“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” — Jane Austen. The first line of Pride and Prejudice.
On January 28, 1813, Thomas Egerton published the first edition of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Jane sold Egerton the copyright for £110 (Austen had asked for £150). The one-time payment to Austen meant Egerton took all the risks and the profits. Sold in a three-volume set, the title page states it is written by the “Author of Sense and Sensibility,” and Sense and Sensibility, published in 1811, was written, “By a Lady.” The first edition of Pride and Prejudice sold out, and Egerton published a second edition in October 1813 and the third edition in 1817.
It is easy to see the parallels between Jane’s position in a social setting that dictated she build a “secret” writing career and the novel’s theme that a woman must marry well to avoid destitution. I think part of the reason for this story’s continued success and frequent adaptations is that although it is now commonplace for a woman to have a career, there is still significant social pressure for women to marry. It represents another box on a long list society wants women to complete.
Today, I intend to honor Jane’s bold path and carve out time to write.
Here’s a name I bet you don’t know — Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. He was born on January 27, 1832, in Daresbury, Cheshire, England, and in 1982 he was honored with a memorial stone in Westminster Abbey’s Poets’ Corner. Of course, we know him by his pen name, Lewis Carroll, and as the author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel, Through the Looking-Glass.
According to Wikipedia, Alice in Wonderland, first published in 1865, “has never been out of print.” That’s over 150 years, and it shows no signs of stopping. Walter Besant wrote that Alice in Wonderland “was a book of that extremely rare kind which will belong to all the generations to come until the language becomes obsolete.” It looks like he was correct.
I can’t believe I missed it. A friend politely pointed out that I overlooked an influential author’s birthday yesterday — Virginia Woolf.
Born Adeline Virginia Stephen, on January 25, 1882, in London she is best known for her novels, Mrs. Dalloway (1925) and To the Lighthouse (1927). She was also a significant figure in London literary society and the influential Bloomsbury Group of intellectuals. She is considered one of the foremost modernists of the twentieth century.
My favorite piece is an essay entitled, A Room of One’s Own. Woolf based the essay lectures she gave in 1928 at Newnham College and Girton College, the first two colleges for women at Cambridge. In the presentations, Woolf addressed the status of women and, more specifically, women artists. The essay asserts that a woman needs money and a room of her own to write.
“It is impossible, to me at least, to be poetical in cold weather.”— George Eliot
This week’s prediction is for our temperatures to hover around the freezing mark. When it is this cold, my fingers grow stiff and unresponsive, and my mind refuses to produce pretty words. The only syllables escaping my lips are coarse, blue enough to make a sailor blush, and end in “its cold.” I have become a master at timing my forays into the kitchen for a hot drink and snacks so that my carefully constructed blanket nest is still warm when I return. I agree with George while I have never claimed to be poetical, writing in cold weather is impossible.
Why do I dread Mondays? Many consider it the worst day of the week. They rage against returning to an imposed structure and set of expectations following a weekend of freedom and fun. The sorry truth is my weekends typically end up even more tightly structured and unforgiving than my work week.
Society encourages us to cram an impossible number of events into only two days. There’s the shopping and the household chores, friends to see, bills to pay, side hustles to sustain, and hobbies to pursue. It turns out, the perception of a slower-paced, carefree weekend filled with Hallmark moments is sheer fantasy. By Sunday night, I find myself exhausted.
Contrary to common consensus, I consider every Monday as the micro-level equivalent to New Year’s Day. And if I’m honest with myself, the apprehension is a thin veil covering an exuberant sense of anticipation and excitement for the possibilities that lie ahead. What I dread is the inevitable anxious feeling created by my fear that I will somehow mess it all up.
They say you never know when an idea will strike you — in the shower, talking to a child, while performing a mundane task, crocheting next to a fire, or while mindlessly surfing online. My most recent inspiration hit me while searching for a topic for today’s post. Here is what I read:
On January 23, 1897, Elva Zona Heaster is found dead in Greenbrier County, West Virginia. The resulting murder trial of her husband, perhaps the only case in US history where the alleged testimony of a ghost helped secure a conviction.
Whaaaa? Lightning struck, and my over-active imagination wasted no time in conjuring an entire story inspired by these “facts.” This idea is now saved, in glorious detail, in my ever-expanding idea file.
Here is a writer whose name you might not know. But you know one of his characters. On January 22, 1906, Robert E. Howard was born in Peaster, Texas. Writing from an early age, he submitted many stories and amassed a drawer full of rejections. In 1924, he sold a piece titled “Spear and Fang” to Weird Tales for $16. Weird Tales was an American fantasy and horror pulp fiction magazine. At twenty-three, he dropped out of college to write full time. He was a pulp fiction writer.
Through his writings for Weird Tales, he began corresponding with H. P. Lovecraft. As a result, he became a member of the Lovecraft Circle. The group, who communicated by letters, included Robert Bloch, August Derleth, Henry Kuttner, Clark Ashton Smith, Donald Wandrei, and Frank Belknap Long. The writers supported, critiqued, and collaborated. While no genre was off-limits, the main genres of the group were horror, science fiction, and epic fantasy. Many subgenres originated in this group. Howard developed the sword and sorcery subgenre. Oh, and the character you might have heard of — Conan the Barbarian.
We’ve made our way through a multitude of overblown drama, trivial turmoil, and unimportant distractions to arrive at the most anticipated day of the week — Friday. My plans for the weekend are entirely self-serving. First on my list is amassing a substantial pile of wood stacked to one side of the fireplace. Starting a blazing fire is next on my agenda, followed by pouring a pleasant drink and grabbing a good book. My primary concern is hoping I do not fall asleep in my chair. However, I fear I won’t succeed in my desire to avoid a nap or two. If all goes well, I might even discover I have the urge to unwind from my cozy cocoon and venture into my office to write.
I’ve been reading about the daily habits of famously productive people since one of my goals is to amass a volume of finished work. The specifics of their daily rituals cover a wide range of possibilities. Picasso would wake around 11 am and arrive at his studio in the early afternoon, where he worked until it grew dark. Maya Angelou kept a hotel room in her hometown. She would arrive at 6:30 am and didn’t leave until 2 pm. Brazilian author Ryoki Inoue has published a whopping total of 1,075 books and holds the Guinness World Record for being the world’s most prolific author. Inoue’s strategy is to write day and night until he finishes his book.
“Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night.” ― Edgar Allan Poe
According to Wikipedia, Poe, born on January 19, 1809, “was one of the country’s earliest practitioners of the short story, and considered to be the inventor of the detective fiction genre, as well as a significant contributor to the emerging genre of science fiction.”
I knew there was a reason I liked him. The Fall of the House of Usher, The Tell-Tale Heart, and the poem Eldorado rank among my all-time favorite works. Perhaps I should try dreaming up a plotline and writing a short story or two, emulating Poe’s aesthetic. Hmm, yes, that is getting added to my ideas list.