Author, poet and King of the Macabre Edgar Allan Poe was born on this day (Jan. 19) 205 years ago. Poe’s life was full of loss: By 3, he had lost both his parents; by 25, he had lost both his foster parents; and by 40, he had lost his beloved wife, Virginia. (Not to be all dark and dreary on his birthday, but this is Poe we’re talking about.)
His poem “Annabel Lee,” one of my favorites, was discovered after his death in 1849:
It was many and many a year ago, In a kingdom by the sea, That a maiden there lived whom you may know By the name of Annabel Lee; And this maiden she lived with no other thought Than to love and be loved by me.
I was a child and she was a child, In this kingdom by the sea, But we loved with a love that was more than love— I and my Annabel Lee— With a love that the wingèd seraphs of Heaven Coveted her and me.
And this was the reason that, long ago, In this kingdom by the sea, A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling My beautiful Annabel Lee; So that her highborn kinsmen came And bore her away from me, To shut her up in a sepulcher In this kingdom by the sea.
The angels, not half so happy in Heaven, Went envying her and me— Yes!—that was the reason (as all men know, In this kingdom by the sea) That the wind came out of the cloud by night, Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.
But our love it was stronger by far than the love Of those who were older than we— Of many far wiser than we— And neither the angels in Heaven above Nor the demons down under the sea Can ever dissever my soul from the soul Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams Of the beautiful Annabel Lee; And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes Of the beautiful Annabel Lee; And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side Of my darling—my darling—my life and my bride, In her sepulchre there by the sea— In her tomb by the sounding sea.
Sylvia Plath goes up to the counter, and she doesn’t know what she’s doing in Starbucks. She decides to order a strawberry frappuccino. On the other side of the window, fiery leaves have begun to fall. The leaves are too red; they remind her of beetles, of darkness, of the taut skin of the dead. The taste of strawberries turns thick and sour.
Today (Dec. 16) is Jane Austen’s birthday! Here’s cartoonist Jen Sorensen’s take on Pride and Prejudice, which we commissioned last year for the book’s bicentennial. (Click this link, or the image, for a more readable version.)
Born on this date, June 12 in 1929, in Frankfurt, Germany, Anne Frank was a teen writer who went into hiding during the Holocaust, journaling her experiences in the renowned work The Diary of Anne Frank.
Her mother was Edith Frank, and her father, Otto Frank, was a lieutenant in the German army during World War I, later becoming a businessman in Germany and the Netherlands. Frank also had a sister named Margot who was three years her senior.
When Hitler became chancellor of Germany on January 20, 1933, the Frank family immediately realized that it was time to flee. The Franks moved to Amsterdam, Netherlands, in the fall of 1933.
On June 12, 1942, Frank’s parents gave her a red checkered diary for her 13th birthday. She wrote her first entry, addressed to an imaginary friend named Kitty, that same day: “I hope I will be able to confide everything to you, as I have never been able to confide in anyone, and I hope you will be a great source of comfort and support.”
The families spent two years in hiding, never once stepping outside the dark, damp, sequestered portion of the building. To pass the time, Frank wrote extensive daily entries in her diary. Some betrayed the depth of despair into which she occasionally sunk during day after day of confinement. “I’ve reached the point where I hardly care whether I live or die,” she wrote on February 3, 1944. “The world will keep on turning without me, and I can’t do anything to change events anyway.” However, the act of writing allowed Frank to maintain her sanity and her spirits. “When I write, I can shake off all my cares,” she wrote on April 5, 1944.
In addition to her diary, Frank filled a notebook with quotes from her favorite authors, original stories and the beginnings of a novel about her time in the Secret Annex. Her writings reveal a teenage girl with creativity, wisdom, depth of emotion and rhetorical power far beyond her years.
On August 4, 1944, a German secret police officer accompanied by four Dutch Nazis stormed into the Secret Annex, arresting everyone that was hiding there. They had been betrayed by an anonymous tip, and the identity of their betrayer remains unknown to this day.
Frank and her sister both came down with typhus in the early spring and died within a day of each other sometime in March 1945, only a few weeks before British soldiers liberated the camp.
Otto Frank was the only member of his immediate family to survive
“Wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on the top of the forest, a little boy and his Bear will always be playing.” ― The House at Pooh Corner
A.A. Milne was born on Jan 18, 1882! Milne was a noted writer, primarily as a playwright, until verses he originally wrote for his son Christopher Robin grew into the beloved classics starring his toy bear, Winnie-the-Pooh.