The English playwright, actor and poet William Shakespeare is thought to have been born as the son of the shop owner John Shakespeare and his wife Mary, nee Arden, on April 23, 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon and was baptized on April 26, 1564.
Shakespeare came from a wealthy family of townspeople and probably attended grammar-school in Stratford. When he was 18, he married the farmer's daughter Anne Hathaway, who was 8 years his senior. They had three children and it is thought that he worked as a teacher in Lancashire from 1582 to 1590.
In 1592 William Shakespeare seemed to have already been in contact with the theater in London, in 1594 he was an actor, playwright and member of the acting company called the "Chamberlain's Men", who were known as the "King's Men" from 1603. This company was one of the two leading, financially independent acting companies in London.
In 1595 he wrote his most poetic works, "Romeo and Juliet" and "A Midsummer Night's Dream". In the years between 1596 to 1599 his comedies transformed from the almost subversive "Merchant of Venice" via "The Merry Wives of Windsor" to the deeply romantic comedies "Much Ado about Nothing", "Twelfth Night" and "As you Like It".
At the turn of the century his work underwent a transformation, depicting a tragic world view, which can first be seen in "Julius Caesar". This phase of his work included the tragedies "Hamlet", "Macbeth", "Othello" and "King Lear", which deal with religious and political aspects of his time in a very complex manner.
In 1599 he became a shareholder of the Globe Theatre in London. Before, Shakespeare bought houses and land in his home town of Stratford-upon-Avon, where he lived from 1612 at the latest.
William Shakespeare died on April 23, 1616 in Stratford-upon-Avon, where he was buried at the altar of Holy Trinity Church.
Daniel Defoe (1660 - April 21, 1731), the English writer, gained fame for his novel Robinson Crusoe.
Born Daniel Foe, the son of James Foe, a butcher in the Stoke Newington neighbourhood of London, England. He became a famous pamphleteer, journalist and novelist at a time of the birth of the novel in the English language, and thus fairly ranks as one of its progenitors.
Defoe's pamphleteering and political activities resulted in his arrest and placement in a pillory on July 31, 1703, principally on account of a pamphlet entitled "The Shortest Way with Dissenters", in which he ruthlessly satirised the High church Tories, purporting to argue for the extermination of dissenters. The publication of his poem "Hymn to the Pillory", however, caused his audience at the pillory to throw flowers instead of the customary harmful and noxious objects, and to drink to his health.
After his three days in the pillory Defoe went into Newgate Prison. Robert Harley, 1st Earl of Oxford and Mortimer, brokered his release in exchange for Defoe's co-operation in acting as an intelligence agent for the Tories in the Tory ministry of 1710 to 1714. After the Tories fell from power with the death of Queen Anne, Defoe continued doing intelligence work for the Whig government.
Defoe's famous novel Robinson Crusoe (1719), tells of a man's shipwreck on a desert island and his subsequent adventures. The author may have based his narrative on the true story of the shipwreck of Alexander Selkirk.
Defoe's next novel was Captain Singleton (1720), amazing for its portrayal of the redemptive power of one man's love for another. Hans Turley has recently shown how Quaker William's love turns Captain Singleton away from the murderous life of a pirate, and the two make a solemn vow to live as a male couple happily ever after in London, disguised as Greeks and never speaking English in public, with Singleton married to William's sister as a ruse.
Defoe wrote an account of the Great Plague of 1665: A Journal of the Plague Year.
He also wrote Moll Flanders (1722), a picaresque first-person narration of the fall and eventual redemption of a lone woman in 17th century England. She appears as a whore, bigamist and thief, lives in The Mint, commits adultery and incest, yet manages to keep the reader's sympathy. Both this work and Roxana, The Fortunate Mistress (1724) offer remarkable examples of the way in which Defoe seems to inhabit his fictional (yet "drawn from life") characters, not least in that they are women.
Daniel Defoe died on April 21, 1731 and was interred in Bunhill Fields, London, England.
Charles Dickens (Charles John Huffam Dickens) was born in Landport, Portsmouth, on February 7, 1812. Charles was the second of eight children to John Dickens (1786–1851), a clerk in the Navy Pay Office, and his wife Elizabeth Dickens (1789–1863). The Dickens family moved to London in 1814 and two years later to Chatham, Kent, where Charles spent early years of his childhood. Due to the financial difficulties they moved back to London in 1822, where they settled in Camden Town, a poor neighborhood of London.
In 1833 Dickens began to contribute short stories and essays to periodicals. A Dinner at Popular Walk was Dickens's first published story. It appeared in the Monthly Magazine in December 1833. In 1834, still a newspaper reporter, he adopted the soon to be famous pseudonym Boz. Dickens's first book, a collection of stories titled Sketches by Boz, was published in 1836. In the same year he married Catherine Hogarth, daughter of the editor of the Evening Chronicle. Together they had 10 children before they separated in 1858.
Although Dickens's main profession was as a novelist, he continued his journalistic work until the end of his life, editing The Daily News, Household Words, and All the Year Round. His connections to various magazines and newspapers gave him the opportunity to begin publishing his own fiction at the beginning of his career.
The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club was published in monthly parts from April 1836 to November 1837. Pickwick became one of the most popular works of the time, continuing to be so after it was published in book form in 1837. After the success of Pickwick Dickens embarked on a full-time career as a novelist, producing work of increasing complexity at an incredible rate: Oliver Twist (1837-39), Nicholas Nickleby (1838-39), The Old Curiosity Shop and Barnaby Rudge as part of the Master Humphrey's Clock series (1840-41), all being published in monthly instalments before being made into books.
In 1842 he travelled with his wife to the United States and Canada, which led to his controversial American Notes (1842) and is also the basis of some of the episodes in Martin Chuzzlewit. Dickens's series of five Christmas Books were soon to follow; A Christmas Carol (1843), The Chimes (1844), The Cricket on the Hearth (1845), The Battle of Life (1846), and The Haunted Man (1848). After living briefly abroad in Italy (1844) and Switzerland (1846) Dickens continued his success with Dombey and Son (1848), the largely autobiographical David Copperfield (1849-50), Bleak House (1852-53), Hard Times (1854), Little Dorrit (1857), A Tale of Two Cities (1859), and Great Expectations (1861).
In 1856 his popularity had allowed him to buy Gad's Hill Place, an estate he had admired since childhood. In 1858 Dickens began a series of paid readings, which became instantly popular. In all, Dickens performed more than 400 times. In that year, after a long period of difficulties, he separated from his wife. It was also around that time that Dickens became involved in an affair with a young actress named Ellen Ternan. The exact nature of their relationship is unclear, but it was clearly central to Dickens's personal and professional life.
Charles Dickens died at home on June 9, 1870 after suffering a stroke. Contrary to his wish to be buried in Rochester Cathedral, he was buried in the Poets' Corner of Westminster Abbey.
Jonathan 'Isaac Bickerstaff' Swift (1667-1745)
Jonathan Swift was born in Dublin, Ireland on 30 November 1667, second child and only son of Jonathan Swift1 and Abigaile Erick Swift. His father was dead before Jonathan, Junior was born, so the child's education was arranged by other relatives. Jonathan graduated from Trinity College, Dublin, in 1682 and then went to England to try his luck. He found a job as secretary to Sir William Temple, and it was in Sir William's household that he met Esther (Stella) Johnson and became her tutor. Now Sir William was an extremely important statesman of the day. He helped arrange the marriage of future British monarchs William and Mary.
Anyway, Jonathan wrote a lot of stuff in between tutoring sessions, but unfortunately burned most of it. The writing that survives shows signs of the great satirist he was to become. But when Sir William died in 1699, Jonathan was left scrambling for a job and eventually ended up with several odd little Church positions back in Ireland. He became a very fashionable satiric writer as far as Dublin society was concerned.
And now for one of my all-time favorite anecdotes. In the early 1700's, a man named John Partridge, a cobler by trade, took up printing almanacs to make some extra money. He challenged his readers to try their hands at prophecy and see if they could beat Partridge's own prophetic abilities. Well, Partridge had made some attacks on the Church of England, and in 1708, Jonathan decided to stand up for his employer. Using the name Isaac Bickerstaff, he prophesied "a trifle...[Partridge] will infallibly die upon the 29th of March next, about eleven at Night, of a raging fever." At the proper time, using another name, Jonathan announced the fulfillment of said prophecy. Partridge, in his next almanac, protested loudly that he was still alive, but no one believed him. The Stationer's Register had already removed his name from their rolls, and that was good enough for most people.
Somewhere around 1716, some biographers say he married Stella Johnson, but there's no proof of this, and you'd think there'd be some sign if he had. Though they lived near each other for most of their lives, they were always very properly chaperoned and may very well have never been alone together.
Gulliver's Travels was published in 1726, Jonathan's first big dive into prose. Though it's been pretty solidly labeled a children's book, it's also a great satire of the times that is pretty much beyond most children. It shows Jonathan's desire to encourage people to read deeper and not take things for granted: readers who paid attention could match all of Gulliver's tall tales with current events and long-term societal problems. In 1729, Jonathan wrote one of my favorites, A Modest Proposal, supposedly written by an intelligent and objective "political arithmetician" who had carefully studied Ireland before making his proposal. Most of you probably know this one. The author calmly suggests one solution for both the problem of overpopulation and the growing numbers of undernourished people: breed those children who would otherwise go hungry or be mistreated in order to feed the general public.
Jonathan died on 19 October 1745, aged 78.
Agatha Christie (1890-1976) was born Agatha May Devon, England in 1890, the youngest of three children in a conservative, well-to-do family.Taught at home by a governess and tutors, as a child Agatha Christie never attended school. She became adept at creating games to keep herself occupied at a very young age. A shy child, unable to adequately express her feelings, she first turned to music as a means of expression and, later in life, to writing.
In 1914, at the age of 24, she married Archie Christie, a World War I fighter pilot. While he was off at war, she worked as a nurse. It was while working in a hospital during the war that Christie first came up with the idea of writing a detective novel. Although it was completed in a year, it wasn't published until 1920, five years later.
"The Mysterious Affair at Styles" gave the world the inimitable Hercule Poirot, a retired Belgian police officer who was to become one of the most enduring characters in all of fiction. With his waxed moustache and his "little grey cells," he was "meticulous, a tidy little man, always neat and orderly, with a slight flavour of absurdity about him." (The New Bedside Christie Companion...)
In 1926, Archie asked for a divorce, having fallen in love with another woman. Agatha, already upset by the recent death of her mother, disappeared. All of England became wrapped up in the case of the now famous missing writer. She was found three weeks later in a small hotel, explaining to police that she had lost her memory. Thereafter, it was never again mentioned or elaborated upon by Christie. She later found happiness with her marriage in 1930 to Max Mallowan, a young archaeologist who she met on a trip to Mesopotamia.
Another of Christie's most well-known and beloved characters was introduced in "Murder at the Vicarage" in 1930. Miss Jane Marple, an elderly spinster in the quaint English village of St. Mary Mead, solved all manner of mysteries with intense concentration and intuition. Featured in 12 novels, Miss Marple exemplified the cozy style, a form of mystery fiction that became popular in, and ultimately defined, the Golden Age of fiction in England during the 1920s and '30s.
Christie ultimately became the acknowledged Queen of the Golden Age. In all, she wrote over 66 novels, numerous short stories and screenplays, and a series of romantic novels using the pen name Mary Westmacott. Several of her works were made into successful feature films, the most notable being Murder on the Orient Express (1974). Her work has been translated into more than a hundred languages. In short, she is the single most popular mystery writer of all time.
In 1971 she was awarded the high honor of becoming a Dame of the British Empire. Agatha Christie died on 12 January 1976.
Jack London (John Griffith) (1876-1916)
Jack London, in full John Griffith London, was born in San Francisco, the illegitimate son of a wandering astrologer and a spiritualist. At the age of 14 he quit school to seek adventure. As a sailor, he pirated San Francisco Bay oyster beds; then, aboard a sealing ship, he cruised to Japan. Later, as a tramp, he saw much of the United States and the interior of a Niagara Falls jail. He completed his high school education in a year and went to the University of California for a semester. He traveled to the Klondike with the gold prospectors and, returning to California, launched his writing career.
London won national acclaim for his short stories about the brutal and vigorous life of the Yukon, published in magazines and then in a book, The Son of the Wolf (1900). Other writings in the same genre followed; the best known is The Call of the Wild (1903), which describes how an Alaska dog leaves civilization to join a wolf pack. The Sea-Wolf (1904), in addition to portraying the predatory sea captain Wolf Larson, tells of the conversion of a civilized man to an elemental way of living. The stress upon the primitive survival of the fittest in both books stemmed from the author's belief in many of Charles Darwin's theories of evolution. White Fang (1906), The Strength of the Strong (1911), Smoke Bellew (1912), and The Abysmal Brute (1913), as well as several volumes of tales set in the South Seas, developed similar themes.
London was also influenced by the socialistic theories of Karl Marx. Often London's writings attacked social abuses and advocated Marxist beliefs. An early book, The People of the Abyss (1903), described slum conditions in London. Other books included The War of the Classes (1905), The Iron Heel (1907), and The Human Drift (1917). The second of these prophesied a fascistic revolution, which eventually would be followed by egalitarianism. The Valley of the Moon (1913) showed how a return to the land might solve social and economic problems.
Two of London's best books are semiautobiographical - Martin Eden (1909) and John Barleycorn (1913). The former recounts his struggles as a writer; the latter tells about his long-lasting fight against alcoholism. The over all pattern of London's life was tragic - youthful poverty, two unsuccessful marriages, disillusionment, in time, with the Socialist party, and finally despair and (almost certainly) suicide.
Beset in his later years by alcoholism and financial difficulties, London died at the age of 40.
Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens) authored both essays and novels throughout his life. His most famous works, “Huckleberry Finn”, “Tom Sawyer”, and “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court”, are still considered classics and reflections of American history.
Mark Twain was born as Samuel Langhorne Clemens on November 30, 1835 in Florida, Missouri. Although he was the sixth of seven children, he was only one of four to survive childhood. When Twain's father died in 1847, Twain went to work as a printer's apprentice and learned how to be a typesetter. Twain became further involved with the Hannibal Journal, a local paper, and began contributing both articles and sketches to the content. Having learned the printing trade, Twain decided to try his luck in larger cities and left Missouri for New York and Philadelphia.
Twain worked as a typesetter in a number of cities, all the while educating himself in local libraries to expand his knowledge. It wasn't until he returned to Missouri that Twain got his first taste of steamboats. While traveling down to New Orleans, Twain befriended the steamboat pilot who talked him into pursuing a career in piloting the boats.
It took Mark Twain two years to study the intricacies of the Mississippi River, a requirement for steamboat pilots at that time since night navigation was difficult. Twain worked as a successful steamboat pilot for two years before the American Civil War broke out in 1861 and all traffic between the Union and the Confederates ceased.
Twain temporarily joined a militia for two weeks before deciding to follow his older brother, Orion, out to the Nevada territories. It took them two weeks to reach Virginia City, Nevada, a journey Twain would later use as his inspiration for his novel Roughing It. After a short and unsuccessful try at mining, Twain started writing articles for the local paper. It was in one of these articles that he first signed his name as "Mark Twain".
After his work at the Territorial Enterprise in Virginia City, Mark Twain traveled to San Francisco, California and continued working as a journalist. His writings and lectures took him to Hawaii, Europe, and the Middle East, trips and travels he eventually used for his book The Innocents Abroad in 1869 This was the same year he became engaged to his future wife, Olivia. They married in Elmira, New York in 1870.
Three years later, Twain and his wife moved to Hartford, Connecticut where Twain built his family a large house. Olivia eventually gave birth to three daughters while living at their home. It was in Hartford that Twain sat down and wrote his most famous works: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer. He also wrote The Prince and the Pauper during that same time, a classic story that has been retold thousands of time in literature and film.
Twain made historical contributions to the literary world by chronicling a specific culture and time in American history. His portrayal of boyish pride and slavery has been studied by scholars in both grade schools and Universities.
Mark Twain continued to write and travel throughout the remainder of his life. His wife, Olivia died in 1904 and Twain passed away from a heart attack on April 21, 1910. By the time of his death, Twain was already renowned as a great American author.
Ernest Hemingway is one of the greatest 20th-century American writers. The legend which developed around his impressive personality was that of a man of action, a devil-may-care adventurer, a brave war correspondent, an amateur boxer, a big-game hunter and deep-sea fisherman, the victim of three car accidents and two plane crashes, a man of four wives and many loves, but above all a brilliant writer of stories and novels.
Hemingway was born in 1899 in Oak Park, Illinois. His father was a doctor who initiated the boy into the outdoor life of hunting, camping, and fishing. While at school, Hemingway played football and wrote articles for the school newspaper.
In 1917, when the United States entered the World War I, Hemingway left home and schooling to become a reporter for "The Kansas City Star". He wanted to enlist for the war but was rejected because of an eye injury from football. Finally he managed to go to Europe as an ambulance driver for the Red Cross. He joined the Italian army and was seriously wounded.
Hemingway's first books, Three Stories and Ten Poems (1923), of which he received no advance at all, and In Our Time (1924), were published in Paris. The Torrents of Spring (1926) was a parody of Sherwood Anderson's style. Hemingway's first serious novel was The Sun Also Rises (1926). The story, narrated by an American journalist, deals with a group of expatriates in France and Spain, members of the disillusioned post-World War I Lost Generation. Main characters are Lady Brett Ashley and Jake Barnes. Lady Brett loves Jake, who has been wounded in war and can't answer her needs. Although Hemingway never explicitly detailed Jake's injury, is seem that he has lost his testicles but not his penis. Jake and Brett and their odd group of friends have various adventures around Europe, in Madrid, Paris, and Pampalona. In attempt to cope with their despair they turn to alcohol, violence, and sex. As Jake, Hemingway was wounded in WW I; they share also interest in bullfighting. The story ends bitter-sweet: "Oh, Jake, Brett said, "we could have had such a damned good time together." Hemingway wrote and rewrote the novel in various parts of Spain and France between 1924 and 1926. It became his first great success. Although the Hemingway's language is simple, he used understatement and omission which make the text multilayered and rich in allusions.
In 1960 Hemingway was hospitalized at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, for treatment of depression, and released in 1961. During this time he was given electric shock therapy for two months. He believed that FBI agents were following him, which was true: they had compiled a large file on him. On July 2 Hemingway committed suicide with his favorite shotgun at his home in Ketchum, Idaho. Several of Hemingway's novels have been published posthumously. True at First Light, depiction of a safari in Kenya, appeared in July 1999. It is one of the worst books written by a Nobel writer.
O. Henry was born William Sydney Porter in Greenboro, North Carolina, where he lived nearly half of his life. His father, Algernon Sidney Porter, was a physician. When William was three, his mother died, and he was raised by his parental grandmother and paternal aunt. William was an avid reader, but at the age of fifteen he left school, and then worked in a drug store and on a Texas ranch. He continued to Houston, where he had a number of jobs, including that of bank clerk. After moving in 1882 to Texas, he worked on a ranch in LaSalle County for two years. In 1887 he married Athol Estes Roach; they had one daughter and one son.
O. Henry moved to New York City in 1902. From December 1903 to January 1906 he wrote a story a week for the New York World, also publishing in such magazines as Everybody's Magazine, Munsey's, McClure's, and others. O. Henry's first collections, CABBAGES AND KINGS (1904) and THE FOUR MILLION (1906), made him a household name. The latter included 'The Gift of the Magi', about a poor couple and their Christmas gifts, and 'The Furnished Room'. THE TRIMMED LAMP (1907) explored the lives of New Yorkers; the city itself O. Henry liked to call "Bagdad-on the-Subway". In 'The Last Leaf', a sentimental piece about two women artists and their failed artist friend, the theme is selfishness, as in 'The Gift of the Magi', but there is also a lesbian undercurrent, which separates it from O. Henry's run-of-the-mill works.
O. Henry's most anthologized work is perhaps 'The Ransom of Red Chief' (see Howard Hawks and Nunnally Johnson), first collected in WHIRLIGIGS (1910). The story tells about two kidnappers, who make off with the young son of a prominent man. They find out that the child is a real nuisance – Home Alone movies owe a debt to the story. At the end they agree to pay the boy's father to take him back. – "Sam," says Bill, "I suppose you'll think I'm a renegade. but I couldn't help it. I'm a grown person with masculine proclivities and habits of self-defense, but there is a time when all systems of egotism and predominance fail. The boy is gone. I sent him home. All is off. There was martyrs in old times," goes on Bill, "that suffered death rather than give up the particular graft they enjoyed. None of 'em ever was subjugated to such supernatural tortures as I have been. I tried to be faithful to our articles of depredation; but there came a limit."
HEART OF THE WEST (1907) presented western stories, of which 'The Last of the Troubadours' J. Frank Dobie named "the best range story in American fiction." 'The Caballero's Way' featured as a character the Cisco Kid. During his life time, O. Henry published 10 collections and over 600 short stories. His last years were shadowed by alcoholism, ill health, and financial problems. He was a fast writer, like the Russian Anton Checkhov (1860-1904), but drinking on average two quarts of whiskey daily, did not improve the quality of his work. Usually he went to his regular bar at about 10 o'clock.
In 1907 O. Henry married Sara Lindsay Coleman, his childhood friend born in Greensboro. The marriage was not happy, and they separated a year later. O. Henry died of cirrhosis of the liver on June 5, 1910, in New York. At the time of his death, he was deeply in dept. O. Henry's funeral ceremony at the Little Church Around the Corner was brief. Three more collections, SIXES AND SEVENS (1911), ROLLING STONES (1912) and WAIFS AND STRAYS (1917), appeared posthumously. In 1918 the O. Henry Memorial Awards were established to be given annually to the best magazine stories, the winners and leading contenders to be published in an annual volume.
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