Wednesday, January 04, 2006


Trawling through a few books of literary trivia I found out that Samuel Richardson's novel Pamela was a bestseller in its time. It, like Clarissa, is an epistolary novel. Richardson got lots of letter writing practice as a boy. At the age of 13 he regularly wrote love letters for three young women who didn't know what to write about to their lovers! I can only imagine what those letters must have been like. Richardson was also one of many authors placed on the Catholic Church's Index. Quite a surprise given the solid virtue of his heroines. Moving on to Ralph Waldo Emerson, he was the first American lecturer known to have received a fee. He got $5 for himself and oats for his horse. And here are some things to make you feel both old and dumb:

  • Blaise Pacal invented his own geometry by age 11
  • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote a novel before he was 13 and started college when he was 16
  • William Holmes McGuffey of McGuffey Reader fame, became a teacher at the age of 13
  • Alfred, Lord Tennyson was composing blank verse by the time he was 8 and by 14 he'd written two plays a lots of poems
  • John Stuart Mill learned Greek by age 3 and was teaching his brothers Latin, Euclid and algebra by the time he was 8
  • Jean Arthur Rimbaud wrote one of his most famous poems, "Le Bateau Ivre," when he was only 16
  • These tidbits have been culled from The Literary Life and Other Curiosities and Literature Lover's Book of Lists