more than 1,700 new words into the English language
·         has had his work translated into 118 languages, including sign language
Francesco Petrarch

·         studied law at a university when he was only 12 years old
·         would spend his allowance on classical poetry, which so angered Petrarch’s father that he burned most of the books
Nicolo Machiavelli

·         always changed into his finest clothing before sitting down to write
·         dedicated The Prince to Lorenzo de’ Medici, who probably never read it
·         enjoyed pranks and jokes
·         enrolled in Cambridge University at the age of 12
·         was once imprisoned in the Tower of London
·         is believed by some to be the real author of Shakespeare’s plays
Margaret Cavendish

·         wrote what has been described as the first science fiction novel
·         thought it was against nature for a woman to spell correctly
·         used her own remedies to treat her illnesses, a course of action that probably hastened her death
John Milton

·         coined the word pandemonium
·         loved the Arthurian legends and nearly based his great English epic on them
·         deeply influenced the writing of J. R. R. Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings trilogy
John Bunyan

·         wrote much of The Pilgrim’s Progress in jail, using paper covers from milk bottles
·         presided over a congregation of 3,000 to 4,000 people in his last years
·         inspired the name of a famous 19th-century English novel and a popular American magazine
·         once sailed with Sir Walter Raleigh on a treasure-hunting expedition
·         had his portrait drawn while dressed in his burial shroud
·         wrote lines that inspired the titles of the novels Death Be Not Proud by John Gunther and For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
·         had a fan club of young writers called “the sons of Ben”
·         converted to Catholicism while in prison for murder
·         continued to write plays from his bed after suffering a stroke

Samuel Pepys

·         had 10 brothers and sisters
·         saved his house from the Great Fire of London, only to have it burn seven years later
·         kept his diary a secret— not even telling his wife about it
·         was an undercover government spy
·         promoted several of his novels as memoirs
·         died while in hiding from creditors
·         was shy around strangers
·         was nicknamed “the parson in a tie-wig” because of his intense moral convictions
·         was among England’s first journalists to write for both men and women
·         was run over by a wild cow when he was three years old
·         suffered from poor health and once said that his life had been a “long disease”
·         wrote the first two cantos of The Rape of the Lock in less than two weeks
·         had learned to read by the time he was three
·         coined the term yahoo to refer to a boorish and ignorant person
·         left much of his fortune to go toward the building of a mental hospital

·         reportedly drank dozens of cups of coffee a day
·         spent 11 months in Bastille prison for writing poetry that offended the royal family
·         is sometimes credited with having written the first work of science fiction
·         became known as Dictionary Johnson and the Good Doctor
·         showed little sympathy for the American colonists who, he said, demanded liberty while keeping slaves
·         is second only to Shakespeare as the most frequently quoted English writer
·         claimed to be distantly related to King George III
·         married his first cousin and had five children
·         was a lawyer for 17 years
·         hated mat
·         is said to have a secret pyrophobia, or fear of fire
·         was buried in the cemetery described in his famous “Elegy”
·         didn’t learn to read until age 8 but was writing fiction by age 10
·         started her diary when she was 16
·         was a friend of Samuel Johnson’s but didn’t like James Boswell
Mary Wollstoncraft
·         inspired American women’s rights pioneers Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Margaret Fuller
·         was the mother of Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein
·         met the radical American thinker Thomas Paine and supported the American and French revolutions
·         was charged with treason for cursing King George III but was later acquitted
·         championed racial and sexual equality
·         composed “Auld Lang Syne” to an old Scottish melody
·         alienated many by supporting the French Revolution
Heinrich Heine

·         first achieved fame for a series of travel books
·         inspired thousands of musical compositions through his verse
·         had his work banned by the German government for over 100 years
·         at first supported, but later denounced, the French Revolution
·         refused to publish his autobiographical masterpiece, The Prelude, during his lifetime
·         lost two of his five children to early deaths
·         developed a fascination with the supernatural at age five
·         was known as a brilliant and captivating conversationalist
·         was the most influential literary critic of his day
·         liked to write poetry while walking
·         kept wild and exotic animals as pets
·         made speeches in England’s House of Lords in support of social reform
·         participated in the movement to free Italy from Austrian rule
·         published two gothic novels while in his teens
·         wrote and circulated many controversial political pamphlets
·         supported vegetarianism
·         was not popular in his own day because of his radical views
·         was a passionate admirer of William Shakespeare
·         became engaged to, but never married, the love of his life
·         wrote all of his masterpieces in one year, at the age of 22
·         was the most famous poet of his age
·         counted Queen Victoria as a close friend
·         wrote a book, Idylls of the King, inspired by King Arthur’s legendary court
·         participated in an unsuccessful scheme to overthrow the Spanish king
·         became an ardent admirer of Percy Bysshe Shelley at age 12
·         achieved fluency in Latin, Greek, Italian, and French by age 14
·         wrote the children’s poem “The Pied Piper of Hamelin”
Gerard Manley Hopkins

·         considered becoming a professional artist
·         produced musical compositions
·         profoundly influenced T. S. Eliot, Dylan Thomas, W. H. Auden, and other 20th-century poets
Anthony Trollope

·         worked for the post office for over 25 years
·         published 47 novels in his lifetime
·         ran unsuccessfully for a seat in Parliament
Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell

·         was one of the most popular female novelists of her time
·         was close friends with fellow author Charlotte Brontë, whose biography she wrote
Anton Chekhov

·         was a gossip columnist early in his career
·         traveled 6,000 miles across Siberia to study living conditions in a prison colony
·         wrote several thousand letters, notable for their lively humor
·         spent more time socializing than studying while in college, and so barely passed his exams
·         may have written “Dover Beach” while on his honeymoon
·         published his first two books under the pen name “A”

·         composed most of his poems while in his early 20s
·         had never actually been to Shropshire when he began writing A Shropshire Lad, his first and most popular collection of poems
·         turned down various awards and honors, including appointment as England’s poet laureate
Thomas Hardy

·         initially wanted to be an architect, not a writer
·         based his novel A Pair of Blue Eyes on his experiences courting his wife
·         published 14 novels, 3 volumes of short stories, and over 1,000 poems
·         refused to publish his early work because he believed it mediocre
·         wrote the book that inspired the hit Broadway musical Cats
·         won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1948
Katherine Mansfield

·         published her first story           at the age of nine
·         inspired Virginia Woolf to comment, “I was jealous of her writing— the only writing I have ever been jealous of”
·         was the model for a character in her good friend D. H. Lawrence’s novel Women in Love
Virginia Woolf

·         wrote a comic biography of a cocker spaniel
·         was nicknamed “Goat” by her family
·         was an outspoken pacifist during World War II

·         was also an accomplished poet, painter, and playwright
·         lived in poverty for much of his life, as his censored books were deemed “unsellable”
·         was buried first in France and then in New Mexico
·         was a stretcher-bearer during the Spanish Civil War
·         became a United States citizen in 1946
·         won a Pulitzer Prize for his book The Age of Anxiety
Dylan Thomas

·         left school at age 16 to take a job as a reporter
·         had produced half of his literary output by the time he was 20
·         also worked as an actor and a radio broadcaster
·         performed poorly in high school because he daydreamed
·         studied magic as a member of a secret society
·         turned down the honor of knighthood
James Joyce

·         had nine brothers and sisters
·         titled “Araby” after a real festival that came to Dublin in 1894
·         was initially offered only one pound each for the stories published in Dubliners

·         had an ear for languages and studied Gaelic, Hebrew, French, and Italian
·         revised his plays until the pages were “nearly unreadable”
·         died shortly before his 38th birthday
Elizabeth Bowen

·         served as an air-raid warden in London during World War II
·         counted writers Edith Sitwell, Aldous Huxley, and Virginia Woolf among her friends
George Orwell

·         wrote his first poem when he was about five years old
·         never legally changed his name from Eric Blair to George Orwell
·         coined the terms “newspeak” and “Big Brother”
Aldous Huxley

·         was one of George Orwell’s teachers
·         died on the same day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated
Elie Wiesel

·         may have been the first person to use the word Holocaust to refer to the mass murder carried out by the Nazis
·         co-wrote a memoir with former French president François Mitterrand
·         is fluent in Yiddish, Hebrew, Hungarian, German, French, and English
Winston Churchill

·         prepared speeches in only three hours
·         was 65 years old at the time he became prime minister and was active in politics until he was nearly 90
·         popularized the term “Iron Curtain”
Stevie Smith

·         acquired the nickname “Stevie” after friends compared her to a famous jockey named Steve Donoghue
·         illustrated most of her poetry with little drawings she called “beastlies”
William Trevor

·         did not abandon his art career to write full-time until his mid-30s
·         gave up sculpting because his pieces became too abstract
·         enjoys Woody Allen and Marx Brothers movies
Wole Soyinka

·         was the first African to win the Nobel Prize in literature
·         is the cousin of Nigerian music star Fela Kuti
·         spent time working with inner-city kids in Jamaica
Nadine Gordimer

·         published her first short story at the age of 15
·         was confined to her house from ages 10 to 16 with a heart condition
·         refused a literary award for which only women could be considered
Anita Desai

·         had her first short story published when she was just nine years old
·         has a daughter who is also a novelist
·         has also written a highly praised children’s book
                THE END


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