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.
26 May 1679
Charles II prorogued parliament, to prevent its passing an Exclusion Bill to bar his brother James, Duke of York (as a Catholic), from succeeding to the throne.
It was dissolved in July (for the second time this year) and another summoned in October. Proroguing parliament before dissolving it became a favourite royal tactic for avoiding popular outcry.
26 May 1709
Mary Astell’s last book was advertised: Bart’lemy Fair: Or, An Enquiry after Wit, published this year.
26 May 1730
A fourth edition appeared of Samuel Bury’s An Account of the Life and Death of Mrs Elizabeth Bury (containing her surviving writing, primarily her diary).
26 May 1762
The Earl of Bute (a Tory, and the young king’s mentor) became Prime Minister.
His Scottish nationality and his rise through the court instead of through parliament soon made him intensely unpopular.
26 May 1770
Oliver Goldsmith published his best-known poem, The Deserted Village.
Its subject is rural depopulation resulting from heartless landlords.
26 May 1774
Anna Aikin and Rochemont Barbauld were married in the parish church (the Anglican church) of Warrington by Rochemont’s father.
26-29 May 1784
The first Handel Commemmoration Concert marked the centenary of his birth: three immensely popular charity performances were given at Westminster Abbey and the Pantheon.
26 May 1821
Jane Welsh first met Thomas Carlyle.
26 May 1826
The Criminal Law Act was introduced by Sir Robert Peel. It was entitled An Act for Improving the Administration of Criminal Justice in England.
The Act instituted a system for the settlement of expenses incurred by private individuals in the prosecution of criminals, and increased the willingness and ability of offended parties to prosecute. This resulted in a perceived increase in the crime rate.
26 May 1828
Hannah Kilham issued, with her name, Report on a Recent Visit to the Colony of Sierra Leone; the same year she published, anonymously, Specimens of African Languages, Spoken in the Colony of Sierra Leone.
26 May 1829
Maria Jane Jewsbury paid a second visit to Dora and William Wordsworth at Rydal Mount.
26 May 1833
Hannah Cullwick was born at Shifnal in Shropshire.
26 May 1840
The Westminster Review, a new or restored incarnation of the London and Westminster Review, first appeared, following on the resignation of John Stuart Mill.
The new editors were William Edward Hickson, Henry Cole, and John Robertson.
26 May 1857
George Eliot informed her brother Isaac of the relationship between her and Lewes: she made no pretence they were actually married, but she called him her husband and signed Marian Lewes.
26 May 1868
The last public execution in Britain took place, outside Newgate Prison in London.
A movement to do away with public hangings had been gathering steam. The presumed deterrent effect of the public spectacle was balanced against the sense that large crowds gathered to watch a judicial killing were unseemly and might be dangerous to public safety. This year an Act of Parliament decreed that murderers should be executed “within the walls of a prison.”
26 May 1868
A Ladies Conference of the National Temperance League was held in London.
26 May 1879
Under the Treaty of Gandamak, Britain was allowed to occupy the Khyber Pass and maintain an envoy at Kabul.
Britain was to pay an annual fee for this to the Emir of Afghanistan.
On 3 September, the British envoy and his staff in Kabul were murdered. Fighting began between British and Afghan forces throughout the country. Finally a pro-British government was established, and the British pulled out of Afghanistan on 27 April 1881.
26 May 1882
Mary Howitt was received into the Roman Catholic Church after receiving dispensations to keep using her English Bible and to be buried with her husband in the Protestant Cemetery.
26 May 1891
The directors’ meeting of the London Missionary Society was first attended by women.
26 May 1894-12 December 1896
Ada Leverson published in Punch another epistolary debate between imaginary characters: Marjorie (the Fiancée) and Gladys (the Debutante), rich in topical detail.
26 May 1897
Bram (Abraham) Stoker, who at the time was acting manager of the Royal Lyceum Theatre in London, published his vampire novel Dracula.
This has become a cult book, helped by various movie versions, notably that by Francis Ford Coppola.
26 May 1905
The Fabian Society set up a committee under Sidney Webb to investigate the declining birth rate and the level of infant mortality.
The findings were published in the London Times, in two articles under the headline Physical Degeneracy or Race Suicide, and also in a Fabian tract entitled The Decline of the Birth Rate. Webb concluded that low birth rate was due to volitional regulation, not to any increase in sterility in Britain.
26 May 1906
The Manchester Guardian printed How to dress in the water, a piece about sea bathing, and strongly advised “feminine bathers, if possible, to make their costumes at home.”
This, it said, was because ready-made costumes were usually of serge; “but, even when very fine, wet serge becomes heavy.” Silk, or Italian cloth, or bunting was therefore advised as material.
26 May 1907
George Paston’s Clothes and the Woman: A Comedy in Three Acts was first produced by the Pioneers at the Imperial Theatre.
26 May 1915
Herbert Henry Asquith formed a wartime Coalition government.
He headed it until he resigned on 5 December 1916 and Lloyd George became Prime Minister.
26 May 1923
The British Government in Palestine gave Transjordan rights to autonomous administration.
Transjordan did not actually become independent until 20 February 1928.
26 May 1926
The BBC for the first time broadcast speeches from the House of Lords.
Speeches included those given by the Prince of Wales and by Winston Churchill at a banquet of the International Parliamentary Commercial Conference.
26 May 1932
Clemence Dane’s Wild Decembers, based on the lives of the Brontë family, had its first performance, at the Apollo Theatre, London.
26 May 1955
At the general election the Conservative Party increased its majority (it had a particular majority among women voters); the number of women MPs went up from seventeen to twenty-four.
26 May 1958
Joan Riley was born in St Mary, Jamaica, the youngest of eight children in her family.
Dora Russell led the first Women’s Caravan of Peace from London through Europe. Later expeditions were taken across the globe.
26 May 1966
British Guiana attained independence within the Commonwealth as the state of Guyana.
Guyana became a republic within the Commonwealth on 23 February 1970.
26 May 1972
The Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty was signed between the USSR and the USA: it permitted each country to operate a single system designed to protect against ballistic missiles.
The USA renounced this treaty in December 2001.
26 May 1983
Doris Lessing published her last Canopus in Argus novel, Documents Relating to the Sentimental Agents in the Volyen Empire.
26 May 1994
Penguin published Shena Mackay’s Collected Short Stories.
26 May 2011
Beryl Bainbridge’s final novel, The Girl in the Polka Dot Dress, was published, completed by Brendan King, who added no new material but used the notebooks Bainbridge was working on when she died.