Milestones: Thomas Paine Publishes Common Sense

On January 10, 1776, Thomas Paine published the pamphlet “Common Sense” advocating American independence.

Common Sense by Thomas Paine (Public Domain)

“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.

The Professor

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

Milestones: Happy Birthday Jane Austen

Jane Austen would be pleased to know that her letters will be preserved for all to see.

Portrait of Jane Austen, 1873 (Public Domain) Based on one drawn by her sister Cassandra

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

Happy Birthday, Jane Austen!

Milestones: Dalton Trumbo

“The only kind of love worth having is the kind that goes on living and laughing and fighting and loving.” Dalton Trumbo

Colorado screenwriter and novelist Dalton Trumbo at House Un-American Activities Committee hearings, 1947 (Public Domain)

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.

Milestones: Mark Twain

Mark Twain by A.F. Bradley, New York – (Public Domain)

On November 30, 1835, Mark Twain is born.

In a good bookroom you feel in some mysterious way that you are absorbing the wisdom contained in all the books through your skin, without even opening them.” Mark Twain

Milestones: Alfred Tennyson

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.

Alfred Tennyson, 1st Baron Tennyson by George Frederic Watts (Public Domain)

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.

Milestones: Fyodor Dostoyevsky

On November 16, 1849, Fyodor Dostoyevsky was sentenced to death for antigovernment activities associated with a radical intellectual circle, The Petrashevsky Circle.

Painting of Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Fyodor Dostoyevsky in 1872 by Vasily Perov (Public Domain)

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.

Milestones: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

November 12, 1969, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn is expelled from the Soviet Writers Union.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

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

Celebrating Halloween with Carl Sandburg


By Carl Sandburg

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.

The Poetry of Rupert Brooke

On this day in 1887, English poet Rupert Brooke, described by W.B. Yeats as “the handsomest young man in England,” is born.

Rupert Chawner Brooke is known for his idealist war sonnets written at the beginning of WWI. While his poem,“The Soldier,” also known as “Nineteen-Fourteen: The Soldier” was immediately popular, looking back there is a nuance of sentimentality, even naïveté.

This work created by the United Kingdom Government is in the public domain.

Robert Brooke died on April 23, 2015 at the beginning the WWI. He was on a ship to the Dardanelles when he died from blood poisoning from an insect bite. I have often wondered if he had lived through the war, whether his poetry would have been more in step with Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, and Robert Graves. Alas, we shall never know.

Poetry is a reflection of a time and place. Rupert Brooke captured the spirit of a nation during a patriotic moment. Some critics,”argue that Brooke’s poetry—especially the “Nineteen Fourteen” sequence—is important as a barometer of England between 1910 and 1915. As Eder states, “Brooke’s war sonnets perfectly captured the mood of the moment.” Poetry Foundation

The Soldier by Rupert Brooke

I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam;
A body of England’s, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.