Saturday, 18 September 2010

Literary Trivia

After the death of Robert Southey in 1843, William Wordsworth become Poet Laureate but he never wrote a single line of poetry in the seven years he held the post.

Sir Walter Raleigh burned a volume of his History of the World in a fit of depression after watching a murder outside is cell window. Three eyewitness gave different accounts of the event causing Raleigh to say "What chance have I of giving a true picture of the world's history when three eye witnesses to something that took place just five minutes ago can't agree".

Arnold Bennet dank water from a carafe in a Paris restaurant to show that the city's water was safe to drink. He caught typhoid from it and died two months later.

In a romantic gesture, Li Po, a Chinese poet, leaned out of a boat to kiss the moon's reflection . He fell in and drowned.

Dorothy Parker once bought a new typewriter because the ribbon ran out her old one and she didn't know how to replace it.

In Mexico City in 1951, William S Burroughs, creator of Tarzan, killed his partner while in the process of trying to shoot a glass from the top of her head.

Joe Orton was jailed for six months for defacing library books.

D H Lawrence's last words were 'I'm getting better'. Tobias Smollett was equally optimistic - his last words were 'All is well, my dear'. But no one can match Oscar Wilde's - 'Either that wallpaper goes or I do'.

Samuel Johnson once received an unsolicited manuscript which he sent back with a note saying "Sir, your manuscript was both good and original. But the part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good".

(With thanks to the book 'Literary Trivia' by Aubrey Malone.)


  1. Absolutely Fabulous! :)

    Much like the typewriter, I do buy a new cheap watch when the battery runs out. A replacement battery is more expensive than the super-cheap watch!

  2. Marvellous! You just made my morning with this post.
    Dorothy Parker and the typewriter reminds me of myself - I rather buy a new blouse before I sew on a button that has come off.
    I wonder whether that Oscar Wilde one is true?
    Here is one to add to your list: Ödon von Horvath (Hungarian writer) was killed from a branch falling off a tree while he was walking in a park.

  3. I was going to ask where do you GET all this stuff? - but then you gave the answer to that at the end :)

    What Tiffany says about watch batteries is often also true about computer printers these days. Sometimes cheaper to buy a whole new machine than to replace cartridges in the old one.

  4. I understand you have never read William Burroughs and know him only through some vague celebrity reference? He was a remarkable writer, artist and thinker with tragic events in his life. Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote Tarzan and many other books of adventure. I like reading both authors.

  5. Wonderful bits of trivia. I can certainly relate to the quote from Samuel Johnson -- I've had a few rejection letters like that. Two I particularly cherish were:
    1) "Your short story looks as if it exceeds the word limit." Not that it was over the limit, mind you, it just looked as if it was. (It wasn't, and was in fact 25 words under their posted limit.)
    2) "Your article would have been vastly improved with more dialogue." (It was a non-fiction piece about two people, both of whom were deceased. How I was supposed to get them to quote things for me was unspecified.)
    But really bad rejections are just part of the game of trying to get stuff into print and shouldn't be taken personally.
    Canadian Chickadee

  6. Love the second rejection letter, Carol!


Hello - thanks for dropping by to leave a comment. Your comments are much appreciated even if I don't always reply. They will appear as soon as they have been moderated.

Blog Archive