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.
9 December 1608
John Milton, poet and political theorist, was born in Bread Street, Cheapside, London, the third child in his family.
9 December 1655
Cromwell issued an edict legally permitting Jewish resettlement in England. The Jews had been expelled in 1290, though individuals had now been living in England unofficially for more than a century.
In the following year Jews in England were granted a house and land to use as a synagogue and cemetery, which had been the original petition of Marranos, or Spanish Jews who had settled in England to escape the Inquisition. In 1657 the Quakers launched their missionary effort among the Jews, while the Dutch republic recognised them as full citizens.
9 December 1692
The actor William Mountfort was treacherously murdered after trying to prevent two rakes from abducting his colleague Anne Bracegirdle.
Mountford died of a stab-wound inflicted under the cover of a greeting. The ring-leaders were Lord Mohun and Captain Richard Hill. Bracegirdle was too upset to appear on stage for the next month.
9 December 1694
Catharine Burton made her profession as a nun of the English Carmelite convent at Antwerp a year and a day after she had entered it, taking the name of Mother Mary Xaviera of the Angels.
9 December 1719
The House of Commons received a petition from merchants of Bristol complaining that fashionable imports of “India Chints, Callicoes and Linen” were ruining people in the woollen trade.
Other petitions against Indian cotton and linen flowed in; in 1721 the Calico Act prohibited these imports. The British textile industry was protected at the expense of the Indian, and by 1880 more than half the fabric consumed in India was imported from Britain.
9 December 1724
The first instalment was advertised of Eliza Haywood’s second collection, second edition: Secret Histories, Novels and Poems, which reprinted many items from her earlier Works.
9 December 1755
Eliza Haywood published a conduct book entitled The Wife, dated 1756, as by Mira.
9 December 1789
The French National Assembly began to abolish old provinces and create new départements or regions.
By 15 January 1790, the provinces had been reconfigured into 83 départements of roughly equal size.
9 December 1809
Maria Dundas (later Maria Callcott) married Thomas Graham (a naval officer like her father), whom she had met on the boat sailing out to India.
9 December 1812
Leigh Hunt and his brother John were summoned before the High Court on charges of seditious libel for a withering attack on the Prince Regent in The Examiner, in response to an adulatory article in the Morning Post.
9 December 1827-20 February 1828
Hannah Kilham was again in Sierra Leone, this time as a private person unsponsored by any organisation; she returned when her health began to suffer, with a missionary couple whose health was even worse.
9 December 1835
Catherine Gore’s next play, King O’Neil; or, The Irish Brigade, opened at Covent Garden: “a spectacular comedy-drama”.
9 December 1854
Alfred Tennyson’s famous poem about the Crimean War, The Charge of the Light Brigade, appeared in The Examiner.
It was reprinted in Maud and Other Poems in 1855. The poem was also published as a quarto pamphlet for distribution among British soldiers at Sebastopol. This latter printing includes a note by Tennyson on the “glory” of the British army and says that “those who sit at home love and honour them.” Soldiers reading the poem, however, would note its admission that among their superiors “someone had blundered.”
9 December 1869
Edith Craig was born in Gusterwoods Common, Hertfordshire, the elder of two children.
9 December 1878
The West of England Bank, of which Emma Marshall’s husband was the Gloucester manager, closed its doors in bankruptcy.
9 December 1882
According to Wilfrid Blunt’s Secret Diaries, he and Augusta Gregory consummated their relationship, which developed through their passionate support for Egyptian nationalist Arabi Bey.
9 December 1905
The Abbey Theatre Company produced Augusta Gregory’s The White Cockade, a play which J. M. Synge thought “made the writing of historical drama again possible.”
9 December 1909
The Lord Chief Justice ruled in favour of forcible feeding of suffragists, arguing that it was the duty of the prison medical officer to prevent prisoners from committing suicide.
This ruling was in response to legal proceedings launched by the Women’s Social and Political Union on behalf of Mary Leigh.
The practice of forcible feeding was denounced in a memorial signed by 116 physicians and surgeons. Keir Hardie and others protested against the practice in Parliament; and Henry Nevinson and Henry Noel Brailsford, prominent journalists and suffrage sympathizers, resigned from their posts on the Daily News.
9 December 1910
Votes for Women carried a piece by Beatrice Harraden (originally intended as a letter to the Times) defending male suffrage supporters against attack by Winston Churchill.
9 December 1929
Frances Parker married John Rotherford Bellerby, a contemporary of her brother, who had lost an arm in the war and received the Military Cross.
9 December 1930
James Joyce asked Sylvia Beach to sign an official contract over the publication rights of Ulysses, a decade after the verbal agreement between them to have Shakespeare and Company publish it.
9 December 1934
The Modern ‘Rake’s Progress’, with words by Rebecca West and paintings by David Low, was published by Hutchinson.
9 December 1936
BBC television broadcast its first cookery demonstration: Moira Meighn presented meals cookable in fifteen minutes on a single burner.
9 December 1941
The National Service Act came before parliament. Through it the British Government instituted conscription for women aged twenty to thirty, making them liable for military service, and lowered the conscription age for men to eighteen.
Mobile women (whose husbands were in service or who lived with their husbands) could choose between essential work in industry or work in the Forces.
9 December 1942
A week after the Beveridge report set out its epoch-making proposals for unemployment, maternity, and old age benefits, Punch weighed in with a cartoon showing Sir William (later Lord) Beveridge as a pantomime fairy queen striking down a devil labelled Want.
The fairy’s wand is marked “Social Insurance, £600,000,000.” The caption is a couplet beginning “Avaunt, foul sprite!” The overall effect is mock-heroic.
9 December 1946 – 20 August 1947
The second major set of Nuremberg trials was held, the Doctors’ Trial.
Twenty-three researchers and medical practitioners were tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity, on grounds of their participation in Nazi experiments both within and outside the concentration camp system. The most infamous of Nazi doctors, Dr Joseph Mengele, was not tried since he was never captured. The victims of this dubious scientific research endured excruciating pain and torture, and often either died as a result of the procedures or were deliberately killed for purposes of dissection.
As a result of the trial, the Nuremberg Code was established, regulating medical experiments and protecting human subjects. Sixteen medical personnel were finally found guilty, of whom seven were sentenced to death. They were executed on 2 June 1948 in Landsberg Prison, Bavaria (the same prison that once housed Adolf Hitler).
9 December 1948
The Genocide Convention was approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations, taking the simple form of a call to all states to prevent and to punish genocide.
It came into force in 1951 and was ratified by the United States in 1988.
9 December 1953
Caroline Blackwood made her first marriage, at Chelsea register office, to the dashing young painter Lucian Freud (grandson to Sigmund Freud), who divorced his wife to marry her.
9 December 1960
A letter from Joint Council of the National Theatre to the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed that the National Theatre Company should expand to swallow up the just-founded Royal Shakespeare Company.
That is, the National was to take over both the new company’s operations, its summer season at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre and its winter season at the Aldwych Theatre in London. This merger was avoided.
9 December 1960
The first episode was broadcast of the television serial (or soap opera) Coronation Street, which proved phenomenally popular, running into the twenty-first century.
Set in a fictional street in Manchester, with a fictional pub called the Rover’s Return, the series features a gritty working-class community. Though varying a good deal from decade to decade to reflect the changing styles and issues of the day, it has consistently featured strong female characters.
9 December 1961
Tanganyika gained its independence from Britain.
Tanganyika became a republic on 9 December 1962; on 27 April 1964 it joined with Zanzibar to form Tanzania.
9 December 1964
Edith Sitwell died at St Thomas’s Hospital in London, of a cerebral haemorrhage.
9 December 2003
The UK’s first toll motorway, the M6 Toll Road, officially opened. The 27-mile stretch of road (formerly known as the Birmingham Northern Relief Road) was designed to give motorists the chance to avoid congestion in the Midlands for the price of £2.
This story has a literary twist: 2,500,000 old copies of Mills and Boon novels were pulped and used as part of the topmost layer of the road. Apparently the pulp helps hold the tarmac and asphalt in place and also acts as a sound absorber. Project manager Richard Beal noted: “We use copies of Mills Boon books, not as a statement about what we think of the writing, but because it is so absorbent. They may be slushy to many people, but it’s their no-slushiness that is their attraction as far as we are concerned.”
9 December 2006-17 July 2007
The National Portrait Gallery in London mounted an exhibition of photographs of women writers, mostly novelists, from 1920 to 1960.
It was billed as covering a period when women dominated new fiction—a domination attributed by Ivy Compton-Burnett to their “[b]eing single, and having some money, and having the time—having no men, you see.” The couple of dozen writers featured included Pamela Frankau, Enid Blyton, and Ruby Ayres (all singled out for their extreme productivity), Dorothy L. Sayers, Rosamond Lehmann, Elizabeth Bowen, Radclyffe Hall, Noel Streatfeild at a desk awash with papers, Nancy Mitford in middle age, Barbara Cartland and Doris Lessing (each in her youth, one with glamorous furs and the other with a cat).