Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Poet John Keats Travels to Italy (September 17, 1820)



On this date in English literary history – September 17, 1820, with less than six months to live, poet John Keats sets off for Italy, hoping the climate will improve his tuberculosis. Keats had produced an outpouring of brilliant poetry in 1819, including classics like "Ode on a Grecian Urn," "Ode to a Nightingale," and "La Belle Dame Sans Merci." His productivity and talent are still astonishing today considering that he came from a lower-class family, lacked the educational and financial advantages of other writers of his age, and did not try his hand at poetry until he turned 18. 

Keats' parents ran a London stable, earning enough to send John, the eldest of five children, to private school. Keats was boisterous and high-spirited, but his schoolmasters discovered a keen interest in reading and introduced him to poetry and theater. When John was eight, his father died, launching a long economic struggle that would keep Keats in poverty throughout his life, despite a large inheritance that was owed him. Eventually, Keats' unscrupulous guardian, who kept the money from him, apprenticed Keats to a surgeon. Keats worked with the surgeon from 1811 until 1814, then went to work for a hospital in London as a junior apothecary and surgeon in charge of dressing wounds.

In London, Keats pursued his interest in literature while working at the hospital. He became friends with the editor of the Examiner, Leigh Hunt, a successful poet and author who introduced him to other literary figures, including Percy Bysshe Shelley. Although Keats did not write his first poem until age 18, he quickly showed tremendous promise, encouraged by Hunt and his circle. Keats' work first appeared in the Examiner in 1816, followed by his first book, Poems (1817). After 1817, Keats devoted himself entirely to poetry, becoming a master of the Romantic sonnet and trying his hand at epic poems like “Hyperion.” 

In 1818, Keats' financial struggles deepened when his brother Tom fell ill with tuberculosis and another brother's poor investments left him penniless. Meanwhile, a strenuous walking tour of England's Lake District damaged Keats' health. The one bright spot in his life was Fanny Brawne, his fiancée. Sadly, Keats' poverty did not allow them to marry. He developed tuberculosis in 1820, traveled to Italy hoping to improve his condition, and died there in February 1821.
 


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 www.michaelthomasbarry.com for more information. The book can be purchased from Powell’s Books through the following link: 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Lonely Hearts Killer Harvey Glatman was Executed (September 18, 1959)



On this week (September 15-21) in crime history – Bombing of the 16th Avenue Baptist Church in Bombing kills four children (September 15, 1963); Gunman kills 12 in shooting rampage at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. (September 16, 2013); Lonely Hearts Killer Harvey Glatman was executed (September 18, 1959); Patty Hearst was captured (September 18, 1975); Unabombers manifesto was published by the New York Times and Washington Post (September 19, 1995); Benedict Arnold commits treason (September 21, 1780). 

Highlighted Crime of the Week –

Serial killer Harvey Glatman was executed in a California gas chamber on September 18, 1959 for murdering three young women in Los Angeles. Resisting all appeals to save his life, Glatman even wrote to the appeals board to say, "I only want to die." As a young child, Glatman developed an obsession with rope. When his parents noticed that he was strangling himself on occasion, they took him to a doctor who told them that it was just a phase and that he would grow out of it. As a teenager, he threatened a girl with a toy gun in Colorado. Skipping bail, he made his way to New York, where he later spent two years and eight months in prison on robbery charges.

Following his release, Glatman moved back to Colorado and then to Los Angeles, where he began working as a television repairman. During this same time he took up photography as a hobby. On August 1, 1957, with the pretense of a freelance modeling assignment, Glatman lured 19-year-old Judy Ann Dull to his apartment, where he raped her and then took photos of her, bound and gagged. He then drove her out to the desert east of Los Angeles and strangled her to death. By the time Dull's body was found, there were no clues linking the crime to Glatman. Back in Los Angeles, Glatman posted the pictures of Dull on his walls and became further obsessed with rape and murder. His next victim was Shirley Ann Bridgeford, whom he also strangled to death in the desert. In July 1958, Glatman struck again, following the same twisted procedure. But in October, his luck ran out. Lorraine Vigil, who answered one of Glatman's modeling ads, was driving with him to his studio when she noticed that he was heading out of the city. She began to struggle with Glatman, who pulled out a pistol and attempted to tie her hands. After being shot through the hip, Vigil was able to wrestle the gun away from him. In the ensuing struggle, they both tumbled out of the car just as a police officer drove past. Glatman was arrested and confessed to the three murders, seeming to delight in recounting his sadistic crimes. His trial lasted a mere three days before he was sentenced to death.

 
Michael Thomas Barry is a columnist for www.crimemagazine.com 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.michaelthomasbarry.com for more information. The book can be ordered from Amazon through the following link

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Roald Dahl was Born (September 13, 1916)



On this date in English literary history - September 13, 1916, Roald Dahl, author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964) and James and the Giant Peach (1961) was born in South Wales. Dahl's childhood was filled with tragedy. His father and sister died when he was three, and he was later brutally abused at his boarding school. After high school, he traveled widely, joining an expedition to Newfoundland and later working in Tanzania. In World War II, he joined the Royal Air Force and became a fighter pilot. He flew missions in Libya, Greece, and Syria, and was shot down in the Libya, suffering serious injuries. After he recovered, Dahl was sent to Washington, D.C., as an attaché’. There, the writer C.S. Forester suggested he write about his war experiences, and 10 days later Dahl had his first publication, in the Saturday Evening Post. Dahl wrote his first book, The Gremlins, for Walt Disney, in 1943, and the story was later made into a Disney film. He wrote several popular adult books, including Someone Like You (1953) and Kiss Kiss (1959), and began writing stories for his own four children in 1960. James and the Giant Peach and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory became bestsellers. Dahl did most of his writing on the family farm, writing two hours every morning, two hours every afternoon, and tending to the animals in between. He was divorced from his wife, Oscar-winning actress Patricia Neal, in 1983, and remarried. He died in 1990 at age 74.
 


Michael Thomas Barry is the author of numerous books that include the gold medal winning Literary Legends of the British Isles: The Lives and Burial Places of 50 Great Writers. Visit Michael’s website www.michaelthomasbarry.com for more information. The book can be purchased from Powell’s Books, Barnes and Noble, Amazon and other fine book sellers. Click on the link below to order. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning Eloped (September 12, 1846)



On this date in English literary history – September 12, 1846, Elizabeth Barrett eloped with Robert Browing. Barrett was already a respected poet who had published literary criticism and Greek translations in addition to poetry. Her first volume of poetry, The Seraphim and Other Poems, appeared in 1838, followed by Poems (1844). Born in 1806 near Durham, England, at her father's 20-bedroom mansion, Elizabeth enjoyed wealth and position, but suffered from weak lungs and tended to be reclusive in her youth.
Robert Browning, the son of a bank clerk, had studied at the University of London and continued his education at his parents' home, reading extensively and writing poetry. His early work was harshly criticized. While trying his hand at drama, he discovered the dramatic monologue, which he adapted to his own poetry in Dramatic Lyrics (1842). While most critics rejected the work, Elizabeth Barrett defended it. Browning wrote to thank her for her praise and asked to meet her.
She hesitated at first but finally relented, and the couple quickly fell in love. Barrett's strict father disliked Browning, whom he viewed as an unreliable fortune hunter, so most of the courtship was conducted in secret. On September 12, 1846, while her family was away, Barrett met Browning at St. Marylebone Parish Church, where they were married. She returned home for a week, keeping the marriage a secret, then fled with Browning to Italy and never saw her father again.
The Brownings lived happily in Italy for 15 years. Elizabeth Barrett Browning's weak health improved dramatically, and the couple had a son in 1849. She published her best-known work, Sonnets from the Portuguese, in 1850. The sonnets chronicled the couple's courtship and marriage. In 1857, her blank-verse novel Aurora Leigh became a bestseller, despite being rejected by critics. During her lifetime, Elizabeth Barrett Browning's reputation as a poet overshadowed that of her husband, who was sometimes referred to as "Mrs. Browning's husband," but his work later gained recognition by critics. Elizabeth died in her husband's arms in 1861. He returned to England with their son, where he became an avid socialite. In 1868, he published The Ring and the Book, a 12-volume poem about a real 17th-century murder trial in Rome. Browning died in 1889.
 
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. For more information visit Michael’s website www.michaelthomasbarry.com. The book can be purchased from Powell’s Books, Barnes and Noble, Amazon and other fine book sellers. Click on the link below to purchase.
Powell’s Books - http://www.powells.com/biblio/61-9780764344381-0

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas Became Life Partners (September 9, 1910)



On this date in American literary history – September 9, 1910, Alice B. Toklas becomes the lifetime house mate of Gertrude Stein. Stein, who shared a house with her brother Leo for many years, met Toklas in 1907. Toklas began staying with Stein and Leo in Paris in 1909, then moved in permanently in 1910. Stein's brother Leo moved out in 1914. Toklas' love and support of Stein was so important that when Stein wrote her autobiography in 1933, she titled it The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, adopting Toklas' persona as the narrator of her own memoirs. The two women turned their Parisian home at 22 rue de Fleurus into an important artistic and literary salon, where they entertained Picasso, Matisse, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and many others. Stein's own avant-garde writing attempted to create a Cubist literature that used words like the strokes of a paintbrush. 

Stein was born in Pennsylvania in 1879 and traveled around Europe with her parents and four siblings. The family settled in Oakland when she was seven, and she spent much of her childhood raised by a governess. Very attached to her older brother, Leo, she followed him to Harvard and studied psychology with William James. She then followed Leo to Johns Hopkins, where she studied medicine for a year, then gave up. The siblings moved to Paris in 1903. Her best-known works include the novels Three Lives (1909) and The Making of Americans (1925), and Tender Buttons (1914). Stein and Toklas survived the German occupation of Paris during World War II and later befriended many American servicemen in the city. After the success of her opera, Four Saints in Three Acts (1934), Stein launched a successful U.S. lecture tour. Stein is considered one of the most influential thinkers and writers of the 20th century. She died in France in 1946. Her last words, according to Toklas, were, "What is the answer? ... In that case, what is the question?"

 
Michael Thomas Barry is the author of six award winning books that includes the soon to be released America’s Literary Legends: The Lives and Burial Places of 50 Great Writers. For more information visit Michael’s website www.michaelthomasbarry.com. The book can be purchased from many fine book sellers such as Powell’s Books, Barnes & Noble, or Amazon. Click on the link below to order. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Senator Huey Long was Shot (September 8, 1935)



This week (September 8-14) in crime history – Senator Huey Long was shot (September 8, 1935); Boston police department went on strike (September 9, 1919); Serial killing couple Gerald Gallego and Charlene Williams met for the first time (September 10, 1977); Silent film actor Fatty Arbuckle was arrested for murder (September 11, 1921); Tyco International executives were indicted for embezzlement (September 12, 2002); Attica Prison riots ended (September 13, 1971); President William McKinley died from gunshot wounds (September 14, 1901). 

Highlighted crime of the week -  

On September 8, 1935, U.S. Senator Huey Long was shot in the Louisiana state capitol building. He died about 30 hours later. Called a demagogue by critics, the populist leader was a larger-than-life figure who boasted that he bought legislators "like sacks of potatoes, shuffled them like a deck of cards." He gave himself the nickname "Kingfish," saying "I'm a small fish here in Washington. But I'm the Kingfish to the folks down in Louisiana." 

In 1928 Long became the youngest governor of Louisiana at age 34. His brash style alienated many people, including the heads of the biggest corporation in the state, Standard Oil. Long preached the redistribution of wealth, which he believed could be done by heavily taxing the rich. One of his early propositions, which met with much opposition, was an "occupational" tax on oil refineries. Later, Long would develop these theories into the Share Our Wealth society, which promised a $2,500 minimum income per family. Long also abolished the state's poll tax on voting and gained free textbooks for every student. His motto was "Every Man a King." His populism led to an impeachment attempt, but he successfully foiled the charges. In 1930, he won the election for Louisiana senator but declined to serve until his handpicked successor was able to win the governor's seat in 1932. 

Soon after vigorously campaigning for Franklin Roosevelt in 1932, Long, with his own designs on the office, began loudly denouncing the new president. In response, many of his allies in the Louisiana legislature turned against him and would no longer vote for his candidates. In an effort to regain power in the state, Long managed to pass a series of laws giving him control over the appointment of every public position in the state, including every policeman and schoolteacher. Long, who was planning to take on Franklin Roosevelt in the next election, was shot by Dr. Carl Weiss at point-blank range outside the main hall of the capitol building. Weiss was corned by Long’s bodyguards and shot to death. Weiss' motives continue to be debated, but some believe he was angry about rumors Long had spread about the doctor's in-laws, who had opposed Long politically.
 


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

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Henry David Thoreau Returns from Walden Pond (September 6, 1847)


On this date in American literary history – September 6, 1847, Henry David Thoreau moves in with Ralph Waldo Emerson and his family in Concord, Massachusetts, after living for two years in a shack he built himself on Walden Pond. Thoreau graduated from Harvard and started a school with his brother. But in 1839, he decided while on a canoe trip that he wasn't cut out for teaching. Instead, he decided to devote himself to nature and poetry. Deeply influenced by his friend Emerson's poetry and essays, Thoreau started a journal and began publishing essays in the Transcendentalist journal The Dial. At age 25, Thoreau left Concord for New York, but detested city life and returned after a year. Two years later, at age 27, he decided to live by Transcendentalist principles, spending time alone with nature and supporting himself with his own work. He built his home and lived off his garden for two years while reading and writing. In 1854, his collection of essays, Walden, or Life in the Woods, was published. During his time at Walden, Thoreau spent a brief time in jail for refusing to pay taxes to support the war with Mexico. He later wrote “Civil Disobedience,” one of his most famous essays, based on the experience. After Thoreau's time at Walden, he wrote magazine articles and became an avid abolitionist, working to smuggle escaped slaves to freedom through the Underground Railroad. He died in 1862.

 


Michael Thomas Barry is the author of numerous award winning books that includes the soon to be released America’s Literary Legends: The Lives and Burial Places of 50 Great Writers. For more information visit Michael’s website www.michaelthomasbarry.com. The book can be ordered from all fine book sellers that include Powell Books, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon.