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.

3 December 1716

The new Prince of Wales requested a special performance of Otway’s Venice Preserved including the Nicky Nacky scenes, which it had become usual to cut.
These scenes, in which a Senator of Venice grovels and speaks baby talk to a prostitute, could be seen as bringing both women and the ruling class into disrepute.
3 December 1751

Christopher Smart, as Mrs Mary Midnight, opened his vaudeville and satire act at the Castle Tavern, an act Horace Walpole called “the lowest buffoonery in the world.”
Smart had already used his pseudonym (supposedly the name of a midwife) in journalism. Gender issues were again to the fore in his stage act. The programme included An Oration in Favour of Matrimony.
3 December 1757

Charlotte Lennox, as the author of The Female Quixote, published Philander, A Dramatic Pastoral, which Garrick had rejected for the stage.
3 December 1763

Mary Whateley (later Darwall) signed the dedication of her first book, Original Poems on Several Occasions.
3 December 1764

Mary Lamb was born in the Temple, London, the middle one and the only girl among the three surviving children in her family.
3 December 1770

Elizabeth Griffith and Richard Griffith published the final two volumes of A Series of Genuine Letters Between Henry and Frances.
3 December 1775

Jane Porter was born in Durham, the middle one of five children. She was not baptised until 17 January 1776, with the result that 1776 has often been given as the year of her birth.
3 December 1779

Mary Robinson caught the eye of the young Prince of Wales as she acted Perdita in a royal command performance of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale; she was twenty-two (or twenty-three) to his seventeen.
3 December 1791

Hannah Cowley’s generically hybrid spectacular play with music or comic opera, A Day in Turkey; or, The Russian Slaves, opened at Covent Garden to great acclaim.
3 December 1800

At Hohenlinden in Bavaria the French imperial army and its Bavarian allies inflicted defeat on the Austrians: a battle commemorated by the poet Thomas Campbell and the novelist Jemima Tautphoeus.
Each writer makes a point of the long memories left by deaths in battle. Campbell’s once-famous poem has an old man relating the story of the killing but unable to answer the children who ask what good it did; Tautphoeus, in At Odds; A Novel, 1863, recalls how vivid was the memory of the war to local women more than a generation later.
3 December 1802

Jane Austen changed her mind and retracted her previous night’s acceptance of a marriage proposal from Harris Bigg-Wither.
3 December 1807

Clara Reeve died at Ipswich in Suffolk.
3 December 1834

Catherine Gore’s next play, Modern Honour; or, The Sharper in High Life, opened at Covent Garden, only to prove her first unequivocal flop.
December 1834-January 1835

Anne Lister outspokenly supported Tory candidates in a “notoriously violent and murky” Halifax borough election campaign.
3 December 1840

Queen Victoria was frightened to discover a young boy in her private dressing-room.
3 December 1857

Novelist Joseph Conrad was born in Berdyczew, in Russian-occupied Poland (now in Ukraine) an only child.
3 December 1860

Elizabeth Barrett Browning was shocked to receive news that her younger sister Henrietta had died in November; after this her poor health declined into actual illness.
3 December 1868

Following the first general election after the Second Reform Act of the previous year, William Gladstone, a Liberal, formed the government in succession to Conservative Benjamin Disraeli.
3 December 1894

Robert Louis Stevenson, novelist and travel writer, died in Apia, Samoa.
3 December 1895

Psychologist Anna Freud was born in Vienna, Austria.
She was the youngest of Sigmund and Martha Bernays Freud’s six children (three daughters, three sons).
3 December 1897

Kate O’Brien was born at Limerick in Ireland, the seventh of nine children, four of them girls.
3 December 1908

At the Indian National Social Conference in Madras, Sarojini Naidu moved a resolution to improve the status and condition of Hindu widows.
3-13 December 1926

Agatha Christie disappeared from her home, Styles at Sunningdale, sparking a ten-day search.
3 December 1927

The unmarried Sylvia Pankhurst gave birth to a son, Richard Keir Pethick Pankhurst, in a Hampstead nursing home; the headlines announced him as a eugenic baby.
3 December 1928

Clemence Dane’s musical satire on the story of Sleeping Beauty, Adam’s Opera, with music by Richard Addinsell, opened at London’s Old Vic.
3 December 1931

Sarojini Naidu tried to attend a debate on the subject of India at the House of Commons in London, but was refused entry because women were not allowed to sit in the Special Gallery.
3 December 1936

Flora Thompson returned to publishing with a story written perhaps a decade earlier and now first submitted to a magazine, The Lady: it was entitled The Tail-less Fox.
3 December 1941

After her flat was bombed and all her personal belongings and books destroyed, Rose Macaulay was admitted to King’s College Hospital in Brixton, South London, suffering from a gastric ulcer.
3 December 1944-12 February 1945

A Greek civil war began in Athens; British troops intervened in this conflict on the anti-Communist side, and were instrumental in ending the war and then maintaining peace.
3 December 1949

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was set up with two aims: securing humanitarian treatment for refugees and finding permanent solutions to refugee problems.
It became effective on 1 January 1951.
3-16 December 1971

Pakistan and India fought a war over the secession of the former East Pakistan, which claimed independent nation status as Bangladesh.
The Republic of Bangladesh was declared on 26 March 1971; the war, in which almost two million people died, followed some months later. Germaine Greer wrote an angry and agonising piece for the Sunday Times on 9 April 1972 about the raping of women by Pakistani soldiers.
3 December 1975

Sylvia Plath’s letters first appeared in print in Letters Home: Correspondence 1950-1963, a posthumous collection written to, and also edited and published by, her mother, Aurelia Plath.
3 December 1984

In the worst industrial accident in the world to date, at Bhopal, capital of Madhya Pradesh in India, thousands of people died from poisonous gas leaking from a Union Carbide plant.
Thousands more died in later years from delayed effects. Neither the government nor health officials knew of the storage underground of dangerous material.
3 December 1987

Bryony Lavery’s first radio play, No Joan of Arc, was broadcast by the BBC’s Radio Four.
3 December 1992

Ann Oakley published with Blackwell Social Support and Motherhood: The Natural History of a Research Project.
3 December 1998

Ministry of Defence police arrested Tony Geraghty under the 1989 Official Secrets Act, as author of The Irish War, published that October, a book which covers three hundred years of history.
Section 5 of this Act (under which, in June 1999, he was tried) is suspected to be designed as a deterrent or silencer for writers and journalists. The government could have taken out an injunction to prevent the book from appearing, instead of punishing the author afterwards. The charges were later dropped.

Reviews of Orlando

Devoney Looser in Huntington Library Quarterly

The experiment is unquestionably a successful one. Orlando‘s most obvious utility, as with the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, involves the ability to turn to its entries on more than 800 individual British women writers for specific biographical or bibliographical information. For example, Orlando‘s entry on Jane Austen or Frances Burney is in many ways more useful than the ODNB’s: it supplies more specific dates and employs a hierarchical structure that enables the reader to jump easily to specific portions of each entry. . . . Orlando, in that sense, offers one-stop biographical and book-historical shopping. Orlando’s unique value is in providing ‘materials [that] are capable of a high degree of interaction.’ To be sure, one can do a full-text search in the ODNB for the word ‘antiquarian’ or ‘bluestocking’ and come up with some surprising and valuable results, but in Orlando, the ability to quickly investigate not only such keywords but also circles of writers—particularly by tracing connections among individual writers (male and female)—is unprecedented. One can learn not only about interpersonal connections and literary influences but also about locations, events, occupations, genres, birth position, and other categories that link British women writers (and a smaller selection of male or non-British women writers) to each other.

Two books under review in this essay: William McCarthy’s Anna Letitia Barbauld: Voice of the Enlightenment and Nicholas D. Smith’s The Literary Manuscripts and Letters of Hannah More.

Devoney Looser, “Enlightenment Women’s Voices”, Huntington Library Quarterly 73:2 (June 2010), 295-302. (Available from JSTOR).

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