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.
20 October 1573
Isabella Whitney wrote her longest poem, The Manner of her Will, and what she left to London: and to all those in it: at her departing, printed in her A Sweet Nosgay, Or Pleasant Posye.
20 October 1595
Michel de Montaigne’s Essays were entered in the Stationers’ Register, three years after the author’s death.
The first selection had appeared in French in 1580. The essays were translated into English by John Florio in 1603. Their attention to daily life and their attractive and trenchant introspection give them significance for the development of autobiography as well as of the essay.
Virginia Woolf revered Montaigne, and paid three separate visits to the tower where he lived and wrote.
20 October 1656
A Wonderful Pleasant and Profitable Letter by the prophet Sarah Wight was anonymously published without her consent.
Nine years before this, when she was only seventeen, Henry Jessey had written of her ecstatic experience and her teaching in The Exceeding Riches of Grace, which relates her experience of acute illness and a three-day trance, followed by a two-month fast which was expected to kill her, but did not. Critic Carola Scott-Luckens likens this to birth rituals, noting that Wight’s experience was construed as spiritual rebirth.
Her own text opens “A Christian’s happiness lies in being emptied of all self, self refined, as well as gross self; and being filled with a full God.” It stresses that her faith cannot be shaken by family troubles (her brother’s death, her mother’s suffering), and that she does not wish for public recognition for her work.
20 October 1683
Aphra Behn’s epistolary novel Love-Letters Between a Nobleman and His Sister was licensed by the Stationers’ Company; it was published the following year.
20 October 1702
The newly-elected parliament (first of Queen Anne’s reign) assembled.
20 October 1702
Elinor James (as Elianor James) welcomed the new monarch, Queen Anne, to the throne in a broadsheet titled from its opening words, May It Please Your Lordships.
20 October 1709
Elizabeth Freke began to quarrel by letter with Charles Trimnell, Bishop of Norwich, over the matter of licensing Charles Buck, the curate she had installed in the parish church she claimed to control.
20 October 1762
The first number of the Providence Gazette (first newspaper in the then British colony of Rhode Island) was printed by Sarah Goddard and her son and daughter William and Mary Katherine.
The printing business was William’s, financed by Sarah and run by the women during his various absences. Mary Katherine’s career, thus launched, continued at Philadelphia in another family business, then from February 1774 at Baltimore, where she became postmaster in August 1775 in a new postal system set up by colonists seeking independence. The Continental Congress chose her in January 1777 to print the first broadside copy of the Declaration of Independence that listed its famous signatories. The new federal government dismissed her from her post office position in November 1789 to replace her by a less experienced man. A petition on her behalf by two hundred prominent local (male) citizens, and her own petition for reinstatement to the US Senate proved equally ineffectual. Having quarrelled with her brother and never married, she left her entire estate at her death on 12 August 1816 to her slave Belinda Starling, who was manumitted by her will.
20 October 1774
The American First Continental Congress signed the Continental Association, proposing a total trade boycott of Britain in order to force repeal of recent anti-colonialist legislation.
Colonial trade was the engine of the developing industrial revolution, so any threat to it was to be taken seriously.
20 October 1784
Hannah More composed a Prefatory Letter to Montagu, telling her about Yearsley, designed for printing at the head of Yearsley’s poems to be published by subscription.
20 October 1786
Mary Scott penned Verses Occasioned by the Death of Jonas Hanway, Esq. (who had died on 5 September), and sent them to the Gentleman’s Magazine.
20 October 1796
Jane West’s A Gossip’s Story, and A Legendary Tale, published through Longman as by the author of Advantages of Education, was advertised: a novel teamed with a narrative poem.
20 October 1800
Charlotte Smith dated her preface to a two-volume collection of novellas (sometimes referred to as a unitary novel): Letters of a Solitary Wanderer.
20 October 1803
Elizabeth Helme wrote to the Royal Literary Society requesting financial help, saying that illness had undermined the literary earnings which had materially contributed to supporting her family for seventeen years.
20 October 1818
Anne Plumptre died in Norwich.
20 October 1822
Thomas Hughes, novelist, was born at Uffington near Faringdon, Berkshire.
20 October 1827
The naval forces of England, France and Russia combined to destroy the Turkish-Egyptian fleet at Navarino.
20 October 1837
Sydney Morgan, enriched by her crown pension, left Dublin for London, where she and her husband settled in a newly-built house in William Street in Belgravia.
20 October 1859
Margaret Oliphant’s husband, Francis, died of tuberculosis in Rome.
20 October 1866
Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon attended a meeting at Elizabeth Garrett’s home to form a new provisional suffrage committee.
20 October 1880
Lydia Maria Child died at her home at Wayland from a sudden heart attack; she had been “feeling remarkably well” that same morning.
20 October 1888
Elizabeth Stuart Phelps married Herbert Dickinson Ward, an aspiring writer seventeen years her junior.
20 October 1890
Explorer, writer, and diplomat Richard Francis Burton died at Trieste in Italy.
20 October 1894
A British protectorate was announced as established over Borgu (now known as Benin, Nigeria).
20 October 1894
James Anthony Froude, historian and biographer, died in Devon.
20 October 1906
Augusta Gregory’s one-act tragedy The Gaol Gate was first performed at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin.
20 October 1909
The Trade Boards Act was passed—a success for feminist campaigns against sweatshops and for minimum wages in the British clothing industry.
Makers of Our Clothes, co-written by Adèle Meyer and Clementina Black, helped gain support for the bill. The Act came into effect on 1 January 1910.
20 October 1919
Virginia Woolf’s second novel, Night and Day, was published by Duckworth.
20 October 1921
The Times Literary Supplement printed T. S. Eliot’s essay The Metaphysical Poets.
20 October 1923
Rebecca West ended her liaison with H. G. Wells when she sailed for America on a lecture tour.
20 October 1927
E. M. Forster published his best-known work of literary criticism, Aspects of the Novel, based on the Clark Lectures which he had delivered at Cambridge.
20 October 1928
Virginia Woolf delivered one of her two papers, Women and Fiction (later revised to become A Room of One’s Own), at Newnham College, Cambridge.
20 October 1937
Emma Tennant was born in London into a family of siblings and half-siblings from more than one marriage.
20 October 1938
Molly Skrine married director and gentleman farmer Robert Lumley Keane after living with him for six years.
20 October 1940
10,000 bound volumes of English and Irish newspapers held by the British Museum were destroyed and a further 15,000 were damaged by bombing at Colindale north of London.
The foreign newspaper collection was spared—only to fall prey to microfilming (and later discarding) in the late twentieth century.
20 October 1941
Rebecca West published Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, her famous travel book about the Balkans.
20 October 1943
Four months after her divorce became final, Enid Blyton married Kenneth Darrell Waters. He was a successful surgeon, although deaf as a result of wartime naval service.
20 October 1946
Helen Waddell penned the valedictory poem which closes the posthumous collection More Latin Lyrics.
20 October 1948
Dodie Smith published her first novel, the romantic story I Capture the Castle, with Little, Brown in Boston.
20 October 1952-12 January 1960
A state of emergency was in force in Kenya in response to a “large-scale peasants’ revolt”, known as the Mau Mau Rebellion, among the Kikuyu people.
The Mau Mau was a secret society bound by oaths and rituals, seeking return of land to African ownership in a colony where white settlers were proliferating and land ownership in the most desirable areas was restricted to whites only. During the emergency civilians murdered by the Mau Mau amounted to 1,800 Africans and thirty-two whites (including children). The British government responded with measures which fifty years later were seen by serious historians as atrocity: 1,090 Kikuyu hanged by special court decree and in all more than 12,000 rebels killed. Torture and spur-of-the-moment killing were perpetrated by British personnel, and even reprieved or acquitted Mau Mau suspects were sent to moulder in interrogation camps.
20 October 1960
Christopher St John died from pneumonia connected with heart disease at Tenterden in Kent; she was in her late eighties.
20 October 1960
The trial regarding obscenity charges against D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Regina v. Penguin Books Limited, began at the Central Criminal Court, Old Bailey.
20 October 1961
The month after H. D. died, her long poem Helen in Egypt (probably her single best-known work and sometimes classified as epic) was published.
20 October 1994
Two days before her seventy-fifth birthday, Doris Lessing published, with HarperCollins, Under My Skin, a first volume of autobiography.
20 October 1995
Elaine Feinstein published Lady Chatterley’s Confession, a witty and thought-provoking sequel to D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover.
20 October 1997
Doris Lessing published a second volume of autobiography, Walking in the Shade.
Rose Tremain titled her next volume of short stories The Darkness of Wallis Simpson and Other Stories.