American essayist and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson born this day in 1803. Emerson was a lecturer, poet, and essayist who led the Transcendentalist movement in the mid-19th century.
In Leiden, Holland, the Leiden University Library publishes Nomenclator, the first printed catalog of an institutional library, appears on this date in 1595.
On this date in 1830, Sarah Josepha Hale publishes Mary Had a Little Lamb.
On this date in 1995, the first version of the Java programming language was released.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who created the legendary detective Sherlock Holmes, was born on this date in 1859. Doyle, who was an ophthalmologist, patterned his famous detective after his professor, Joseph Bell. Doyle wrote to him, saying, “It is most certainly to you that I owe Sherlock Holmes … [r]ound the centre of deduction and inference and observation which I have heard you inculcate I have tried to build up a man.” Convinced that Holmes kept him from more important matters, Doyle “killed” him off in 1893. However, the public demanded more tales with the famous sleuth, and Doyle was eventually persuaded to bring the character back in 1901 in The Hound of the Baskervilles. You can read that story here.
Today is National Memo Day.
French novelist Honoré de Balzac born this day in 1799. Balzac’s collected works are known as La Comedie humaine, a rich panorama of French life during the years after Napoleon’s fall in 1815. Balzac is also remembered for his notorious work habits. He worked slowly, writing for hours at a stretch, fueled by innumerable cups of black coffee. He claimed to have once worked for 48 hours with only a few hours rest in the middle. He also continually revised his texts, often to his publisher’s chagrin and at their expense.
John Clare died on this date in 1864. Clare was the son of a farm laborer; he came to be known for his poems, which elevated the English countryside, and for his lamentation of its disruption. Clare’s biographer, Jonathan Bate, says that Clare was “the greatest laboring-class poet that England has ever produced. No one has ever written more powerfully of nature, of a rural childhood, and of the alienated and unstable self.” Clare’s mental health was fragile, and he eventually committed himself to an asylum; that time in the asylum is the subject of Adam Foulds’s novel, The Quickening Maze, which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2009. Read Clare’s poems here
Vietnamese poet Tản Đà was born on this date in 1889. He used both European influences and traditional Sino-Vietnamese forms; he was a transitional figure between the 1890s and the “New Poetry” movement of the 1930s. Read a sample of his poetry in translation.
On this date in 1593, playwright Thomas Kyd’s accusations of heresy lead to an arrest warrant for fellow playwright Christopher Marlowe. Ten days later, Marlowe was stabbed to death. Scholars have never resolved whether or not the arrest was connected to the stabbing.