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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Literary birthdays

Happy birthday, authors!

Well, this is another on-this-day post, taken from yesterday's Dominion Post, 15 August 2011

But at least that means it is the right and current date for my readers, who are mostly on the other side of the date line.

On this day, 15 August, Sir Walter Scott was born.  Happy 240th birthday, Sir Walter! 

An inspirational man in many ways, Walter Scott (pictured) fought a bout with polio in his youth, and was sent from Edinburgh to the Scottish Borders area to walk away his lameness in the wilderness.  While there, he absorbed the Border tales that influenced much of his work.  It also helped him grow into a tall, stalwart man, with legendary stamina.

He was apprenticed to his father, a lawyer, became an advocate in 1792, and waxed affluent with investment in publishing (Ballentyne & Co.) and the success of novels such as the immortal Ivanhoe.  About 1825, however, there was a financial crisis, and he was one of the many who was financially ruined.  Refusing to declare bankruptcy, he put all his property into a trust for his creditors and declared his intention to write his way out of debt.  He didn't manage it in his lifetime (he died in mysterious circumstances in 1832) but the continuing success of his novels repaid all the outstanding monies.   

Scott was the first English language author to become an international bestseller in his own lifetime. He was also the author of the epic poem Lady of the Lake. I remember as a student teacher watching a class that was listening unusually quietly as their elderly lady teacher read the poem in sonorous tones.  What I could see from the back of the class, and what she could not, was that they were surreptitiously tossing a ball of her knitting wool from hand to hand.  When she came to the line, Oh! what a tangled web we weave! they all lifted their hands in unison, holding up the web of wool they had made.

Luckily, she laughed.

Other literary birthdays:

Thomas Edward (T.E.) Lawrence, author of Seven Pillars of Wisdom -- which is definitely one of the ten books I would take to a desert island.

Stieg Larsson, Swedish author of you-know-what...

And why has the Dominion Post not arrived today?  Because our usually temperate city was paralyzed by snow this morning.  Read all about it.

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