Friday, October 24, 2014

Jane Austen's "Sense and Sensibility" was Published - October 30, 1811

This week (October 24-31) in English literary history – Henry Fielding became justice of the peace (October 25, 1748); Henry James and Edith Wharton begin corresponding (October 26, 1900); Sylvia Plath was born (October 27, 1932); George Bernard Shaw’s “Mrs. Warren’s Profession” was performed on New York (October 28, 1905); Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility” was published (October 30, 1811); Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” was published (October 31, 1892) 

Highlighted Story of the Week -   

On October 30, 1811, Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility was published anonymously. A small circle of people, including the Price Regent, learned Austen's identity, but most of the British public knew only that the popular book had been written "by a Lady." Austen was born on December 16, 1775 in Steventon, a country village in Hampshire, England. She was very close to her older sister, Cassandra, who remained her faithful editor and critic throughout her life. The girls had five years of formal schooling, then studied with their father. Jane read voraciously and began writing stories as young as age 12, completing an early novella at age 14. 

Austen's quiet, happy world was disrupted when her father retired to Bath in 1801. Jane hated the resort town but amused herself by making close observations of ridiculous society manners. After her father's death in 1805, Jane, her mother, and sister lived with one of her brothers until 1808, when another brother provided them a permanent home at Chawton Cottage, in Hampshire. 

Jane concealed her writing from most of her acquaintances, slipping her writing paper under a blotter when someone entered the room. Though she avoided society, she was charming, intelligent, and funny. She rejected at least one proposal of marriage. She published several more novels before her death, including Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814), and Emma (1815). She died on July 18, 1817 in Winchester, England at age 42, of what today is thought to be Addison's disease. 

Check back every Friday for a new installment on the lives of the great writers of English literature 

Michael Thomas Barry is the author of numerous books that includes the gold medal winning Literary Legends of the British Isles: The Lives and Burial Places of 50 Great Writers and the upcoming release of America’s Literary Legends: The Lives and Burial Places of 50 Great Writers (January 2015). These books can be purchased from Amazon through the following links:





Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge was Born - October 21, 1772

On this date in English literary history – October 21, 1772, poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge was born in the small town of Ottery St. Mary in Devonshire, England. Coleridge's father died when he was a boy, and young Samuel was sent off to boarding school in London and eventually attended Cambridge. After becoming disillusioned with school he fled his debtors and enlisted in the cavalry, which he later abandoned with help from his brothers. He then returned to Cambridge, where he met poet Robert Southey. The two dreamed of one day establishing a utopian society in Pennsylvania. In 1795, Coleridge met poet William Wordsworth. The two became close friends and collaborators, assisted by Dorothy Wordsworth, the poet's sister. The siblings moved near Coleridge, and in 1798 Wordsworth and Coleridge published Lyrical Ballads, which established the Romantic school of poetry. It included Coleridge's famous poem "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner." 

Coleridge's life began to unravel at the turn of the century. He became estranged from his wife and fell in love with Sara Hutchinson, whose sister married William Wordsworth three years later. Meanwhile, his health began to suffer, and he began taking large doses of opium to control his rheumatism and other problems. He became addicted to the drug, and his creative output waned. In 1810, he broke with Wordsworth, and the two would not reconcile for nearly 20 years. During this period, Coleridge supported himself through a series of successful lectures on literature. Meanwhile, he single-handedly wrote, edited, and distributed his review, The Friend. In 1813 he published, Remorse, which was well received by critics. Thanks to the help of Dr. James Gillman and his wife, Coleridge began to cut back on his opium use. In 1816, he published the fragmentary poem "Kubla Khan," written under the influence of opium, circa 1797. In 1817, he published a significant work of criticism, Biographa Literaria, and in 1828 was reconciled with Wordsworth. Coleridge died at Highgate, London on July 25, 1834 from heart failure.

Michael Thomas Barry is the author of numerous books that includes the gold medal winning Literary Legends of the British Isles: The Lives and Burial Places of 50 Great Writers. Visit Michael’s website for more information. The book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link: 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Charles "Pretty Boy" Floyd was Killed by FBI Agents (October 22, 1934)

This week (October 20-26) in crime history – Members of the rap group 2 Live Crew were acquitted of obscenity charges (October 20, 1990); Pretty Boy Floyd was killed by FBI agents (October 22, 1934); Dr. Barnett Slepian was shot to death by anti-abortion radicals (October 23, 1998); Chenchen rebels take 700 hostages at Moscow theater (October 23, 2002); Marv Albert was sentenced for infamous biting assault case (October 24, 1997); Susan Smith falsely claimed she was carjacked to cover-up murder of her two children (October 25, 1994); Former Secretary of Interior Albert Fall was found guilty of bribery in the Teapot Dome scandal (October 25, 1929); Shootout at the OK Corral (October 26, 1881) 

Highlighted Crime Story of the Week -  

On October 22, 1934, Charles "Pretty Boy" Floyd was shot and killed by FBI agents in a cornfield in East Liverpool, Ohio. Floyd, who had been a hotly pursued fugitive for four years, used his last breath to deny his involvement in the infamous Kansas City Massacre, in which four officers were shot to death at a train station. He died shortly thereafter. Floyd grew up in a small town in Oklahoma. When it became impossible to operate a small farm in the drought conditions of the late 1920s, Floyd tried his hand at bank robbery. He soon found himself in a Missouri prison for robbing a St. Louis payroll delivery. After being paroled in 1929, he learned that Jim Mills had shot his father to death. Since Mills, who had been acquitted of the charges, was never heard from or seen again, Floyd was believed to have killed him. 

Moving on to Kansas City, Floyd got mixed up with the city's burgeoning criminal community. A local prostitute gave Floyd the nickname "Pretty Boy," which he hated. Along with a couple of friends he had met in prison, he robbed several banks in Missouri and Ohio, but was eventually caught in Ohio and sentenced to 12-15 years. On the way to prison, Floyd kicked out a window and jumped from the speeding train. He made it to Toledo, where he hooked up with Bill "The Killer" Miller. The two went on a crime spree across several states until Miller was killed in a spectacular firefight in Bowling Green, Ohio, in 1931. Once he was back in Kansas City, Floyd killed a federal agent during a raid and became a nationally known crime figure. This time he escaped to the backwoods of Oklahoma. The locals there, reeling from the Depression, were not about to turn in an Oklahoma native for robbing banks. Floyd became a Robin Hood-type figure, staying one step ahead of the law.  

However, not everyone was so enamored with "Pretty Boy." Oklahoma's governor issued a $6,000 bounty for his arrest. On June 17, 1933, when law enforcement officials were ambushed by a machine-gun attack in a Kansas City train station while transporting criminal Frank Nash to prison, Floyd's notoriety grew even more. Although it was not clear whether or not Floyd was responsible, both the FBI and the nation's press pegged the crime on him. As a result, pressure was stepped up to capture the illustrious fugitive, and the FBI finally got their man in October 1934.

Michael Thomas Barry is a columnist for and is the author of numerous books that include the award winning Murder and Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California, 1849-1949. Visit Michael’s website for more information. The book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link: 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Oscar Wilde was Born (October 16, 1854)

On this date in English literary history – October 16, 1854, Oscar Wilde was born in Dublin, Ireland. A popular society figure known for his wit and flamboyant style, he published his own book of poems in 1881. He spent a year lecturing on poetry in the United States, where his dapper wardrobe and excessive devotion to art drew ridicule from some quarters. After returning to Britain, Wilde married and had two children, for whom he wrote delightful fairy tales, which were published in 1888. Meanwhile, he wrote reviews and edited Women's World. In 1890, his only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, was published serially, appearing in book form the following year. He wrote his first play, The Duchess of Padua, in 1891 and wrote five more in the next four years. His plays, including The Importance of Being Earnest (1895), were successful and made him a popular and well-known writer. 

In 1895, the Marquess of Queensberry denounced Wilde as a homosexual, accusing him of having an affair with the marquess's son. Wilde sued for libel, but lost his case when evidence strongly supported the marquess's observations. Unfortunately, homosexuality was classified as a crime in England at the time. Wilde was arrested, found guilty, and sentenced to two years of hard labor. He was released from prison in 1897 and fled to Paris, where his many loyal friends visited him. He started writing again, producing The Ballad of Reading Gaol, based on his experiences in prison. He died of acute meningitis in 1900.

Michael Thomas Barry is the author of numerous award winning books that includes the gold medal winning Literary Legends of the British Isles: The Lives and Burial Places of 50 Great Writers. Visit Michael’s website for more information. The book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link: 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Al Capone was Sentenced to Prison for Tax Evasion (October 17, 1931)

This week (October 13-19) in crime history – Palestinian terrorists hijacked a Lufthansa airliner (October 13, 1977); Amityville murder trial began (October 14, 1975); Pierre Laval, the Vichy leader of Nazi-occupied France was executed (October 15, 1945); Exotic dancer turned spy, Mata Hari was executed (October 15, 1917); Mass shooting at Luby’s Cafeteria in Kileen, Texas (October 16, 1991); Ten high ranking Nazi officials were executed at Nuremberg (October 16, 1946); Al Capone was sentenced to prison for tax evasion (October 17, 1931); John Lennon and Yoko Ono were arrested for drug possession (October 18, 1968); John DeLorean was arrested for drug dealing (October 19, 1982).

Highlighted Crime of the Week - 

On October 17, 1931, mob boss Al Capone was sentenced to 11 years in prison for tax evasion and fined $80,000, signaling the downfall of one of the most notorious criminals of the 20th century. Alphonse Gabriel Capone was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1899 to Italian immigrants. He was expelled from school at 14, joined a gang and earned his nickname "Scarface" after being sliced across the cheek during a fight. By 1920, Capone had moved to Chicago, where he was soon helping to run crime boss Johnny Torrio's illegal enterprises, which included alcohol-smuggling, gambling and prostitution. Torrio retired in 1925 after an attempt on his life and Capone, known for his cunning and brutality, was put in charge of the organization. 

Prohibition, which outlawed the brewing and distribution of alcohol and lasted from 1920 to 1933, proved extremely lucrative for bootleggers and gangsters like Capone, who raked in millions from his underworld activities. Capone was at the top of the F.B.I.'s "Most Wanted" list by 1930, but he avoided long stints in jail until 1931 by bribing city officials, intimidating witnesses and maintaining various hideouts. He became Chicago's crime kingpin by wiping out his competitors through a series of gangland battles and slayings, including the infamous St. Valentine's Day Massacre in 1929, when Capone's men gunned down seven rivals. This event helped raise Capone's notoriety to a national level.

Among Capone's enemies was federal agent Elliot Ness, who led a team of officers known as "The Untouchables" because they couldn't be corrupted. Ness and his men routinely broke up Capone's bootlegging businesses, but it was tax-evasion charges that finally stuck and landed Capone in prison in 1931. Capone began serving his time at the U.S. Penitentiary in Atlanta, but amid accusations that he was manipulating the system and receiving cushy treatment, he was transferred to the maximum-security lockup at Alcatraz Island, in California's San Francisco Bay. He was released in 1939 for good behavior, after spending his final year in prison in a hospital, suffering from syphilis. Plagued by health problems for the rest of his life, Capone died in 1947 at age 48 at his home in Palm Island, Florida.

Michael Thomas Barry is a columnist for and is the author of numerous award winning books that includes Murder and Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California, 1849-1949. Visit Michael’s website for more information. The book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link: 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Allen Ginsberg Reads "Howl" for the First Time (October 7, 1955)

On this date in American literary history – October 7, 1955, poet Allen Ginsberg reads his poem "Howl" at a poetry reading at Six Gallery in San Francisco. The poem was an immediate success that rocked the Beat literary world and set the tone for confessional poetry of the 1960s and later. Ginsberg was born in 1926 to a high school English teacher father and Marxist mother who later suffered a mental breakdown. Her madness and death were the subjects of Ginsberg's poem "Kaddish."  

Ginsberg's father raised Allen and his older brother to recite poetry by Poe, Dickens, Keats, Shelley, and Milton. Ginsberg attended Columbia University, intending to study law. At Columbia, he met Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs, and Neal Cassady, who would become central figures in the Beat movement. Ginsberg was expelled from Columbia in 1945 for a series of minor infractions, then bummed around, working as a merchant seaman, a dishwasher, and a welder. He finally finished Columbia in 1948 with high grades but was arrested when a drug-addict friend stored supplies in his apartment. He successfully pleaded not guilty on the grounds of insanity and spent eight months in the psych ward at Columbia. 

After his arrest and trial, Ginsberg went through a "straight" period, working as a successful market researcher and helping to develop a successful ad campaign for toothpaste. He moved to San Francisco and soon fell back in with the Beat crowd. In 1955, over a period of a few weeks, he wrote his seminal work "Howl." It was printed in England, but its second edition was seized by Customs officials as it entered the country. City Lights, a San Francisco bookstore, published the book itself to avoid Customs problems, and publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti was arrested and tried for obscenity, but defended by the ACLU. Following testimony from nine literary experts on the merits of the book, Ferlinghetti was found not guilty. 

Ginsberg was center stage at numerous milestone counterculture events during the 1950s and 1960s. His name made it onto J. Edgar Hoover's list of dangerous subversives. He wrote about his own experiences as a gay man, experimented with drugs, protested the Vietnam War, was clubbed and gassed at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, studied Buddhism, toured with Bob Dylan, and recorded poetry and music with Paul McCartney and Philip Glass. He became a popular teacher and lecturer at universities across the United States. He won the National Book Award in 1973 and was a runner-up for the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for poetry. He wrote and read poetry in New York until his death from liver cancer in 1997.

Michael Thomas Barry is the author of numerous books that includes the soon to be released America’s Literary Legends: The Lives and Burial Places of 50 Great Writers. Visit Michael’s website for more information. The book can be pre-ordered from Amazon through the following link. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

USS Cole was Attacked by Terrorists (October 12, 2000)

This week (October 6-12) in crime history - Anwar Sadat was assassinated (October 6, 1981); First train robbery in the United States (October 6, 1866); Luxury cruise shop Achille Lauro was hijacked (October 7, 1985); Mobster Roger “The Terrible” Touhy escaped from an Illinois prison (October 9, 1942); Mass shooting the Ridgeway, New Jersey post office (October 10, 1991); Vice President Sprio Agnew resigned (October 10, 1973); USS Cole was attacked by terrorists (October 12, 2000); Terrorist bombs kill 200 in Bali (October 12, 2000). 

Highlighted Crime of the Week – 

On October 12, 2000, a motorized rubber dinghy loaded with explosives blows a 40-by-40-foot hole in the port side of the USS Cole, a U.S. Navy destroyer that was refueling at Aden, Yemen. Seventeen sailors were killed and 38 wounded in the attack, which was carried out by two suicide terrorists alleged to be members of Saudi exile Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist network. 

The Cole had come to Aden at the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula to refuel on its way to join U.S. warships that were enforcing the trade sanctions against Iraq. It was scheduled to remain in the port for just four hours, indicating that the terrorists had precise information about the destroyer's unannounced visit to the Aden fueling station. The terrorists' small boat joined a group of harbor ships aiding the Cole moor at a refueling, and they succeeded in reaching the U.S. warship unchallenged. Their dinghy then exploded in a massive explosion that ripped through the Cole's port side, badly damaging the engine room and adjoining mess and living quarters. Witnesses on the Cole said both terrorists stood up in the moment before the blast. 

The explosion caused extensive flooding in the warship, causing the ship to list slightly, but by the evening crew members had managed to stop the flooding and keep the Cole afloat. In the aftermath of the attack, President Bill Clinton ordered American ships in the Persian Gulf to leave port and head to open waters. A large team of U.S. investigators was immediately sent to Aden to investigate the incident, including a group of FBI agents who were focused exclusively on possible links to Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden had been formally charged in the U.S. with masterminding the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people, including 12 Americans. Six men believed to be involved in the Cole attack were soon arrested in Yemen. Lacking cooperation by Yemeni authorities, the FBI has failed to conclusively link the attack to bin Laden. 
Michael Thomas Barry is a columnist for and is the author of numerous books that includes the award winning Murder and Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California, 1849-1949. Visit Michael’s website www.michael for more information. The book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link.