“I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.”

“The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” by the American-born British poet T.S. Eliot (Thomas Stearns Eliot), is one of the most famous poems of the 20th Century. It was first published in the June 1915 issue of Poetry magazine, an influential Chicago-based journal read by literary luminaries and poetry buffs in both America and … Read more

“Man is descended from a hairy, tailed quadruped.”

The publication of Charles Darwin’s book On the Origin of Species in 1859 helped launch the modern science of evolution. It also created a firestorm of controversy, by suggesting that all species — including homo sapiens — evolved from “lower” life forms. However, Darwin did not explicitly state that humans evolved from ape and monkey-like … Read more

“There is less in this than meets the eye.”

On January 4, 1922, the New York Times published a review of the dramatic play Aglavaine and Selysette by the paper’s witty critic Alexander Woollcott. Woollcott had attended the premiere of the play at the Maxine Elliott Theatre in New York City the day before, on the afternoon of January 3rd. His review wasn’t glowing. … Read more

“Silent Night” – the origin and evolving words of the famous Christmas carol…

In 1818, during the annual Christmas Midnight Mass at the St. Nicholas Church at Oberndorf, Austria, the song we know as “Silent Night! Holy Night!” (or just “Silent Night”) was performed in public for the first time. Most sources say this happened on Christmas Eve, the night of December 24, 1818, though some say it … Read more

I’m dreaming of a white, gay, green, brown or red Christmas…

THE FAMOUS CHRISTMAS SONG: “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas Just like the ones I used to know. Where the treetops glisten and children listen To hear sleigh bells in the snow. I’m dreaming of a white Christmas With every Christmas card I write. May your days be merry and bright And may all your … Read more

“Our American professors like their literature clear and cold and pure and very dead.”

In the 1920s, Sinclair Lewis became one of the most successful writers in America. During that decade he penned a series of five hugely popular novels: Main Street, Babbitt, Arrowsmith, Elmer Gantry and Dodsworth. In 1930, Lewis became the first American writer to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature by the Swedish Academy that … Read more

Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address – and Lord Buckley’s “hip translation” . . .

On November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln gave a brief speech in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania at the dedication of a cemetery for the Union soldiers who had died in that bloody Civil War battle four months earlier. Lincoln’s remarks came to be known as “The Gettysburg Address.” It’s his best known speech and includes two of … Read more

The genesis of “the Almighty Dollar” – from Genesis to Washington Irving…

The word almighty, used in connection with God, appears 57 times in the King James Version of the Bible. Starting in the Book of Genesis, God is variously referred to as “the Almighty God,” “God Almighty” and, most often, simply as “the Almighty.” The English idiom “the almighty dollar,” which is commonly used to mock … Read more

“O Liberty! What crimes are committed in thy name!”

In 1781, a young French woman named Marie-Jeanne Philippon married wealthy businessman Jean-Marie Roland, thus becoming known as Madame Roland. Madame Roland and her husband were early supporters of the democratic goals of the French Revolution.  They became active leaders of the progressive but moderate pro-democracy party called the Girondists. The Girondists supported changing France’s … Read more

As Maine goes, so goes: (a) the nation (b) Vermont . . .

In the November 1936 presidential election, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was reelected for a second term in a landslide victory over his Republican opponent, Kansas Governor Alf Landon. Roosevelt received more than 60% of the vote and won in all but two states – Maine and Vermont. On November 4, 1936, the day after the … Read more