Contact theSOPAbout theSOPSupport theSOPWritersEditorsManaging Editors
theSOP logo
Published:December 4th, 2006 08:56 EST
On this Day in Literary World

On this Day in Literary World

By Krzys Wasilewski

We will share the spirit of enlightened Freedom, decent Toleration and universal Benevolence, " wrote WS Bourne in the first issue of The Observer, " the world`s first Sunday newspaper. It had its debut on December 4, 1791.  December 4 is also the birthday of an English poet, Samuel Butler. Born in 1612, in Strensham, Worcestershire for many years worked as a secretary in a number of Puritan courts, the account of which he later wrote down in his famous poem Hudibras. " In this witty piece of satire, Butler mocked the naive blindness of some feverish apostles of the new faith. Here are four verses from Hudibras ":

Such as do build their faith upon the holy text of pike and gun; Decide all controversies by infallible artillery;

The poem was published four years after the puritan dictatorship of Oliver Cromwell had ended and was accused of glorifying the newly restored monarchy. In fact, there must have been some seed of truth in the criticism since shortly after the publication; Butler received a lifetime pension from King Charles II.

Samuel Butler died in 1680 in a voluntary exile. His intelligent but sharp satires and critical biographies were too much of a shock for seventeenth century Great Britain. After all, over 100 years had to pass until the first issue of The Observer and the spirit of enlightened freedom " reached London`s newsstands.

Coincidentally, on the same day was born another English artist Samuel Butler. Encyclopedias say nothing about any relation between the two Butlers. Samuel Butler, the writer (named in opposition to Samuel Butler, the poet) was born in 1835, in Bingham and, according to the family tradition, was to become a priest. He finished St John`s College in Cambridge, just like his father and father`s father had done, and then took a rural parish preparing himself for joining the Anglican clergy. But the job disappointed Butler and he began to question the basic truths of his faith. Estranged from his family, Butler left for New Zealand where he spent over 20 years only to come back to England in 1864. Then he produced Erewhon, a satirical novel that caused no less public outcry than Hudibras 200 years earlier. Samuel Butler became a recognizable figure when he came up with a theory that Odyssey was written not by Homer, as was commonly believed, but by some anonymous Sicilian woman.

December 4, 1777 was the birthday of Jeanne-Françoise Julie Adélaïde Bernard Récamier, in literary circles better known as Madame de Recamier. This French poet, writer, and most of all, politician became an influential figure in revolutionary France. She was only 15 when her parents made her marry one banker " a man old enough to be her father if not grandfather. Denied the passions of romantic love, Madame de Recamier associated herself with Parisian cabals. At the pick of her career, she was even able to play Murat (Marshal of France, King of Naples, and most notably, the emperor`s brother-in-law) against Napoleon Bonaparte during the famous Hundred Days. Among her acquaintances were such notables as Benjamin Constant, Caroline Bonaparte, Francois-Rene Chateubriand and Prince Augustus of Prussia. The latter one cherished hopes to marry Madame de Recamier after her divorce, but the French mischief-maker never decided on so controversial, even in her liberal standards, a step.

Madame de Recamier died in 1849 in a France completely different from the country she loved and fought for.