Friday, April 9, 2021

Notes For April 9th, 2021


This Day In Literary History

On April 9th, 1821, the legendary French poet Charles Baudelaire was born in Paris, France. His father Francois was a civil servant and amateur artist 34 years older than his wife, Baudelaire's mother Caroline. He died when Charles was six years old.

The following year, Caroline remarried. The young Baudelaire hated his stepfather Jacques Aupick, who was a lieutenant colonel in the army and a fierce disciplinarian at home. Aupick later sent his young stepson to boarding school in Lyon.

Recalling his boyhood, Baudelaire said, "I was a precocious dandy." As such, he was greatly disliked by most of his classmates. One of his few friends at school agreed with this assessment.

His friend would later say of the then 14-year-old Baudelaire, "He was much more refined and distinguished than any of our fellow pupils... [we] shared tastes and sympathies, the precocious love of fine works of literature."

While attending the Lycee Louis-le-Grand - the famous and demanding secondary school in Paris - Baudelaire's academic performance was erratic. Sometimes he was extremely diligent in his studies, while at other times, he was prone to periods of idleness.

He graduated in 1839 at the age of eighteen. At that time, he was described as "an exalted character, sometimes full of mysticism, and sometimes full of immorality and cynicism, which were excessive, but only verbal."

Baudelaire told his brother, "I don't feel I have a vocation for anything." His stepfather wanted him to pursue a career in law or diplomacy. Instead, he decided to become a writer. He spent the next two years living a bohemian life and socializing with other writers and artists.

He frequented prostitutes, and as a result, visited a pharmacist who specialized in the treatment of venereal disease. He took one prostitute, a girl named Sara, as his live-in lover.

In order to keep him under control, Baudelaire's stepfather kept him on a strict allowance, which he often spent immediately, mostly on clothes. When the money ran out, he bought on credit and ran up debts.

His stepfather decided to send him to Calcutta, to be supervised by an ex-naval captain. The arduous experience failed to dissuade Baudelaire from pursuing a literary career or change his laid-back nature.

The captain let Baudelaire go home to France. He did gain something from his year of travels - strong impressions of the sea, the sailing life, and exotic ports of call, all of which would have an effect on his poetry. Back in Paris, he began his literary career by reading his poems in taverns.

At the age of 21, Baudelaire inherited over 100,000 francs and several parcels of land. He squandered most of his new found wealth, and his family obtained a decree placing the rest of his assets in trust. Around this time, he met Jeanne Duval, the illegitimate daughter of a prostitute.

Their love affair would be the longest relationship he would have in his short life. His mother thought she was a "Black Venus" who "tortured [my son] in every way" and drained him of his money. By 1845, at the age of 24, Baudelaire was broke and eating on credit.

He began writing the poems that would appear in his classic first poetry collection, Les Fleurs du Mal (The Flowers of Evil) which would be published twelve years later. His first published work was an art review titled "Salon of 1845."

He gained a reputation as a passionate and well-informed art critic. Unfortunately, his debts were rising and his future was doubtful, so he attempted suicide by stabbing himself. He lost his nerve and ended up with a superficial wound.

Baudelaire wrote to his mother, begging her to visit him, but she ignored his pleas under orders from his stepfather. After being homeless for a time, he resolved to improve his situation. He continued his work as an art critic.

In 1846, he published a novella, La Fanfarlo. Being fluent in English since childhood, he earned extra money as a translator. He translated English language works of literature into French - including some of his favorite works.

His translations included Matthew Lewis' notorious and classic Gothic novel The Monk, the writings of Edgar Allan Poe, and other classic works.

In 1857, Baudelaire's stepfather died. Although he had been disinherited, he did gain something from Jacques Aupick's death - he reconciled with his mother, to whom he had become estranged. As a boy, he had been very close to her, but he never forgave her for marrying Jacques Aupick.

1857 was a good year for Baudelaire. Not only did he reconcile with his mother, his first and most famous poetry collection was finally published. It had taken him twelve years to complete, as he had been sidetracked by indolence, emotional distress, and physical illness.

Les Fleurs du Mal established Baudelaire as one of the greatest French poets of all time. Some of the poems in it had been previously published in the Revue des Deux Mondes (Review of Two Worlds) magazine.

Sex and death were the main themes of the poems collected in Les Fleurs du Mal, which touched on taboo subjects such as lesbianism. Critics offered high praise for some of his poems; for others, they demanded he be arrested for obscenity.

In a letter to his mother, Baudelaire addressed the outcry over the alleged obscenity in his poems:

You know that I have always considered that literature and the arts pursue an aim independent of morality. Beauty of conception and style is enough for me. But this book, whose title Fleurs du Mal says everything, is clad, as you will see, in a cold and sinister beauty. It was created with rage and patience. Besides, the proof of its positive worth is in all the ill that they speak of it. The book enrages people.

Moreover, since I was terrified myself of the horror that I should inspire, I cut out a third from the proofs. They deny me everything, the spirit of invention and even the knowledge of the French language. I don't care a rap about all these imbeciles, and I know that this book, with its virtues and its faults, will make its way in the memory of the lettered public, beside the best poems of V. Hugo, Th. Gautier, and even Byron.


Baudelaire, his publisher, and the book printer had all been charged with obscenity. None were imprisoned - they were fined instead. Baudelaire's fine was 300 francs. The French literati condemned the author's conviction and offered him their support.

Legendary novelist Victor Hugo wrote to Baudelaire, telling him "Your Fleurs du Mal shine and dazzle like stars... I applaud your vigorous spirit with all my might." As a result of the obscenity conviction, Fleurs du Mal was republished in a censored version with six poems deleted.

These poems would be published uncensored in Belgium as Les Epaves (The Wrecks) in 1866. In 1949 - nearly a hundred years after its first publication - the original, unexpurgated version of Fleurs du Mal would finally be published in France.

Baudelaire continued to write. In addition to his own works, he translated more English works into French, including Thomas de Quincey's Confessions of an English Opium Eater (1821).

Baudelaire wrote a book about his own experiences with opium and hashish, titled Les Paradis Artificiels (Artificial Paradises), which was published in 1860. He believed that these substances could help mankind create an ideal world.

In 1861, Baudelaire's publisher went bankrupt. At the time, he had been living a peaceful and productive life with his mother in the seaside town of Honfleur. The stress and poverty of his earlier life, along with his chronic illnesses and use of laudanum (tincture of opium) had taken a toll on his health.

Just as he was starting to recover his health, his publisher's bankruptcy added new stress to his life, as once again he faced the prospect of poverty. In 1864, Baudelaire went to Belgium, hoping to have his works published there and to give lectures.

In addition to his on and off relationship with Jeanne Duval, he took actress Marie Daubrun and courtesan Allonie Sabatier as his lovers. None of his relationships ever blossomed into true love.

Unsatisfied in his personal life and fearful of poverty, Baudelaire smoked opium and drank to excess. In 1866, he suffered a massive stroke that left him half-paralyzed. For the remainder of his life, he lived in sanitariums in Brussels and Paris.

Charles Baudelaire died in August of 1867 at the age of 46. Many of his unpublished works were published posthumously, and his previously published works were republished.

The proceeds enabled his mother to pay off his substantial debts. She found comfort in his fame, saying "I see that my son, for all his faults, has his place in literature."


Quote Of The Day

"Always be a poet, even in prose." - Charles Baudelaire


Vanguard Video

Today's video features a reading of selected poems from Charles Baudelaire's classic poetry collection, Fleurs du Mal (Flowers of Evil). Enjoy!


Thursday, April 8, 2021

Notes For April 8th, 2021


This Day In Literary History

On April 8th, 1950, For Esmè - with Love and Squalor, the classic short story by the legendary American writer J.D. Salinger, was published in The New Yorker.

Set during World War II and based in part on the author's own experiences during the conflict, the story's narrator is an American ex-soldier who refers to himself as Staff Sergeant X.

It opens with X receiving an invitation to a wedding in England. He wants to go, but he can't because his mother-in-law is coming to visit at that time. So, he decides to make "a few revealing notes about the bride as I knew her almost six years ago."

The story then flashes back to Devon, England, circa 1944, where X is stationed along with some 60 other American soldiers as part of a secret three-week training program for an upcoming invasion - the D-Day invasion of Normandy.

On his last day of training, after packing his bags, X takes a final walk through Devon and ends up at a church where a children's choir practice is taking place. He finds himself entranced by the singing of one particular child.

She's a thirteen-year-old girl “with straight ash-blond hair of ear-lobe length, an exquisite forehead, and blasé eyes that, I thought, might very possibly have counted the house.” Hers is the “sweetest-sounding” voice, though she seems “bored with her own singing ability.”

X leaves the church. Later, he goes to a tea room, where he orders tea and cinnamon toast. The girl he'd seen singing at the church enters the room, along with a little boy and "an efficient looking woman." They sit a few tables down from him.

When the girl notices X staring at her, she gets up and walks over to him. She is surprised to see him at the tea room, because she "thought all Americans despised tea." X asks her if she'd like to join him, and she accepts the invitation.

As they engage in a conversation, the girl, whose name is Esmè, surprises X with her precociousness when she asks him if he goes “to that secret Intelligence school on the hill.” She also asks him if he's married.

Esmè describes herself as "a terribly cold person" and says that she's teaching herself to be more compassionate. She and her little brother Charles live with their aunt. Her father was a solider, killed in action in North Africa.

Charles comes over to join Esmè and X. When Esmè asks what X's job was before he became a soldier, he tells her that he'd like to consider himself a professional writer, but he has yet to be published, which he blames on American editors.

When X notices the "enormous-faced, chronographic-looking wristwatch" that
Esmè is wearing, he asks if it belonged to her father. She says that it did and “I’d be extremely flattered if you’d write a story exclusively for me sometime.”

She prefers stories about squalor. Before she leaves,
Esmè offers to write letters to X, adding that "I write extremely articulate letters." He tells her that he'd love it if she wrote to him, and gives her his contact information.

The story flashes forward to V-E Day in 1945, as X tells his tale of personal squalor. He suffered a nervous breakdown from combat stress and is currently living in a "civilian home" for shell-shocked soldiers in Bavaria.

(After his own tour of duty, J.D. Salinger spent time in a mental hospital in Nuremberg following a nervous breakdown brought on by combat stress.)

X suffers from psychosomatic symptoms such as facial ticks and a badly shaking hand. He's gaunt, he can't sleep, and his friend Corporal Z says that he "looks like a corpse." Festivities are taking place in town, but X stays in his room.

He turns his attention to a pile of unopened letters by his writing table. Nauseous and trembling, X opens a letter. It's from
Esmè. She apologizes for not writing sooner and asks if X is well, obviously worried about him. She also asks if he would write her back as soon as possible.

Enclosed in
Esmè's letter is a note from her little brother Charles and a present - her father's wristwatch. X sits there for a while, contemplating the letter and the present, then "suddenly, almost ecstatically" feels sleepy - something he hasn't experienced in a long, long time.

For Esmè - with Love and Squalor was a huge hit. It would be included in Salinger's classic 1953 short story collection, Nine Stories. That year, the legendary English actor Sir Laurence Olivier asked Salinger for permission to adapt For Esmè - with Love and Squalor as a BBC radio play.

Salinger turned him down. When another one of his short stories, Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut, was adapted as a Hollywood feature film, the result was a critical and commercial failure that had little to do with the story upon which it was based.

Despite Hollywood's dogged determination to adapt his celebrated novel The Catcher in the Rye (1951) as a feature film, an irate Salinger vowed that no more adaptations of his works would be made - a vow he kept until he died in January of 2010 at the age of 91.


Quote Of The Day

"I don't suppose a writing man ever really gets rid of his crocus-yellow neckties. Sooner or later, I think, they show up in his prose, and there isn't a hell of a lot he can do about it." - J.D. Salinger


Vanguard Video

Today's video features a complete reading of J.D. Salinger's classic short story, For Esmè - with Love and Squalor. Enjoy!


Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Notes For April 7th, 2021


This Day In Literary History

On April 7th, 1770, the legendary English poet William Wordsworth was born in Cockermouth, Cumberland, England. He had two older brothers, a younger brother, and a younger sister.

Of his four siblings, Wordsworth was closest to his younger sister Dorothy, whom he would live and travel with. Only a year younger than her brother, she was a poet and a noted diarist.

As a young boy, Wordsworth would frequently stay with his mother's parents in Penrith. He loved the moors and the landscape, which would influence his poetry, but he hated his grandparents and uncle, whose harsh treatment nearly drove him to suicide. To avoid them, he would spend hours communing with nature.

Wordsworth's mother, who had taught him how to read and write, died when he was eight years old. His father tutored him in poetry and gave him access to his large collection of books.

Later, he sent young William to a boarding school for children of upper class families. His beloved sister Dorothy went to live with relatives in Yorkshire. He wouldn't see her again for nine years.

At boarding school, Wordsworth's headmistress, Ann Birkett, instituted a curriculum of mostly biblical studies for her students. She also encouraged them to partake in local activities, especially the festivals of Easter, May Day, and Shrove Tuesday.

During his time at boarding school, he would meet his future wife, Mary Hutchinson. In 1787, at the age of 17, Wordsworth enrolled at St. John's College, Cambridge. That same year, his poetry debuted in print when one of his sonnets was published in The European Magazine.

He graduated in 1791. A year earlier, he spent his holidays taking walking tours across Europe. He toured the Alps extensively and visited France, Switzerland, and Italy. After graduating, Wordsworth made a return visit to France, which was mired in revolution.

He supported the revolution and fell in love with a French girl named Annette Vallon, who gave birth to his illegitimate daughter, Caroline. Though he wanted to marry Annette, financial trouble and growing tensions between France and Britain led Wordsworth to return home alone.

The ensuing war between the two countries prevented Wordsworth from returning to France for almost ten years. Meanwhile, in 1793, Wordsworth's first two poetry collections, An Evening Walk and Descriptive Sketches, were published, establishing him as a major talent.

Two years later, he received a £900 legacy so that he could write full time. That same year, in Somerset, he met writer Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who became his closest friend. He bought a house in Somerset, near Coleridge's home, and moved in along with his sister Dorothy.

Wordsworth and Coleridge collaborated on a poetry collection called Lyrical Ballads, which was published in 1798. It featured Wordsworth's classic poem Tintern Abbey and Coleridge's classic epic poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

The book was considered a seminal work of English Romantic poetry. For the second edition of the book, Wordsworth wrote an essay, Preface to Lyrical Ballads, where he discussed Romantic literary theory.

In the fall of 1798, Wordsworth, his sister Dorothy, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge traveled to Germany. During the harsh German winter, while living with Dorothy in Goslar, Wordsworth wrote to escape his stress and homesickness.

He began an autobiographical piece called The Prelude and wrote many of his famous poems, including his "Lucy poems." The trio returned to England and settled in Grasmere in the Lake District, where Wordsworth, Coleridge, and their new friend Robert Southey would come to be known as the Lake Poets.

After the Peace of Amiens treaty ended the war between England and France, British subjects were once again allowed to travel to France. So, Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy went to see Annette Vallon to discuss mutually acceptable terms of financial support.

Wordsworth was happy to see his daughter Caroline again and to be able to provide for her and her mother financially. He returned to England and married his childhood sweetheart Mary Hutchinson, who would bear him four children.

Wordsworth continued to write. He published another poetry collection, Poems in Two Volumes, in 1807. Seven years later, he published his epic poem, The Excursion. Before it came out, Wordsworth became estranged from his opium-addicted friend, Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

In 1812, Wordsworth lost two of his children, Thomas and Catherine. The following year, he was appointed as the Distributor of Stamps for Westmorland, for which he would earn £400 per year.

Financially secure, he moved his family, including his sister Dorothy, to a new home in Ambleside, where he would live the rest of his life. In 1823, Wordsworth and Coleridge reconciled when they toured the Rhineland together.

Wordsworth retired in 1842 after the British government awarded him a pension of £300 a year. When his friend Robert Southey died in 1843, Wordsworth became the new Poet Laureate of England, but when his daughter Dora died four years later in 1847, he stopped writing poetry.

William Wordsworth died of lung disease in April of 1850 at the age of 80. Several months later, his wife Mary published his epic poem The Prelude. It attracted little attention at the time, but later came to be recognized as Wordsworth's masterpiece.


Quote Of The Day

"Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart." - William Wordsworth


Vanguard Video

Today's video features a reading of William Wordsworth's classic epic poem, The Prelude. Enjoy!


Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Notes For April 6th, 2021


This Day In Literary History

On April 6th, 1895, the legendary Irish writer Oscar Wilde was arrested as the result of a failed libel suit he had filed against the Marquess of Queensberry.

Wilde, who was gay, (and married to a woman with whom he had fathered two children) had been involved in a four-year affair with the Marquess' son, Lord Alfred Douglas, a young undergraduate student and poet known as Bosie to his friends.


Around this time, Wilde's most famous play,
The Importance of Being Earnest, had opened to rave reviews from critics and theatergoers.

It was a comedy that satirized the hypocrisy and foibles of Victorian society. The play, which is packed with witty dialogue, (Wilde was known for his rapacious wit) tells the story of aristocrats who use the same alias (Earnest) in order to lead double lives.

Considered to be Wilde's best play, it would also be his last. It closed after 83 performances due to the scandal that ensnared him.


The Marquess of Queensberry, the father of Wilde's lover Bosie Douglas, was a brutal man who despised his son for being gay. He believed that Bosie had been corrupted beyond repair by older gay men.

So, he decided to take revenge by publicly accusing Wilde of being a "posing sodomite." In Victorian England, an accusation of homosexuality could ruin a man and his family, so Wilde made a complaint of criminal libel against the Marquess, who was arrested and released on bail.


His lawyers hired a team of detectives to dig up dirt on Wilde. They infiltrated London's gay underground and details of Wilde's associations with transvestites, male prostitutes, and gay brothels were uncovered and leaked to the press.

The press then assailed Wilde nonstop, dragging his name through the mud. Queensberry's lawyers claimed that the alleged libel was done for the public good. Their client was acquitted and Wilde was arrested for "gross indecency" - a term for homosexual acts that were illegal under British law at the time.


The jury in Wilde's first criminal trial failed to reach a verdict. At his retrial, presided by Justice Sir Alfred Wills, Wilde was convicted of gross indecency and sentenced to the maximum of two years imprisonment - a sentence that the judge believed was too lenient for the "crime" of homosexuality.


Wilde served his sentence at three different prisons. By the time of his release, prison life had left him in poor health. He spent his last years abroad in self-imposed exile.

He lived under the name Sebastian Melmoth, an alias based on St. Sebastian (a 3rd century Christian martyr who was gay) and the main character of
Melmoth The Wanderer, a Gothic novel written by Wilde's great uncle, Charles Robert Maturin.

Over the objections of their families and friends, Wilde and his ex-lover Lord Alfred "Bosie" Douglas later reunited and lived together, but their relationship wouldn't last. They separated again, this time for good.


Wilde later settled at the Hotel d'Alsace in Paris, where he enjoyed the uninhibited gay life that had been denied him in England. He died of cerebral meningitis on November 30th, 1900, at the age of 46.

Some have speculated that the meningitis was a complication of syphilis, but Wilde's grandson, Merlin Holland, has said that it was a complication of a surgical procedure, most likely a mastoidectomy. Wilde's own doctors blamed the meningitis on an old suppuration of his right ear.


Bosie Douglas, Wilde's ex-lover, would become famous for his classic poem
Two Loves, wherein he described homosexuality as "the love that dare not speak its name." Oscar Wilde remains to this day one of the world's great literary icons.


Quote Of The Day

"We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." - Oscar Wilde


Vanguard Video

Today's video features a complete live performance of Moises Kaufman's play, Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde. Enjoy!


Monday, April 5, 2021

IWW Members' Publishing Successes


Pamelyn Casto

I am delighted that I got a double honor this week. One, Better Than Starbucks accepted my prose poem, A Fall Through the Internet, for their May issue. Then two, they then notified me it will be used as their Featured Poem. So I'm pleased. Mighty pleased.

Diane Diekman

My review of "Hot, Hot Chicken: A Nashville Story" by Rachel Louise Martin has been published by the Internet Review of Books. Thanks to the NFiction members who critted it for me.


Friday, April 2, 2021

Notes For April 2nd, 2021


This Day In Literary History

On April 2nd, 1805, the legendary Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen was born in Odense, Denmark. The Andersens were a working class family, but speculation (which persists to this day) suggests that Hans' father was of a different lineage.

The senior Andersen may have been an illegitimate son of the Danish royal family. When he was a boy, King Frederick VI took a special interest in him and paid for part of his education. His son wasn't so fortunate.

Hans Christian Andersen had to leave school at 13 and work to support himself. He first found employment as an apprentice weaver, then as a tailor's apprentice. A year later, at the age of 14, he moved to Copenhagen, hoping to become an actor.

However, it was Andersen's excellent soprano singing voice, not his acting, that gained him entrance into the Royal Danish Theatre. When his voice changed, his theatrical career faltered. When one of his theater colleagues pointed out his talent for poetry, he decided to become a writer.

In a chance meeting, Andersen encountered Jonas Collin, a director for the Royal Danish Theatre, who became very fond of him. Collin decided to help Hans become a writer. He sent him to school and paid for his education.

Hans attended schools in Slagelse and Elsinore, but because of his dyslexia, he was a fair student at best. Older than his classmates, he felt alienated from them. At one school, he lived with the headmaster, who beat him frequently "to improve his character."

His teachers discouraged him from becoming a writer, driving him to depression. For these reasons, he would describe his school years as the darkest and most bitter years of his life. Despite his teachers' discouragement, Hans Christian Andersen did become a writer.

He burst onto the literary scene in 1824 with his short story A Journey on Foot from Holmen's Canal to the East Point of Amager. He also published a poetry collection and a comic play. In 1833, he received a traveling grant from the King and embarked on the first of many travels throughout Europe.

During his traveling years, Andersen wrote his first novel, The Improvisatore, which would be published in early 1835. It became an overnight sensation. That same year, he also published a short story collection, Eventyr, the first of several volumes Eventyr, known in English as Fairy Tales.

The book sold poorly, as the brilliance and beauty of the stories had yet to be recognized. Andersen returned to novel writing, and his next two novels, O.T. (1836) and Only A Fiddler (1837), proved to be just as successful as his first.

The year his third novel was published, Andersen made his first visit to Sweden. Inspired by Scandinavism, he decided to write about the Scandinavian brotherhood shared by the Danes, Swedes, and Norwegians.

The result was his classic poem Jeg er en Skandinav (I am a Scandinavian), which would be set to music by Swedish composer Otto Lindblad. Andersen continued his travels throughout Europe. He would write travelogues about his experiences in countries such as Switzerland, Spain, and Portugal.

In 1847, he made his first visit to England. His writing career was then at its peak, and his volumes of fairy tales were celebrated throughout Europe - except in his native Denmark, where at the time, they still received a lukewarm reception.

In England, Andersen became a noted guest at the famous parties of Marguerite Gardiner, the Countess of Blessington, who was a writer herself. Her parties were known as gathering places for writers, intellectuals, and other illuminati.

Andersen was a hit at the parties - a big social success. At one party, he was overjoyed when he got to meet his literary idol, the legendary Enlgish novelist Charles Dickens.

During one of his later visits to England, Andersen stayed with Dickens for five weeks, oblivious to his host's blatant hints that he had worn out his welcome.

The friendship between the two men soured, and Dickens was said to have modeled the character of Uriah Heep, from his classic novel David Copperfield (1849), after Hans Christian Andersen.

As for Andersen's personal life, he never married. He was a bisexual who preferred women, but was very shy and awkward around them. He would fall in love with unattainable women, and their inevitable rejection of him would result in great heartbreak.

His most famous paramour was the legendary Swedish opera singer, Jenny Lind. He fell madly in love with her, and his fairy tale The Nightingale was a tribute to her singing. Her famous nickname, "the Swedish Nightingale," was inspired by Andersen's story.

Hans proposed to Jenny, but she turned him down. She had come to love him like a brother, and referred to him as her brother in a dear john letter. Andersen's failures with women would be repeated in his gay relationships; he would become attracted to unattainable men who failed to reciprocate his love.

Ultimately, he never married or had any children. He gave up on love and most likely patronized brothels; shortly before his death, in the throes of severe illness, he dictated journal entries recalling memories of his many relationships with "loose women."

In 1872, Hans Christian Andersen fell out of bed and injured himself severely. He never recovered and his health began to deteriorate. Three years later, he died of liver cancer. At the time of his death, he had finally been recognized in his native Denmark for his legendary fairy tales.

Nearly 150 years later, his classic stories, such as The Little Mermaid, The Snow Queen, The Little Match Girl, The Princess and the Pea, The Ugly Duckling, The Red Shoes, Thumbelina, and The Emperor's New Clothes, continue to enchant readers of all ages. They would be adapted as plays, ballets, and feature films.

Readers are quite surprised that, like the original Brothers Grimm fairy tales, Andersen's stories are quite different from the retellings and adaptations they spawned. The Little Mermaid, for example, ends on a tragic note.

The little mermaid made a deal with the Sea Witch to become human so she could marry the Prince, but he marries another girl whom he discovers is his true love - the girl who had saved him from drowning.

Heartbroken, the little mermaid can only return to mermaid form if she kills him with a dagger given to her by the Sea Witch. She sneaks up on the Prince, asleep with his new wife, but can't bring herself to kill him, and commits suicide instead, throwing herself into the sea.


Quote Of The Day

"Life itself is the most wonderful fairy tale." - Hans Christian Andersen


Vanguard Video

Today's video features a reading of a collection of Hans Christian Andersen's classic fairy tales. Enjoy!


Thursday, April 1, 2021

Notes For April 1st, 2021


This Day In Literary History

On April 1st, 1841, The Murders in the Rue Morgue, the classic short story by the legendary American writer Edgar Allan Poe, was published. Appearing in Graham's Magazine, it's considered to be the first detective story.

It also incorporates elements of horror, as its author was famous for his horror fiction, which made up the bulk of his writings. Horror elements also appeared in his poems, such as the classics Annabel Lee and The Raven.

The Murders in the Rue Morgue opens with a bizarre and brutal double murder that took place in the Rue Morgue, a fictional street in Paris. The victims, Madame L'Espanaye and her daughter, were found dead in an inaccessible room that had been locked from the inside.

Madame L'Espanaye's throat was slashed so deeply that her head was nearly severed. Her daughter was strangled and stuffed in the chimney. Parisian detective C. Auguste Dupin and his unnamed friend, who narrates the story, read an account of the murders in the newspaper.

Dupin's interest in the case is piqued, especially when a man named Adolphe Le Bon is arrested for the horrible crime and imprisoned, despite the fact that there is no evidence to prove his guilt. Dupin offers his services to the prefect (chief) of police.

The plot thickens as Madame L'Espanaye's neighbors, who heard the murders take place, give contradictory statements, each claiming to have heard the killer speak a different foreign language - a language that none of them could recognize.

This leads Dupin to conclude that the witnesses weren't hearing a human voice. His theory is proven correct when he finds a hair at the crime scene that is not human. It belongs to an orangutan.

Dupin places an ad in the newspaper asking if anyone has lost an orangutan. A sailor shows up at his home to answer the ad. He had been keeping a pet orangutan he'd acquired in Borneo, but the animal escaped. Dupin interrogates the sailor and solves the crime.

When the orangutan escaped, it made off with the sailor's straight razor. When it got into Madame L'Espanaye's apartment, it attempted to shave her, mimicking its owner. The resulting bloodbath incited the orangutan to a frenzy.

It strangled
Madame L'Espanaye's daughter, and, fearing its owner's whip, stuffed her body in the chimney to hide it. When the sailor learned of the "murders," he panicked and fled, allowing the orangutan to escape again.

The Murders in the Rue Morgue was a huge hit with both readers and critics. A review in the Pennsylvania Inquirer proclaimed that "it proves Mr. Poe to be a man of genius... with an inventive power and skill, of which we know no parallel."

Poe's detective, C. Auguste Dupin, would return in The Mystery of Marie Roget (1842), and The Purloined Letter (1844). The Murders in the Rue Morgue would be adapted several times for the radio, screen, and television.

The Murders in the Rue Morgue would also start a new subgenre - the locked room mystery. A locked room mystery involves a logically impossible crime, a crime where no evidence exists to prove that a crime was committed, or a crime where a person is convicted by evidence proving his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, but the sleuth doubts it and proves his innocence.


Quote Of The Day

"It will be found, in fact, that the ingenious are always fanciful, and the truly imaginative never otherwise than analytic." - Edgar Allan Poe, from The Murders in the Rue Morgue


Vanguard Video

Today's video features a complete reading of Edgar Allan Poe's classic short story, The Murders in the Rue Morgue. Enjoy!


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