Benjamin Disraeli was born on December 21, 1804 and died on April 19, 1881. He was a talented writer as well as a politician. He twice served as Prime Minister. His works include Sybil, Coningsby and Vivian Grey.
While Disraeli was British, all of his grandparents and great grandparents were born in Italy
He was of Jewish birth, but later converted to Christianity. As of this writing, he’s the only person to hold the office of British Prime Minister who was born Jewish.
In 1839 Disraeli married Mary Anne Lewis. She was twelve years older than Disraeli and had an income of £5,000 a year. “Dizzy married me for my money,” his wife later said, “But, if he had the chance again, he would marry me for love.”
He served as Prime Minister twice. The first time was from February 27 to 1 December of 1868. The second time Disraeli was Prime Minister was from February 20, 1874 to April 21, 1880.
Disraeli is remembered for his political battles with the Liberal leader, William Ewart Gladstone.
Hughenden Manor, a red brick Victorian mansion, located in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, England was Disraeli’s country house. In 1862 the Disraelis had the house remodelled by the architect Edward Buckton Lamb. Today, it is owned by the National Trust and open to the public.
Disraeli had a close friendship with Queen Victoria, who in 1876 created him Earl of Beaconsfield.
“There is no act of treachery or meanness of which a political party is not capable; for in politics there is no honour.” ~ Vivian Grey by Benjamin Disraeli
“We are all born for love,” said Morley. “It is the principle of existence, and its only end.” ~ Sybil by Benjamin Disraeli
Daniel Defoe (1660 – April 24, 1731) was an English writer most famous for his novels Robinson Crusoe and Moll Flanders. Here are five facts about him that you may not know:
1 – His name at birth was Daniel Foe. He later changed his name to the more aristocratic-sounding Defoe.
2 – He lived through both the Great Plague of London (1665) and the Great Fire of London (1666).
3 – For a time he worked as a general merchant. Some of the goods he dealt with were hosiery, general woolen goods, and wine. His business was not successful and he went bankrupt in 1692.
4 – In 1684 he married Mary Tuffley. They had eight children.
5 – Defoe’s first literary endeavors were writing political pamphlets and as a journalist. In 1701 he wrote The True-Born Englishman. The satirical poem defended King William III, who was Dutch, against William’s enemies who pushed for “English racial purity”.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was born in 1859 and died in 1930. He’s best known as the creator of the Sherlock Holmes. But here are five things about him that you may not know.
1 – Conan Doyle was a physician. He attended the University of Edinburgh Medical School and graduated in 1881 with a Bachelor of Medicine and Mastery of Surgery.
2 – He worked as a ship’s surgeon on a whaling vessel.
3 – Conan Doyle was not knighted for his Sherlock Holmes stories. The War in South Africa: Its Causes and Conduct caught the eye of the monarchy. In it, Conan Doyle comes to Great Britain’s defense against charges of war crimes in the Boer War.
4 – George Edalji was an innocent man convicted of mutilating and killing livestock. Who helped him prove his innocence? The case was solved by Arthur Conan Doyle. Sir Arthur solved two real-life crime cases, the George Edalji case and the Oscar Slater case.
5 – Conan Doyle believed in Spiritualism. It’s true. The man who created the ever-logical Sherlock Holmes believed in spirits and things like automatic writing.
You can learn more about all of these subjects at our partner site, Conan Doyle Info. As the site says, Sherlock Holmes is just the beginning.
Charles Dickens was born on February 7, 1812 and died in 1870. He’s the author of A Christmas Carol, Great Expectations and other classic novels. Now here are some things you may not know about Charles Dickens.
1 – As a child, his family was always on the verge of economic collapse. Everything fell apart for the family in 1827. Dickens’ father was sent the Marshalsea debtors’ prison and young Charles was sent to work in Warren’s Blacking Factory. These incidents would haunt Dickens for the rest of his life.
2 – Dickens worked as law clerk, a court stenographer and even contemplated becoming an actor. Luckily for us, Dickens was ill on the day of his audition at the Lyceum Theater and couldn’t go. Can you imagine a life without Scrooge? If Dickens, who was a talented actor, had attended his audition he might not have written A Christmas Carol.
3 – In his early writing he called himself Boz. Boz? You see, one of his favorite characters in Goldsmith’s Vicar of Wakefield was called Moses. Moses became Boses which became Boz.
4 – Dickens married Catherine Hogarth in 1835. There were some happy years, but in 1958 they were legally separated. One of the reasons for the separation was Dickens’ interest in the actress, Ellen Ternan.
Dickens met Ellen in 1857. Matters came to a head the next year when a bracelet that Dickens bought as a present for Ellen was accidentally delivered to the Dickens household. In a scene straight from a soap opera, Catherine discovered the bracelet and accused Charles of having an affair.
5 – One of the most fascinating aspects of Charles Dickens is that he understood the power of the media. Yes, even in the Victorian Era people had to worry about the press. In September of 1860, behind his home at Gad’s Hill Place, Charles Dickens tried to cover his tracks. He gathered “the accumulated letters and papers of twenty years” and set them ablaze in his backyard. What could we have learned had he not taken this action? We’ll never know.
1 – Mark Twain, whose real name was Samuel Langhorne Clemens, was born on November 30th 1835. He died on April 21st, 1910.
2 – For a time he worked as a riverboat pilot on the Mississippi River. He also worked as a newspaper journalist and a miner before he turned to writing fiction.
3 – While he was well paid as a writer, he was plagued with financial problems. One of his biggest problems was bad investments. He lost a lot of money with his investment in Paige Compositor, a mechanical typesetter. Twain eventually declared bankruptcy. However later he paid back all of his creditors.
4 – He married Olivia Landon in 1870. They remained together until her death in 1904. They had four children.
5 – Twain was born shortly after a visit by Halley’s Comet. He told people that he would “go out with it” as well. Here’s a quote from Twain in 1909.
I came in with Halley’s Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don’t go out with Halley’s Comet. The Almighty has said, no doubt: ‘Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together’.
Twain predicted correctly. He died the day after the comet’s return.
Novels by Mark Twain
The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
The Prince and the Pauper
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
The American Claimant
The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson
Tom Sawyer Abroad
Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc
Tom Sawyer, Detective
The Mysterious Stranger (published posthumously)
He didn’t get along well with his parents. He found the relationship with his father particularly troubling. He noted of his father that, “He never liked me, nor I him; from my earliest recollections I can call to mind no time when I did not fear him and dislike him…. I have never passed a day without thinking of him many times over as the man who was sure to be against me.”
Butler graduated from Cambridge in 1858.
After his graduation, Samuel’s father wanted him to become a priest. However a crisis of faith lead Samuel down a different path. He emigrated to New Zealand and raised sheep instead. He returned to England in 1864.
Butler made prose translations of the Iliad and Odyssey which remain in use to this day.
He died on June 18, 1902 in London.
The Way of All Flesh is a semi-autobiographical novel and was published posthumously.
Eric Arthur Blair, who used the pen name George Orwell, was an English novelist, essayist, journalist and critic. He was born on June 25, 1903 in Motihari, India. He died on January 21, 1950 in London.
He wrote Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm, but how much do you really know about George Orwell? George Orwell: A Life in Letters allows us a fascinating look into the life of this complicated man.
From his school days to his tragic early death, George Orwell, who never wrote an autobiography, chronicled the dramatic events of his turbulent life in a profusion of powerful letters. Indeed, one of the twentieth century’s most revered icons was a lively, prolific correspondent who developed in rich, nuanced dispatches the ideas that would influence generations of writers and intellectuals.
Over the course of a lifetime, Orwell corresponded with hundreds of people, including many distinguished political and artistic figures. Witty, personal, and profound, the letters tell the story of Orwell’s passionate first love that ended in devastation and explains how young Eric Arthur Blair chose the pseudonym “George Orwell.” In missives to luminaries such as T. S. Eliot, Stephen Spender, Arthur Koestler, Cyril Connolly, and Henry Miller, he spells out his literary and philosophical beliefs.
Combined with rare photographs and hand-drawn illustrations, George Orwell: A Life in Letters offers “everything a reader new to Orwell needs to know…and a great deal that diehard fans will be enchanted to have” (New Statesmen).
British author Enoch Arnold Bennett was born on May 27, 1867 and died on March 27, 1931. He’s remembered for more than his plays and novels, he’s also remembered because of a recipe. Bennett was a frequent visitor at the Savoy Hotel. Whenever he ate there he ordered an omelette made with smoked haddock, Parmesan cheese and cream. The Savoy renamed the dish Omelette Arnold Bennett.
Hans Christian Andersen was born on April 2 in 1805. He died on August 4, 1875. His fairy tales, such as The Little Mermaid and The Little Match Girl, have inspired movies, plays and ballets.
Here are five quick facts about the author that you may not know:
1 – He was born in Odense, Denmark. His father was a shoemaker and his mother worked as a washerwoman.
2 – Andersen’s father set the stage for his son’s love of literature by reading him Arabian Nights.
3 – Hans Christian Anderson was not lucky in love. Jenny Lind, the opera singer, was the most famous of his unrequited loves.
4 – In the spring of 1872, Andersen fell out of his bed and was injured. He never fully recovered. Soon after he started to have signs of liver cancer. He died on August 4, 1875 in a house near Copenhagen.
5 – An early fairy tale by Andersen called The Tallow Candle was discovered in a Danish archive in October 2012. The story, written in the 1820s, was about a candle who did not feel appreciated. Its existence was unknown for close to two centuries.