Today in Orlando
This is a small sample drawn from within and beyond the lives and careers of writers. Look again tomorrow! Read more about The Orlando Project chronology.
31 October 1517
Luther pinned his manifesto (Ninety-Five Theses) to the door of the castle church at Wittenberg in Germany.
He was excommunicated in 1520.
31 October 1597
John Dowland’s First Book of Songs and Airs was entered in the Stationers’ Register.
31 October 1658
Thirty-six-year-old Londoner Thomas Austen died. His widow, Katherine, kept a series of manuscript books containing religious meditations, notes about her life, family records, and poems (mostly religious).
The only extant one of the series, covering the years 1664-6, survives in the British Library, titled K. Austen’s Miscellanies. This opens with the poem On the Birds Singing in my Garden. It describes events like the great plague, offers good advice to KA’s children, and debates the merits of re-marrying versus remaining a widow. Of the gap between appearance and reality KA writes: “The world may think I tread upon Roses but They know not the Sack cloth I have walkt on.” Her writing is catalogued by the Perdita Project and has recently received some critical attention.
31 October 1672
Agnes Beaumont was received into the Gamlingay congregation of John Bunyan’s Independent Church centred at Bedford.
31 October 1729
Another new London theatre opened: Goodman’s Fields, on Ayliff Street in Whitechapel.
Directed by Thomas Odell, an actor newly arrived from Dublin, it opened with Farquhar’s Recruiting Officer.
31 October 1765
Anne Bannerman was born in Edinburgh, her parents’ eldest surviving child..
31 October 1775
David Garrick mocked the fashionable, high head-dresses worn by the women of his day by donning an extravagant fruit-and-flower head-dress to play Vanbrugh’s Sir John Brute in drag.
31 October 1786
Melesina Chenevix, still in her teens, married Colonel Richard St George, who had family estates in County Leitrim. Their early months together were for her “a kind of pleasing dream.”
31 October 1793
Lady Anne Lindsay, aged forty-two, “stood the world’s smile” by marrying a man about twelve years younger than herself, Andrew Barnard, son of the Bishop of Limerick.
31 October 1795
John Keats, poet and letter-writer, was born in Finsbury, London, the eldest of five children.
31 October 1801
Helena Wells married Edward Whitford at St Martin in the Fields in London.
31 October 1831
On a third day of rioting in Bristol directed at opponents of the Reform Bill, the Light Dragoons were finally given their heads and charged across Queen’s Square; allegedly hundreds of people were killed, many with sabres.
The violence had escalated gradually from stone-throwing to looting, drinking looted wine, burning and destruction of property. Radicals claimed that 250 people died on the third day alone; official estimates said a little over a hundred either killed or wounded overall. Women and children fled screaming from the cavalry charge; a group of colliers was pursued into the countryside and cut down in the fields and roads. Of the rioters who survived, 88 were transported or sent to prison, and four were hanged. Lt-Col. Thomas Brereton, in command of the dragoons, was court-martialled, as was an officer who shot a young man on the first day. The charge against Brereton was not the violence inflicted but a failure to act sooner. He shot himself dead before sentence was passed.
Public response (in the person of the diarist Charles Greville, clerk to the Privy Council) focused on the “brutal ferocity and wanton, unprovoked violence,” not of the soldiers but of the mob.
31 October 1848
4,000 people were killed in Vienna when the Imperial government reconquered the city following what is variously called by historians the second revolution and the third rising.
31 October 1863
The first and only issue of a shilling periodical, The English Girls’ Journal and Ladies’ Magazine: A Weekly Illustrated Book for Every Dwelling, appeared in London.
31 October 1876
Natalie Clifford Barney was born in Dayton, Ohio.
31 October 1888
John Boyd Dunlop, of Belfast, patented the successful reinvention of the air-filled pneumatic tyre; initially meant for bicycles, it was quickly adopted by the emerging motor-car industry.
Dunlop’s initial purpose had been to improve his young son’s bicycle. The tyres went on sale on December 19, 1888. This was British patent #10 607: it followed on Robert William Thomson’s invention of 1845.
31 October 1900
Fanny Aikin Kortright died at nearly eighty.
31 October 1902
The first message travelled over the completed Pacific Cable from Canada to Australia.
Britain, Canada, and Australia had paid equally for its construction.
31 October 1907
Dervorgilla, a tragedy by Augusta Gregory about “one of the most hated women in Irish history,” was first performed by the Abbey Theatre Company.
31 October 1909
Karen Danielsen, still a student but later famous as a psychologist, married Oskar Horney.
Typically for the time, she was expected to do all the housework; her husband was regarded as too busy. She was not happy to be pregnant the following year. The marriage was in trouble by 1923, and in 1926 Karen Horney moved away with their three children. The divorce became final in 1939.
31 October 1926
Harry Houdini, escape artist (born in Budapest, Hungary, in 1874), died in Detroit.
He visited England in 1900 and 1904, on the second occasion causing a sensation at the London Hippodrome by his escape from the legendary Mirror Cuffs, made in Birmingham.
31 October 1935
Cicely Hamilton published her autobiography, Life Errant.
31 October 1940
The Battle of Britain was considered to have ended; though night-time Luftwaffe raids continued, a German invasion of Britain no longer appeared imminent.
31 October 1942
Elma Napier’s eldest son, Flight Officer Ronald Gordon Vicary Gibbs, died in action.
31 October 1944
The Women’s Press Club held its first annual general meeting, with Lady Rhondda as president.
The club flourished until the 1960s, when it ran into financial difficulty. It closed in 1972. Its records are at the Women’s Library.
31 October 1956
Sadler’s Wells Ballet company was granted a Royal Charter, and became the Royal Ballet.
31 October 1960
Sylvia Plath published her first major collection of poetry, The Colossus and Other Poems.
31 October 1968
US President Lyndon B. Johnson (in one of the final acts of his presidency) halted the bombing of North Vietnam, as a precondition for peace negotiations.
But Richard Nixon, who was elected Johnson’s successor during the next week, had already taken secret steps to ensure that the peace talks would not happen. This sabotaging of peace remained unknown until summer 2000.
31 October 1982
The Thames Barrier, which controlled water flow in order to prevent the flooding of London, was inaugurated.
31 October 1986
Guyanan-born Jan Shinebourne published her first novel, Timepiece.
Begun at age 18 (some twenty years before publication), this novel incorporates forest descriptions written while at school in Guyana. Its young female protagonist moves from a rural cane-growing community to build an identity for herself among the young, educated members of Georgetown society.
31 October 1994
Anna Adams wrote poetry and travel narratives on the Yorkshire Dales for her book Life on Limestone, which was again illustrated by her husband, Norman.
31 October 1994
Maureen Duffy published another biography, this time of a musician: Henry Purcell (1659-1695).
31 October 2012
Gillian Clarke published another volume of poetry, this time entitled Ice, whose climate focus is on the two hard winters (in Wales and elsewhere in Britain) of 2009 and 2010.