Milestones: John Bunyan, Mark Twain, & Toni Morrison

On this day in history, we are marking three remarkable events. Without question, February 18th was a stellar day for readers.

February 18, 1678 , John Bunyan’s “The Pilgrim’s Progress” was published in Holborn, London, by Nathaniel Ponder, known to be a bookseller and publisher of nonconformist works. The Pilgrim’s Progress was written during John Bunyan’s 12 years of imprisonment.

The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan. “Within Sight of the City to Which They Went” The Pilgrim’s Progress c1907 Illustrated by Byam Shaw

On February 18, 1885,  Mark Twain published the “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” in the United States. As a sequel to “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” which was published in 1876, the “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” has come to be regarded by many as “the Great American Novel.”

Cover of the book “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain, 1884 (Public Domain)

Toni Morrison, original name Chloe Anthony Wofford, was born February 18, 1931 in Lorain, Ohio. I have added “Beloved,” written in 1987, which won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, to my reading for 2022.

First-edition dust jacket cover of Beloved (1987) by the American author Toni Morrison. (Public Domain)

#WarAndPeace2022 February 15, 2022 Update

#WarAndPeace2022 Readalong Photo Credit Liz Humphreys

Reading taken from Penguin Classics: War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, Translated by Anthony Briggs Part 1 Chapter 25 p 114

The #WarAndPeace2022 Readalong is moving through Part II and will see us in Part III on February 20, 2022. I am totally involved in the narrative, due in part to the realism that is demonstrated in the battle sequences and strategies.

I have read that Leo Tolstoy worked tirelessly to bring us a complete understanding of the complex historical milieu of War and Peace. He drew on historical events, immersed himself in history books on the Napoleonic Wars and visited the battlefields.

Remember it is never too late to join the #WarAndPeace2022 Readalong. You are always welcome to add to the conversation.

Liz Humphreys has an excellent reflection on Vol1, Part 1 #WarAndPeace2022 Readalong. I know you will enjoy meeting up with Liz Humphreys and Elisabeth Van Der Meer.

#WarAndPeace2022 January Update

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.

#WarAndPeace2022 Readalong Photo Credit Liz Humphreys

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.

#WarAndPeace 2022 January Update

Liz Humphreys from Edinburgh, Scotland, and Elisabeth Van Der Meer from Porvoo, Finland are excellent guides on this adventure.

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.

#WarAndPeace2022 Readalong Leo Tolstoy (Translated by Anthony Briggs)

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.

#WarAndPeace2022 – Reading Schedule

“Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here.” Leo Tolstoy

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.