2022 is the year of Leo Tolstoy. I am involved in a global community reading War and Peace, which began on January 5, 2022 and will end on the stroke of midnight December 31, 2022.
Chapter 1 welcomes us into the drawing room of the elegant Anna Pavlovna Scherer, maid of honour and confidante of the Empress Maria Fyodorovna. It is an evening in July 1805. There are rumours of war and talk of Napoleon Bonaparte.
The detailed descriptions and the emotional conversations that swirled around the room captured my entire attention. I felt a sense of anticipation when Pierre, aka Pyotr Kirillovich Bezukhov, the illegitimate son of old Count Bezuchov walked into the room.
Have you ever wondered what books were in Leo Tolstoy’s library? When not engaged in writing his epic novels, what books did he chose to read? Have I read the same books as Leo Tolstoy did over a century ago? These were the questions that I reflect upon in my January WarAndPeace2022 update.
You are invited guests on the #WarAndPeace2022 adventure. If you are unable to join the Readalong, you are most welcome to follow the journey via our blogs and podcasts.
Liz Humphreys has brought together an invaluable collection of resources that will add depth to our reading experience. Books, blog posts, and reading schedules are available and easily accessible at the following links.
On January 10, 1776, Thomas Paine published the pamphlet “Common Sense” advocating American independence.
“When I was teaching children I began every day writing this on the blackboard: “Do to others what you would like them to do to you”, telling them how much better the world would be if everybody lived by this rule.”
Thomas Paine, Common Sense
Forty seven pages advocating independence from Great Britain was an immediate success for those who lived in the Thirteen Colonies. Published anonymously, Thomas Paine managed to keep his name out of the independence controversy for three months.
Thomas Paine never profited from Common Sense. But he did change the world.
As in years past, January 3rd is a special evening. Tonight, I will join other J.R.R. Tolkien fans from around the world in raising a glass to toast the birthday of this much loved author at precisely 21:00 (9:00pm) local time. I have chosen a special combination of cranberry juice and soda for the occasion.
The toast is simply “The Professor.
“May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out.” J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
“It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end… because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing… this shadow. Even darkness must pass.” J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers
Jane Austen would be pleased to know that her letters will be preserved for all to see.
This morning, I read the most exciting news on The Literary Hub. Walker Caplan wrote that The Honresfield Library’s rare collection, that dates back to the 1800’s, came up for auction this May. Up until then, this collection had been hidden from public view.
In this treasure trove are the handwritten poems of Emily Brontë, and letters by Robert Burns, Walter Scott, and Jane Austen.
I encourage you to read Walker Caplan’s article because it demonstrates how communities coming together accomplish amazing things. Check out this excerpt and links.
Academics’ and Brontë fans’ excitement at learning the Honresfield Library still existed turned to concern knowing these important documents would be sold right back into private collections, where the public once again couldn’t access them. Thus, eight groups—the British Library, the National Library of Scotland, the Bodleian Libraries at Oxford, the Brotherton Library at the University of Leeds, and museums dedicated to Jane Austen, Walter Scott, Robert Burns and the Brontës—united to raise $21 million to purchase and preserve the Honresfield Library for the public, led by Friends of the National Libraries. The Literary Hub
“The only kind of love worth having is the kind that goes on living and laughing and fighting and loving.” Dalton Trumbo
On December 9, 1905 James Dalton Trumbo was born. For those who are unfamiliar with this name, you would know Dalton Trumbo’s work and know of the pivotal time in history in which he lived.
Dalton Trumbo was a brilliant American screenwriter who scripted famous and award-winning films that we still watch today: Roman Holiday (1953), Exodus, Spartacus (both 1960), and Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944).
Dalton Trumbo was one of the “Hollywood 10” who were placed on the first systematic Hollywood blacklist created on November 25, 1947. This blacklist was in response to the refusal of ten writers and directors to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC).
The story of humanity is fraught with complex challenges. These are the times for heroes to emerge.
November 19, 1850, Alfred Tennyson was named Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom. I understand that he accepted this honour on the condition that birthday odes would not be required of him.
In the same year, Tennyson published In Memoriam, a tribute to his dear friend, Arthur Hallam, whose sudden death in Vienna of a brain hemorrhage in 1833 influenced Tennyson’s creative efforts throughout his lifetime.
Tennyson and Hallam met at Trinity College in 1829. That same year, Tennyson introduced his sister, Emily to Hallam, which led to their engagement. Imagine the grief that came to Tennyson and his sister at the loss of one so precious to them.
Tennyson began to work on In Memoriam immediately after the death of his friend. Seventeen years later, it was finished – 131 individual poems that form an emotional narrative, a progress from grief to hope.
I hold it true, whate'er befall; I feel it, when I sorrow most; 'Tis better to have loved and lost Than never to have loved at all.
On November 16, 1849, Fyodor Dostoyevsky was sentenced to death for antigovernment activities associated with a radical intellectual circle, The Petrashevsky Circle.
The Petrashevsky Circle was formed in St. Petersburg in 1840 and named after the founder, Mikhail Petrashevsky. Members held diverse political views, but all were in opposition to the Russian feudal system, which kept millions of serfs confined to a life of servitude without property rights or full legal rights.
This death sentence was not to be Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s destiny. Instead he spent four years in a Siberian work camp. He would go on to write his memorable narratives: From the Underground, Crime and Punishment, The Idiot, Demons, and Brothers Karamazov.
November 12, 1969, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn is expelled from the Soviet Writers Union.
One year later, he is awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for The Gulag Archipelago.
“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”
― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918–1956
I spot the hills With yellow balls in autumn. I light the prairie cornfields Orange and tawny gold clusters And I am called pumpkins. On the last of October When dusk is fallen Children join hands And circle round me Singing ghost songs And love to the harvest moon; I am a jack-o'-lantern With terrible teeth And the children know I am fooling.