Wednesday, November 28, 2007

1859 to 1860

A Tale of Two Cities. Charles Dickens. British. 1859. Novel. French Revolution. London and Paris are the two cities. Description taken from Carlyle's French Revolution. Darnay and Carton are look-alikes; the latter substitutes for the former on the guillotine. Carton also loves Lucy; completely cynical about himself.

The Ordeal of Richard Feveral. George Meredith. British. 1959. Novel. Father attempts to educate his son to be a perfect specimen of manhood. Fails tragically. Problem is his attempt to keep him away from women.

A Nest of the Greatfolk. Ivan Turgenev. Russian. 1859. Novel. Tragic love affair ended because his wife who was thought to be dead returns and he must resume his duty. Evokes the peaceful atmosphere of a provincial Russian estate.

Adam Bede. George Eliot. British. 1859. Novel. Actual author is Mary Ann Evans. Principled Adam loves pretty, superficial Hetty Sorrel who is seduced by Squire Donnithorne; she kills the baby. Adam eventually marries Dinah Morris, a young Methodist preacher.

Oblomov. Ivan Goncharov. Russian. 1859. Novel. Hero is the embodiment of physical and mental laziness.

"Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking." Walt Whitman. American. 1859. Poetry. Interprets the song of a bird at seaside to mean death.

The Friend of the Family. Fyodor Dostoevsky. Russian. 1859. Novel. Russian Tartuffe. Petty, talentless ex-toady rules the household by playing on guilt feelings.

Elle et lui (He and She). George sand. British. 1859. Novel. Sand's interpretation of her love affair with Alfred de Musset and its complexities.

Origin of Species. Charles Darwin. British. 1859. Nonfiction. Theory of evolution by natural selection; survival of the fittest.

A Hard Lot. Aleksey Pisemsky. Russian. 1859. Play. Tragic conflicts caused by the love affair between the estate owner and the wife of one of his serfs. Realistic.

Idylls of the King. Alfred Lord Tennyson. British. 1859/85. Poetry. Based on the Arthurian legend. Introduction of evil into hitherto unblemished Camelot through Lancelot's sin.

1860. The United States becomes less united following the election of Abraham Lincoln as president

1860. South Carolina adopts an Ordinance of Secession to protest the election.

1860. Elizabeth Cady Stanton urges women's suffrage in an address to a joint session of the New York State Legislature.

1860. John D. Rockefeller enters the oil business at age 20.

1860. The first Pony Express riders leave St. Joseph, Mo., April 3, and delivers mail to Sacramento, Cal., 10 days later.

1860. The first world heavyweight boxing championship bout, April 17, at Farnborough, Hampshire, pits U.S. champion John C. Heenan against the British champion Tom Sayers. The fight continues for 42 rounds until Sayers is unable to use his right arm. Heenan is blinded from his own blood, and the crowd breaks into the ring to stop the fight.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

1858 to 1859

1858. Anatomy of the Human Body, Descriptive and Surgical by London physician Henry Gray is published for the first time. Gray's Anatomy will be a standard text for more than a century.

1858. Queen Victoria and President Buchanan exchange messages August 16 over the first transatlantic cable.

1858. Big Ben begins chiming out the hours, half-hours and quarter-hours in the 316-foot- tall clock tower of London's Westminster Palace.

1858. New York's Central Park opens to the public in the autumn although it remains five years short of completion.

The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table. Oliver Wendell Holmes. American. 1858. Essays. Conversations that become monologues; epigrammatic; social, theological, scientific topics.

"Telling the Bees." John Greenleaf Whittier. American. 1858. Poetry. Custom of draping hives when someone is dead; lover discovers that the dead is his beloved.

A Thousand Souls. Aleksey Pisemsky. Russian. 1858. Novel. Marries woman who has 1000 serfs in order to further his career.

Our American Cousin. Tom Taylor. American. 1858. Play. Play that Abraham Lincoln was watching when he was assassinated.

"The Deacon's Masterpiece, or, The Wonderful 'One-Hoss Shay.' " Oliver Wendell Holmes. American. 1858. Poetry. Satirizing Calvinist dogma or any inflexible though highly logical system designed for permanence. The shay did not break down. It just fell apart all at once.

"The Chambered Nautilus." Oliver Wendell Holmes. American. 1858. Poetry. Sea creature that enlarges its shell as it grows is example to the human being.

"The Courtship of Miles Standish." Henry W. Longfellow. American. 1858. Poetry. Miles Standish sends John Alden to woo Priscilla for him. She prefers John. Miles gives his blessing.

1859. The Supreme Court upholds the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.

1859. John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry, Va., October 16, stirs passions throughout the country.

1859. Petroleum production begins at Titusville, Penna., giving the world a new source of energy and reducing demand for the whale oil, coal gas, and lard now used in lamps.

1859. Suez Canal construction begins. Ferdinand de Lesseps has financed the sea-level waterway between the Mediterranean and Red Seas chiefly by selling stock to French investors.

1859. On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favored Species in the Struggle for Life by Charles Darwin creates a furor by flying in the face of fundamentalist religion.

1859. Cocaine is isolated from coca leaves brought home from Peru by Austrian explorer Karl von Scherzer, but physicians show little interest in the drug's potential for anesthesia.

Monday, November 26, 2007

1856 to 1858

John Halifax, Gentleman. Dina Maria Mulock Craik. British. 1856. Novel. Orphan, by perseverance, fortitude, establishes himself in life despite humble origin.

1857. Giuseppi Garibaldi founds the Italian National Association to work for unification of the country.

1857. The Dred Scott Decision announced by Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger B. Taney enrages abolitionists and encourages slave owners.

1857. A nationwide celebration marks the linking by rail of New York and St. Louis.

1857. U.S. cities have higher death rates than any other places in the world. Tuberculosis is the big killer, causing roughly 400 deaths per 100,000 population.

1857. The Atlantic Monthly begins publication at Boston under the editorship of James Russell Lowell.

1857. The world's first commercial passenger elevator is installed in the five-story New York store of E. G. Haughwort at the corner of Broadway and Broome Streets.

1857. Michigan State College of Agriculture opens to offer the first state courses in scientific and practical agriculture.

The Virginians. Wm. Makepeace Thackeray. British. 1857. Novel. Twin grandsons; boyhood in America; various experiences in England. Through American Revolution in which each fights on a different side.

The Flowers of Evil (Les fluers du mal). Charles Baudelaire. French. 1857. Poetry. Conflict of good, evil; seeks beauty or good in perverse, grotesque, morbid.

Tom Brown's School Days. Thomas Hughes. British. 1857. Novel. Life in an English public school. Shy, homesick boy develops manly, robust qualities.

The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade. Herman Melville. American. 1857. Novel. Mississippi river boat. Plotless satire. Characters are different manifestations of the confidence man, without principle.

Barchester Towers. Anthony Trollope. British. 1857. Novel. Novel of clerical intrigue. Struggle between Mrs. Proudie, the Bishop's wife, and the insidious chaplain Slope.

1858. An assassination attempt on France's Napoleon III and his wife kills 10 and injures 150, but the January 14 bomb explosions leave the emperor and his wife Eugenie untouched. The French execute Italian revolutionist Felice Orsini and his accomplice.

1858. "A house divided against itself cannot stand," says former congressman Abraham Lincoln at Springfield, Ill., in accepting nomination as the Republican candidate for U.S. senator. "I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free." Lincoln will lose to Democrat Stephen A. Douglas.

1858. Russia's Aleksandr II begins emancipating the nation's serfs.

1858. London's Linnaean Society hears a paper on the survival of the fittest in the struggle for existence in nature presented by English naturalists Alfred Russel Wallace and Charles Darwin.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

1855 to 1856

Israel Potter or, Fifty Years of Exile. Herman Melville. American. 1855. Satiric Novel. Time of the Revolutionary War. Meets Ben Franklin, John Paul Jones and Ethan Allen. His personality is a mixture of the faults and virtues of the three heroes. Archetypal American, taken prisoner by the British and exiled for 50 years. Returns home to die. Melville suggests that the only hope for America likes in the pioneering West.

The Newcomes. Wm. Makepeace Thackeray. British. 1855. Novel. Three generations. Love triangle finally resolved happily.

Little Dorrit. Charles Dickens. British. 1855/57. Novel. Father, daughters spend lives in prison for debt. Father becomes wealthy, as insufferable in wealth as he was obsequious in debt. Amy, Little Dorrit, remains unchanged by changes in circumstances. Circumlocution Office. Dickens attacks bureaucratic inefficiency and the practice of imprisonment for debt.

Chronicles of Barsetshire. Anthony Trollopw. British. 1855/57. Novels. Cathedral town. Agitations among clerical families disturb the placidity of Barchester. Mrs. Proudie, etc.

1856. The Crimean War ends as Russia yields to an Austrian ultimatum and agrees to preliminary peace terms at Vienna.

1856. U.S. voters elect Pennsylvania Democrat James Buchanan president.

1856. U.S. playwrights get their first legal copyright protection under a new law that releases a flood of dramatic productions.

1856.Boston exports more than 130,000 tons of "fine, clear" ice from Massachusetts lakes and ponds as 363 ships sail from various ports with a total of 146,000 tons of ice.

The Piazza Tales. Herman Melville. American. 1856. Stories. Artist attempts to rival the power of God; destroyed by his creation. Customer refuses to buy lightning rod: If you cannot control God, why fear him? Descriptive sketches based on 1841 voyage to the Galapagos Island.

Rudin. Ivan Turgenev. Russian. 1856. Novel. Traces the ineffectual career of the hero who impresses with brilliant, high-minded talk. However, he is unable to take decisive action. Frightened by the demands of love. When he tries to act, he loses his life. Hero represents the Russian "Superfluous Man."

"Crossing Brooklyn Ferry." Walt Whitman. American. 1856. Poetry. Feels himself to be one with all those who cross on the ferry regardless of time and space.

Madame Bovary. Gustave Flaubert. French. 1856. Novel. Life of ordinary woman. Technique of amassing precise detail is key in development of the novel. Married to good-hearted, stupid village doctor. Romantic dreams unfulfilled. Adultery, debts suicide.

Mozart auf der Reise nach Prag (Mozart on His Trip to Prague). Eduard Morike. German. 1856. Novel. Mood: essential joy in Mozart's creative energy and melancholy premonition of death.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

1854 to 1855

"The Charge of the Light Brigade." Alfred Lord Tennyson. British. 1854. Poetry. Famous death charge of the 600 at Balaclava in the Crimea on October 25, 1854. The British charged the Russian lines.

"Maud Muller." John Greenleaf Whittier. American. 1854. Narrative Poetry. Wealthy judge and a rustic beauty meet. They lament that they married someone else more "suitable."

1855. The Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) is founded at London to improve the condition of working girls by providing good food and a decent place to sleep for young women living away from home.

1855. Scottish missionary David Livingston discovers the falls on the Zambezi River that will be called Victoria Falls.

1855. The Paris International Exposition that runs from May to November hails French technological and economic progress.

1855. The first U.S. kindergarten opens at Watertown, Wisconsin, where the wife of German immigrant Carl Shurz has started the school for children of other immigrants.

1855. The Elmira Female College, founded at Elmira, NY, will be the first U.S. institution to grant academic degrees to women.

1855. Pennsylvania State University is founded.

1855. Familiar Quotations by Boston publisher John Bartlett is published.

1855. The Age of Fable by Boston scholar Thomas Bulfinch will be popular for generations as Bulfinch's Mythology.

Leaves of Grass. Walt Whitman. American. 1855. Poetry. "The United States are the greatest poem." Celebrates common people; poet must incarnate spirit and geography of the U.S. Takes his title from the themes of fertility, universality, cyclical life.

Sevastopol Sketches. Leo Tolstoy. Russian. 1855. Stories. Siege of Sevastopol during the Crimean War; departure from the usual war descriptions. Showed war not as heroic and glorious, but dangerous, tedious, bloody horror. Used stream of consciousness technique. Internal monologue. The "hero" of his stories was "truth."

Song of Myself. Walt Whitman. American. 1855. Poetry. Encompassing all, gives everything significance; equality and beauty of all things and people. Catalogues. Poet of wickedness as well as grandeur; dissolves into the universe.

"The Barefoot Boy." John Greenleaf Whittier. American. 1855. Poetry. Joy of a country childhood.

"Fra Lippo Lippi." Robert Browning. British. 1855. Poetry. Monologue. Painter in Florence gives his autobiography, views on life and art.

Hiawatha. Henry W. Longfellow. American. 1855. Narrative Poetry. Ojibway Indian reared by grandmother. Deeds in revenging mother against father, West Wind. Parodied mercilessly.

"Rabbi Ben Ezra." Robert Browning. British. 1855. Poetry. Poem on old age; one of the most distinguished Jewish literati in the Middle Ages.

Monday, November 19, 2007

1853 to 1854

"Sohrab and Rustum." Matthew Arnold. British. 1853. Poetry. Father and son meet in individual combat, unaware of their relationship.

"Bartleby the Scrivener." Herman Melville. American. 1853. Story. Lawyer hires Bartleby to copy, proofread legal documents. He eventually refuses to make any effort to work or to leave. "I should prefer not to."

"Cranford." Elizabeth Gaskell. British. 1853. Story. Peaceful little English village with mainly ladies who practice elegant economy and quaint social decorum.

"The Scholar-Gypsy." Matthew Arnold. British. 1853. Poetry. Scholar wanders off from Oxford to learn the gypsy traditions.

Tanglewood Tales. Nathaniel Hawthorne. American. 1853. Myths. Six Greek myths. Themes: revenge, effects of time, strange transformations.

1854. The Crimean War that begins March 28 will continue until 1856. British and French fleets have entered the Black Sea. Russia has broken off relations with both nations.

1854. The Battle of Balaclava, October 25, ends in victory for the allies and includes a cavalry charge of Britain's Light Brigade, led by the infamous Commander James Thomas Burdenell. Russian artillery cuts down 503 of his 700 men.

1854. A Boston mob attacks a federal courthouse, May 26, in a vain attempt to rescue the fugitive slave Anthony Burns.

1854. The Kansas-Nebraska Act signed into law by President Pierce opens to white settlement western lands that have been reserved by sacred treaty for the Indians.

1854. "An Investigation of the Laws of Thought, on Which Are Founded the Mathematical Theories of Logic and Probabilities," by self-taught English mathematician George Boole, advances the first workable system substituting symbols for all words used in formal logic.

1854. A Vatican ruling that makes the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin an article faith implies papal infallibility in all matters.

Walden, or, Life in the Woods. Henry D. Thoreau. American. 1854. Nonfiction. The "mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation." Lived at the pond from 1845 until 1847. His aim was to "front only the essential facts of life." He wanted to emancipate himself from slavery to material possessions. He described his observations and habits at Walden Pond; he watched the seasons unfold. He urges that life be simplified so that its meaning may become clear.

"Ten Nights in a Bar-Room and What I Saw There." Timothy Shay Arthur. American. 1854. Story. Melodramatic temperance tale. "Father, dear father, come home with me now." Little Mary's song at the saloon door.

Woodcraft, or The Sword and the Distaff. William Gilmore Simms. American. 1854. Novel. Set in Charleston, South Carolina, during 1782. Withdrawal of British troops is the chief historical even. Captain Porty rescues the slaves from the scheming British officers. It was the author's answer to Uncle Tom's Cabin.

Friday, November 16, 2007

1852 to 1853

"Days." Ralph Waldo Emerson. American. 1852. Poetry. "He is only rich who owns the day."

A Sportsman's Sketches. Ivan Turgenev. Russian. 1852. Stories. Life on typical great feudal estates in Russia; fictional narrator rambles through the countryside. Sympathetic to peasants; explicit condemnation of landowners. Serfdom abolished ten years after publication.

Uncle Tom's Cabin, or, Life Among the Lowly. Harriet Beecher Stowe. American. 1852. Novel. Trials, suffering, and human dignity of Uncle Tom; setting is Kentucky and Louisiana. Admiration for best Southern gentility; villain is a Vermonter.

Bleak House. Charles Dickens. British. 1852. Novel. Attacks the delays and archaic absurdities of the courts. Litigation uses up all the money.

Camille. Alexandre Dumas, fils. French. 1852. Play. Beautiful courtesan scorns wealthy protector and escapes with her penniless lover. Gives him up at the request of his family. Tragic reunion of lover and the dying Camille.

The Blithedale Romance. Nathaniel Hawthorne. American. 1852. Novel. Coldly inquisitive narrator, in revealing others, reveals himself.

Pierre, or the Ambiguities. Herman Melville. American. 1852. Novel. In the pursuit of truth, author causes the deaths of his mother, fiancee and sister.

The History of Henry Esmond, Esquire. Wm. Makepeace Thackeray. British. 1852. Historical Novel. Tangled plot. Henry Esmond thinks he is illegitimate; actually he is the lawful heir to the Esmond estate.

Childhood, Boyhood and Youth. Leo Tolstoy. Russian. 1852/54/57. Autobiography. Trilogy. Descriptions of life on provincial estate; among best depictions of nature in Russian literature.

1853. Congress appropriates $150,000 for a survey of the most practicable transcontinental U.S. railroad routes.

1853. The first manned heavier-than-air flying machine soars 500 yards across a valley carrying the terrified coachman of English engineer Sir George Cayley, 80, in a large glider.

1853. The United States Review predicts that "within half a century machinery will perform all work. The only tasks of the human race will be to make love, study and be happy."

1853. Fewer than half of Americans are engaged in agriculture, down from 83% in 1820.

1853. Potato chips are invented at Saratoga Springs, NY, where chef George Crum of Moon's Lake House gives a mocking response to a patron who has complained that his French fries are too thick. He shaves some potatoes paper thin and sends them out to the customers--who are delighted, order more and the rest is history.

Villette. Charlotte Bronte. British. 1853. Novel. English girl teachers at a girls' boarding school; secret love for a doctor. Recognizes true destiny with embittered headmaster, to whom she becomes engaged.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

1850 to 1852


The Scarlet Letter. Nathaniel Hawthorne. American. 1850. Novel. Theme: All men are guilty of secret sin; invasion of another''s soul is the unpardonable sin.

1851. France's Third Republic ends after 3 years in a December coup d'etat engineered by President Louis Napoleon Bonaparte.

1851. A mob of Boston blacks defies last year's Fugitive Slave Act and rescues the fugitive Shadrach from jail February 15.

1851. Men and women are treated equally and all classes of work are viewed as equally honorable in the Oneida Community which has 300 converts living in communal buildings mad of timber from the community's farms.

1851. The London Great Exhibition that opens May 1 is the world's first world's fair and in 141 days attracts more than 6 million admissions. It is intended to show British industrial achievement and prosperity.

1851. The New York Times begins publication September 18.

1851. Reuters News Service is started by German entrepreneur Paul Julius Reuter.

1851. Fire damages the Library of Congress in the Capitol at Washington December 24, destroying two-thirds of the collection acquired from Thomas Jefferson in 1814.

1851. Ireland suffers widespread blindness as a result of the malnutrition experienced in the potato famine that began n 1846.

1851. The first U.S. state prohibition law is voted in Maine.


Moby-Dick, or The Whale. Herman Melville. American. 1851. Novel. The whale hunted by Ahab at the cost of his own dehumanization and sacrifice of his crew. Does the whale equal knowledge of reality? Symbolic study of god and evil? Too complex for one definition?

The House of the Seven Gables. Nathaniel Hawthorne. American. 1851. Novel. Curse affects generations of family. Weight of past guilt. Unpardonable sin: violate another's soul.

Lavengro: The Scholar, Gypsy, Priest. George Borrow.l British. 1851. Novel. Philologist wanders with a family of gypsies.


1852. U.S. Democrats nominate "dark horse" Franklin Pierce of New Hampshire for president and he wins the election by defeating Whig candidate Winfield Scott of Mexican War fame.

1852. The first Boston street railway begins operations with a single horsecar.

1852. Massachusetts adopts the first effective compulsory school-attendance law.

1852. Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases is published by English-physician-scholar Peter Mark Roget.

1852. The safety elevator invented at Yonkers, NY, by master mechanic Elisha Graves Otis will lead to development of high-rise buildings.

1852. Napoleon III gives Paris the Bois de Boulogne as a public park and begins his reign with a huge program of public works.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


1850. An "Omnibus Bill" introduced by Sen. Henry Clay contains compromise resolutions designed to reduce the growing polarity between North and South. John Calhoun attacks the Clay compromise in his "Speech on the Slavery Question," but Daniel Webster supports Clay in his speech "For the Union and Constitution."

1850. President Taylor dies at age 65 after 16 months in office. His vice president Millard Fillmore moves into the White House.

1850. The first national women's rights convention opens at Worcester, Mass., largely through efforts by reformer Lucy Stone who has graduated three years ago from Oberlin College and will organize annual conventions each year for years to come.

1850. A new Fugitive Slave Act passed by Congress strengthens the 1793 act. A deputy U.S. marshal at New York arrests New York freedman James Hamlet as a fugitive from Baltimore in the first recorded action under the new act, but the arrest arouses so much public indignation that Hamlet is redeemed and freed.

1850. Congress abolishes flogging in the U.S. Navy.

1850. Britain enters a "Golden Age" of prosperity as she embraces free trade principles that remove tariffs on foodstuffs.

1850. Only half the children born in the U.S. until now have reached the age of 5. The percentage will increase dramatically.

1850. Fire damages San Francisco May 4, June 14 and September 17.

1850. Millard Fillmore installs the first White House cooking stove,but his cooks quit in protest, preferring to use the fireplace.

1850. The World's population reaches 1.24 billion by some estimates.

Representative Men. Ralph Waldo Emerson. American. 1850. Biography. Shakespeare (poet); Plato (philosopher); Swedenborg (mystic); Goethe (writer); Napoleon (man of the world); Montaigne (skeptic). "Uses" of great men. Modeled on Carlyle, but Emerson believed great men are representative of the time, not apart from it.

White Jacket, or The World in a Man-o-War. Herman Melville. American. 1850. Novel. Realistic account of life aboard a u.S. Navy man-of-war. Brutal and inhumane practices of the ship's officers. The white jacket almost drowns the hero, but he discards it and rises to the surface.

A Month in the Country. Ivan Turgenev. Russia. 1850. Play. Bored wife and her ward fall for tutor who is sent away; wife lapses into ennui.

Sonnets from the Portuguese. Elizabeth Barrett Browning. British. 1850. Poetry. Expresses poet's love for her husband. Title refers to a 16th-century Portuguese poet.

The Prelude. William Wordsworth. British. 1850. Poetry. Growth of a poet's mind--traces life from childhood.

"The Blessed Damosel." Dante Gabriel Rossetti. British. 1850. Poetry. Longing of lover in heaven for her lover on earth.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


1849. Maryland slave Harriet Tubman, 29, escapes to the North and begins a career as "conductor" on the Underground Railway that started in 1838. Tubman will make 19 trips back to the South to free upward of 300 slaves, including her aged parents whom she will bring to the North in 1857.

1849. News of last year's gold discovery at Sutter's Mill brings a rush of 7,000 "Forty-Niners" to California, whose population will jump in the next 7 years from 15,000 to nearly 300,000 as the gold fields yield $450 million in precious metal.

1849. Some 50,000 Forty-Niners pass through St. Joseph, Mo., a town of 3,000 whose location at the northern and western terminus of the Mississippi and Missouri River Steamboat Transport makes it a supply center for people preparing to walk the 2,000 miles to California.

1849. The first U.S. woman M.D. graduates at the head of her class at Geneva Medical College in Syracuse, NY, after having been ostracized by other students. Elizabeth Blackwell will play an important role in U.S. medicine.

1849. A safety pin is patented by New York sewing machine inventor Walter Hunt, who sells the patent rights for $400 in order to raise money to discharge a small debt.

1849. French physicist Armand H.L. Fizeau establishes the speed of light at approximately 186,300 miles per second.

1849. Moscow's Kremlin Palace is completed after 11 years of construction.

1849. A U.S. Department of the Interior that will eventually serve as custodian for the nation's natural resources is created March 5 by act of Congress.

1849. Thousands of U.S. farmers buy $100 McCormick reapers after being deserted by workers gone to California.

"Civil Disobedience." Henry Thoreau. American. 1849. Essay. "Government is best which governs least." True to oneself, one may then be true to government.

Shirley. Charlotte Bronte. British. 1849. Novel. At end of Napoleonic Wars; depressed wool industry; workers vs. hero, the mill owner.

Mardi and a Voyage Thither. Herman Melville. American. 1849. Novel. Complex. From narrative of adventure to allegory of mind. Symbolic quest for absolute truth. Events are more important on symbolic than realistic level.

"The Building of the Ship." Henry W. Longfellow. American. 1849. Poetry/Ode. Ship is the symbol for life and for the Union. Interweaves details with those of approaching marriage of the builder's daughter.

"Annabel Lee." Edgar Allan Poe. American. 1849. Poetry. Subject is Poe's favorite: death of a beautiful woman.

David Copperfield. Charles dickens. British. 1849/50. Novel. Autobiographical. Devastating expose of inhuman treatment of children in 19th-century England.

Monday, November 12, 2007


1848. London appoints John Simon its first medical officer of health and he creates a public health service that will be a model for those of other nations. Simon establishes the science of epidemiology by showing how environmental conditions can influence the spread and severity of disease.

1848. A telegraph line opens between New York and Chicago.

1848. Mormon farmers begin plowing the shores of Great Salt Lake and introduce irrigation to U.S. agriculture.

1848. San Francisco loses three-fourths of its population in 4 months as men hurry to strike it rich in the gold fields.

"The House of Life." Dante Gabriel Rossetti. British. 1848. Sonnet. Autobiographical. Title refers to house of human life in astrology.

Vanity Fair, A Novel Without a Hero. Wm. Makepeace Thackeray. British. 1848. Novel. Becky Sharp: clever, scheming, determined to get on in the world.

Dombey and Son. Charles Dickens. British. 1848. Novel. Father bitter on death of son; rejects loving daughter; after business failure, they are reconciled.

Mary Barton. Elizabeth Gaskell. British. 1848. Novel. Inhumanities suffered by impoverished weavers of Manchester.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Anne Bronte. British. 1848. Novel. Marriage destroyed by a dissipated husband.

"Eureka." Edgar Allan Poe. American. 1848. Essay. Material, spiritual unity of the universe. Non-Euclidean geometry? Surprisingly contemporary.

The Communist Manifesto. Marx/Engels. German. 1848. Nonfiction. Pamphlet. Analyzes history as class conflict, envisions classless society without personal property.

The Bigelow Papers. James Russell Lowell. American. 1848. Poetry and Prose. Poems in dialect; prose in standard English. Satirizes politicians, editors and the wealthy. Yankee dialect.

Fables for Critics. James Russell Lowell. American. 1848. Poetry/Satire. Witty profiles of leading writers: Emerson, Longfellow, Hawthorne, Poe, Cooper, Whittier, Holmes and himself.

Memoires d'outre-tombe (Memories from Beyond the Tomb). Francois Rene de Chateaubriand. French. 1848/50. Autobiography. Personal reminiscences by Chateaubriand.

The History of Pendennis. Wm. Makepeace Thackeray. British. 1848/50. Novel. Spoiled boy has affairs, matures, writes novel and marries true love.

Friday, November 9, 2007

1847 to 1848

Jane Eyre. Charlotte Bronte. British. 1847. Novel. Rochester, strange, violent, bereft of conventional courtesy, law to himself. Married to insane wife. Hero, heroine new types in English fiction. Not conventional heroine. No superficial beauty, charm.

Wuthering Heights. Emily Bronte. British. 1847. Novel. Heathcliff, a foundling, is strange, uncouth, passionate and disruptive. Wuthering Heights is the Earnshaw's lonely moorland home. "Wuthering" = turbulent weather. Catherine loves Heathcliff but suggests she can't marry him because it would degrade her. Furious, he leaves. Returns as polished, wealthy man. Exacts his revenge. Eventually, he gains control of Wuthering Heights.

Tancred, or the New Crusade. Benjamin Disraeli. British. 1847. Novel. Young, high-born visionary leaves social circles of 19th century London to travel in the East. Experiences "the great Asian mystery," which is to work for the regeneration of the West.

"Ulalume." Edgar Allan Poe. American. 1847. Poetry. Composed at the request of an elocutionist needing a poem to recite. Narrator and his soul walk in a "ghoul-haunted woodland" on Halloween. Stopped by the door of the forgotten tomb of the narrator's beloved, Ulalume.

Box and Cox. John Maddison Morton. British. 1847. Play. Farce. Characters are Box, Cox and the landlady. She rents the same room to both. One works at night, the other in the day. Hopes they won't know.

Evangeline, A Tale of Acadie. Henry W. Longfellow. American. 1847. Poetry. Lovers are separated when British expel the Acadians from Nova Scotia. They spend years searching for each other. Tragic reunion.

Le Cousin Pons. Honore de Balzac. French. 1847. Novel. Musical composer squanders his income on works of art. Ugly and lonely, he becomes a glutton and a parasite.

Omoo: A Narrative of Adventures in the South Seas. Herman Melville. American. 1847. Novel. Polynesian word for "wanderer." Hero and doctor friend explore the island of Tahiti.

Agnes Grey. Anne Bronte. British. 1847. Novel. Quiet account of life of ill-treated lonely governess who eventually marries a curate.

1848. French revolutionists force Louis Philippe to abdicate and proclaim a new republic. Prince Louis Napoleon Bonaparte is elected president.

1848. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ends the Mexican War that began in 1846.

1848. U.S. Whigs nominate Mexican War hero Zachary Taylor for the presidency in preference to the controversial party leaders Henry Clay and Daniel Webster.

1848. Paris students and workers seize the city in response to last year's Communist Manifesto and proclaim a new French Republic. The revolution spreads to Berlin, Budapest, Vienna and throughout much of Europe as the Manifesto appears in virtually every European language.

1848. The first Woman's Rights Convention opens at Seneca Falls, NY, under the leadership of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott.

1848. Gold is discovered in California January 24 by New Jersey prospector James Marshall while working to free the wheel in the millrace for a sawmill he is building on the American River for Johann Sutter. Stutter tries to keep Marshall's discovery a secret but the news appears in James Gordon Bennett's New York Herald and by year's end some 6,000 men are working in the gold fields.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

1846 to 1847

Typee: A Peep at Polynesian Life. Herman Melville. American. 1846. Novel. Sailors jump ship and wander into the Valley of Typee, inhabited by cannibals. Tempted to enjoy a somnolent vegetative existence, an American returns to civilization.

Mosses from an Old Manse. Nathaniel Hawthorne. American. 1846. Stories. Contains "Young Goodman Brown," "The Birthmark," and "Rappaccini's Daughter."

The Double. Fyodor Dostoevsky. Russian. 1846. Novel. Double appears in the life of an ineffectual civil servant, Golydakin. Opposite personality. G. ends up a madman.

Poor Folk. Fyodor Dostoevsky. Russian. 1846. Novel. Epistolary. Hopeless love of poor timid clerk for poor woman who marries wealthy landowner.

La Cousine Bette. Honore de Balzac. French. 1846. Novel. Harsh old spinster masks frustration, bitterness behind facade of good will. Destroys romance.

Some Adventures of Captain Simon Suggs, Late of the Tallapoosa Volunteers. Johnson Jones Hooper. American. 1846. Novel. Ridicules folkways of the South.

"The Birthmark." Nathaniel Hawthorne. American. 1846. Story. Scientist insists on removing small birthmark from wife's otherwise perfect face. With her imperfection removed, she is no longer human, and dies.

1847. The Battle of Buena Vista ends in a rout of Mexican forces under Gen. Santa Anna by U.S. troops led by Gen. Zachary Taylor.

1847. Escaped slave Frederick Douglass begins publication at Rochester, NY, of an abolitionist newspaper, the North Star.

1847. The communist Manifesto published late in the year says, "Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communist revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Workers of the world, unite!" The pamphlet is the work of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.

1847. Nearly 15,000 Mormons led across the mountains by frontiersman Jim Bridger arrive on the shores of Great Salt Lake in Mexican territory that will soon be ceded to the U.S.

1847. Nitroglycerin is discovered by Italian chemist Ascanio Sobrero whose highly explosive liquid will be used chiefly in dynamite. However, nitroglycerin will also prove useful in relieving symptoms of angina pectoris.

1847. More than 200,000 emigrants leave Ireland, up from 60,000 in 1842 and many come to America.

1847. The New York Commissioners of Emigration begin to keep accurate records for the first time. Between now and 1860 some 2.5 million immigrants will enter the U.S. through the port of New York alone and more than a million of these will be Irish.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

1845 to1846

1845. The Police Gazette begins publication. The weekly U.S. scandal sheet carries lurid illustrations.

1845. New Bedford, Mass., reaches the height of its whaling trade.

Sybil, or the Two Nations. Benjamin Disraeli. British. 1845. Novel. The two nations are the rich and poor working classes; distressed condition of the laboring class. Chartist movement during the 1840s.

"The Raven." Edgar Allan Poe. American. 1845. Poetry. Answers tormented questions of bereaved lover with "Nevermore."

The Rose and the Ring. Wm. Makepeace Thackeray. British. 1845. Burlesque. Burlesque fairy tale. Magic rose and ring make possessors lovely and lovable.

"Cricket on the Hearth." Charles Dickens. British. 1845. Story. Christmas tale. Cricket chirps when all is well and silent when unhappiness pervades. Mysterious boarder.

Facundo. Domingo Faustino Sarmiento. Argentina. 1845. Nonfiction. Famous for description of Argentine pampas and of gaucho types, the outlaw and the tracker.

Hard Times. Charles Dickens. British. 1845. Novel. Gradgrind. Grim practicality. Effects of father on children. Harsh condemnation of industrial England.

"The Purloined Letter." Edgar Allan Poe. American. 1845. Story. Letter used by cabinet minister for blackmail is found by Detective Dupin--in plain, but overlooked sight.

"How They Brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix." Robert Browning. British. 1845. Ballad. Onomatopoeic effects. Describes purely imaginary incident.

The Littlepage Manuscripts. James Fenimore Cooper. American. 1845/46. Novel. New York antirent controversy. Crisis in democracy. If contracts could be broken by mob rule, democracy would turn to anarchy. Sided with the landlords. Politics overcomes art in these novels.

1846. The Mexican War is precipitated by President Polk who sends Gen. Zachary Taylor to build a fort near or in Mexican territory. Warned to retire beyond the Neuces, Taylor does not an Mexican troops kill a U.S. reconnoitering party in a skirmish.

1846. California's Black Bear Revolt begins June 14 as settlers in the Sacramento Valley proclaim a republic independent of Mexico and raise a flag bearing a black bear and a star at Sonoma.

1846. Brigham Young leads Mormons in a trek to the Mexican Territory beyond the western limits of the U.S.

1846. Baseball rules are codified by the New York surveyor Alexander Cartwright of the Knickerbocker Baseball Club. Distances between bases are set at 90 feet, each team is to have nine players and is allowed three outs per inning.

1846. Famine sweeps Ireland as the potato crop fails and food reserves are exhausted.

1846. Irish emigration to England, Canada, Australia and America is spurred by the famine.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

1844 ti 1845

Pensees. Blaise Pascal. French. 1844 (Written in 1670). Nonfiction. Reflections on religion; testament of religious faith; man is helpless, a frail reed in a vast universe, but a thinking reed. Man's fall must be true; otherwise one can't explain the contradictions in man's nature. Faith not by reason alone. God's grace speaks to the heart.

"Rappaccini's Daughter." Nathaniel Hawthorne. American. 1844. Story. Daughter brought up on poisons becomes invulnerable to them. Scientist subordinates "heart to head." She drinks an antidote from a suitor, knowing she will die.

Don Juan Tenorio. Jose Zorilla y Moral. Spanish. 1844. Verse Drama. Falls in love with the virtuous Dona Ines, repents and is saved by her prayers.

The Count of Monte Cristo. Alexandre Dumas. French. 1844. Novel. False political charge condemns Dantes to life imprisonment. Escapes. Revenges himself.

The Three Musketeers. Alexandre Dumas. French. 1844. Novel. French history from 1624 to 1665. Narrow escapes and amazing exploits of four friends.

Maria Magdalena. Freidrich Hebbel. German. 1844. Play. Great drama produced at moments in history when old order and new are in conflict. Theory. Influenced by Hegel. Pregnant, web of conflicting motives and obligations, fear of social reproach, suicide. Father's final comment; "I don't understand this world anymore."

"Lady Geraldine's Courtship." Elizabeth Barrett Browning. British. 1844. Poetry. Lady falls in love with a peasant poet, whom she marries. This poem led to her meeting Robert Browning.

The Memoirs of Barry Lyndon, Esq., Written by Himself. Wm. Makepeace Thackeray. British. 1844. Novel. Narrator is a scoundrel who engages in a succession of affairs without any feelings of responsibility.

Coningsby, or The New Generation. Benjamin Disraeli. British. 1844. Novel. Pictures contemporary figures, thinly disguised. People were interested in identifying them.

The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit. Charles Dickens. British. 1844. Novel. Slashes at American provincialism and selfish, grasping Chuzzlewit Englishmen.

1845. Mexico severs relations with the U.S. following U.S. Senate ratification of a treaty to annex Texas.

1845. United States Magazine and Democratic Review editor John L. O'Sullivan asserts U.S. claims to Oregon Territory "by right of our manifest destiny to overspread and to possess the whole of the continent" in his July-August issue.

1845. The First Tuesday following the first Monday in November is established by Congress as election day for electors of presidents and vice presidents.

1845. The Adventist Church is founded by U.S. evangelist William Miller, now 72, whose 1836 prediction of the Second Coming in 1843 proved wrong but who has nevertheless attracted a considerable following.

Monday, November 5, 2007

1842 to 1844


The Mysteries of Paris. Eugene Sue. French. 1842. Romance. Kaleidoscope of life in Paris.

"Locksley Hall." Alfred Lord Tennyson. British. 1842. Poetry. Last look at youthful home where his lover married a rich clown because of social, parental pressure.

"Pied Piper of Hamelin." Robert Browning. British. 1842. Poetry. Piper lures rats to drowning. When he is not paid, he lures children, who vanish.

American Notes. Charles Dickens. British. 1842. Travel. Travel sketches. Gave great offense in U.S. Harsh, patronizing observations.

1843. Former Boston schoolteacher Dorothea Lynde Dix reveals inhumane treatment of mental patients to the Massachusetts legislature.

1843. Yellow Fever sweeps the Mississippi Valley, killing 13,000.

1843. Congress appropriates $30,000 to enable Samuel F.B. Morse to build an experimental telegraph line between Washington, D.C., and Baltimore.

1843. The typewriter patented by Worcester, Mass., inventor Charles Thurber is a hand-printing "chirographer" with a cylinder that moves horizontally and contains a device for letter spacing.

"The Tell-Tale Heart." Edgar Allan Poe. American. 1843. Story. Buries dismembered victim. While police search, hears beating of dead man's heart. In a frenzy, he confesses to the killing; ticking was the dead man's watch.

"A Christmas Carol." Charles Dickens. British. 1843. Story. Conversion of Scrooge by visions of Christmases past, present and to come. Becomes benevolent, loving.

The Cry of the Children. Elizabeth Barrett Browning. British. 1843. Poetry. Intense sympathy for victims of child labor in English mines and factories.

"The Gold Bug." Edgar Allan Poe. American. 1843. Story. Sullivan's Island off South Carolina. Location of buried treasure. Unravels instructions. Beetle - the gold bug.

The Bible in Spain. George Borrow. British. 1843. Travel. Travel book. Vivid pictures of Spanish life during Carlist troubles.

Modern Painters (5 Vols.) John Ruskin. British. 1843/60. Art Criticism. Landscape painters; superirority of contemporary artists over old masters.

1844. A band of 15 Texas Rangers led by Col. John Coffee Hays attacks a party of some 300 Comanches. The Rangers kill half the Indians and intimidate the rest with Colt revolvers that can fire six shots without reloading.

1844. The Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) is founded at London.

1844. Mormon leader Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum are jailed at Carthage, Ill., for wrecking the offices and press of a rival Mormon newspaper in town. A mob of 200 men drags the Smiths from their jail cell the night of June 27 and lynches them. Brigham Young is chosen to succeed Smith.

Friday, November 2, 2007


1842. The Treaty of Nanjing ends the Opium War that began in 1839, opening China to wholesale exploitation by the Western powers. China cedes Hong Kong to Britain.

1842.The Webster-Ashburton Treaty signed by U.S. Secretary of State Daniel Webster and Baron Ashburton Alexander Baring, finalizes the Maine-Canadian border.

1842. The owner of a fugitive slave may recover him under the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793, the Supreme Court rules.

1842. Britain's Mines Act takes effect, prohibiting employment in mines of women, girls and boys under age 10.

1842. Massachusetts enacts a child labor law that limits the working hours of children under 12 to 10 hours per day.

1842. The Oregon Trail mapped by U.S. army lieutenant John Charles Fremont will take thousands of emigrants westward.

1842. Jefferson, GA., physician Crawford Williamson Long performs the first recorded operation under general anesthesia.

1842. Notre Dame University is founded at South Bend, by French Catholic missionary Edward Frederick Sorin.

1842. Villanova University is founded by Roman Catholics at Philadelphia.

1842. "Tom Thumb" is exhibited by P.T. Barnum who has discovered the midget Charles Sherwood Stratton at Bridgeport, Conn., and will use him to gain world prominence. Stratton will stand no taller than 25 inches until he is in his teens, and at maturity will be no more than 40 inches tall with a weight of 70 pounds. Queen Victoria will give him the title General Tom Thumb.

1842. Gimbels department stores have their beginnings in a Vincennes, Ind., trading post opened by American peddler Adam Gimbel.

1842. Hamburg is largely destroyed by a fire that rages in the German city from May 5 to 7 and in 100 hours ravages 4,219 buildings that include 2,000 dwellings.


"My Last Duchess." Robert Browning. British. 1842. Poetry. Renaissance Duke suggests that his wife died because she did not appreciate the honor of marrying him.

"The Overcoat." Nikolay Gogol. Russian. 1842. Story. Major development in Russian realism. Poor copyist loves his new overcoat. He is robbed, dies heartbroken. Outbreak of overcoat robberies follows his death. His ghost?

Dead Souls. Nikolay Gogol. Russian. 1842. Novel. Archswindler Pavel Chichikov. "Buys" serfs who have died since last census. Was Gogol a realist or fantasist?

Lays of Ancient Rome. Thomas Babington Macaulay. British. 1842. Ballads. Chief ballads are "Horatius," "The Battle of Lake Regilius," and "Virginia."

"The Pit and the Pendulum." Edgar Allan Poe. American. 1842. Story. Condemned by the Inquisition, narrator narrowly escapes death.

Consuelo. George Sand. British. 1842. Novel. Gypsy girl raised in the streets of Venice becomes successful opera singer.

"Break, Break, Break." Alfred Lord Tennyson. British. 1842. Poetry. Inspired by the death of his friend Arthur Hallam.


Source for “Society”: The People’s Chronology. James Trager. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1992. Source for “Literature”: Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia. Fourth Edition. Ed. Bruce Murphy. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1996.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

1840 to 1841

Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque. Edgar Allan Poe. American. 1840. Stories. First book of tales. Based tales on the terror of the soul, not German Gothicism.

The Pathfinder, or The Inland Sea. James F. Cooper. American. 1840. Novel. Lake Ontario. French and Indian Wars. Natty Bumppo disappointed in love.

1841. William Henry Harrison dies of pneumonia April 4 at age 68, just one month after taking office as U.S. president. Vice president John Tyler moves into the White House.

1841. California's Fort Ross is purchased from the Russian colonists, who established it in 1811, by Swiss-American pioneer John Augustus Sutter.

1841. Brook Farm is founded at West Roxbury, MA, by New England intellectuals who join former Unitarian minister George Ripley and his wife Sophia in forming a commune and school that will pursue truth, justice and order.

1841. A New York State Fair at Syracuse begins the tradition of U.S. state fairs dedicated to the advancement of agriculture and the home arts.

"The Over-Soul." Ralph Waldo Emerson. American. 1841. Essay. Concept of primal mind, cosmic unity of which all men partake. Keystone of Emerson's philosophic thought.

La Comedie Humaine (The Human Comedy). Honore de Balzac. French. 1841. Novels. The name Balzac gave to the whole body of his work. France seen from a variety of perspectives. 2000 characters. Areas of study: manners (private, provincial, Parisian, country, political, military), philosophy and marriage.

Barnaby Rudge. Charles Dickens. British. 1841. Novel. Anti-Catholic Gordon Riots, 1780. Cause: Government ignores the needs of the poor. Barnaby's father is a murderer.

"Compensation." Ralph Waldo Emerson. American. 1841. Essay. Every evil is balanced by a good. No need for an afterlife.

"The Wreck of the Hesperus." HW Longfellow. American. 1841. Poetry. Inspired by a newspaper account of an actual wreck at sea.

"Murders in the Rue Morgue." Edgar Allan Poe. American. 1841. Story. Mother, daughter brutally murdered in crime that baffles police. Poe's detective is C. Auguste Dupuin.

The Deerslayer. James F Cooper. American. 1841. Novel. Natty Bumppo's youth. Lake Otsego. Delaware Indians. Fight Hurons. Resists romance. Chingachgook enteres.

Pippa Passes. Robert Browning. British. 1841. Verse Drama. Pippa's song alters the destiny of those who hear her.

"Self-Reliance." Ralph W Emerson. American. 1841. Essay. Some of the best-known epigrammatic sentences. Trust your own judgment.

Essays, First and Second Series. Ralph W. Emerson. American. 1841/44. Essays. First: "Self-reliance"; "Compensation"; "The Over-Soul." Second: "Poet"; "Manners"; "Gifts"; "Nature"; "Politics."