Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success.
Posts tagged 19th century.
Sicilienne, Op. 78 (1893) - Gabriel Fauré
May 6, 1895: Rudolph Valentino is born.
Born in Italy, Rudolph Valentino was one of the most popular actors of the last years of the silent movie era - his most notable films, including The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, The Sheik, Blood and Sand, The Eagle, and The Son of the Sheik, were released between 1921 and 1926, the year of his death. Unlike swaggering swashbucklers like Douglas Fairbanks and masculine leading men like John Gilbert, Valentino was loved and criticized for his “femininity” and his un-American, exotic looks, which caused him to be typecast in roles like that of the titular character in The Sheik. One editorial in the Chicago Tribune was scathing in its criticism of Valentino and his destructive (in the opinion of the editorial’s author) attack on American masculinity:
A powder vending machine! In a men’s washroom! Homo Americanus! Why didn’t someone quietly drown Rudolph Guglielmo [sic], alias Valentino, years ago?… Do women like the type of “man” who pats pink powder on his face in a public washroom and arranges his coiffure in a public elevator?
Valentino’s popularity as a romantic lead and sex symbol was unrivaled at the time (and few from that era have left legacies as enduring), and when he died of pleuritis at the early age of thirty-one, it was reported that several of his fans had attempted suicide and that riots had broken out at his funeral. His untimely death only further cemented his status as a cultural icon.
Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta. She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita.
April 22, 1899: Vladimir Nabokov is born.
Vladimir Nabokov was born in Saint Petersburg and wrote many of his novels (including his earliest nine) in Russian, but his most famous work, the controversial classic Lolita, was written in English. Nabokov was born to an aristocratic Russian statesman (killed in 1922 by monarchist assassins) and his wife; the Nabokovs enjoyed a cushy and privileged lifestyle in St. Petersburg until 1919, when they were forced into exile in Western Europe. There, Nabokov studied at Cambridge, wrote short stories and poetry under a pseudonym, and composed his first major work in English - The Real Life of Sebastian Knight, shortly before he and his family (including his Jewish wife, Vera Nabokov née Slonim) fled to the United States from France in 1940 with the onset of the German invasion of France.
In the U.S., Nabokov worked at a number of institutions (New York’s Museum of Natural History, Stanford, Wellesley, Harvard, and Cornell) teaching in a number of different fields (entomology, creative writing, comparative literature, Russian, and Russian and European literature). In addition to his fiction writing, Nabokov was also an accomplished literary critic, chess problemist, and entomologist - in fact, he wrote his most famous novel while studying butterflies in the Rocky Mountains. Lolita and Pale Fire (1962) were ranked fourth and fifty-third on the Modern Library’s 100 Best Novels List, respectively.
April 16, 1889: Charlie Chaplin is born.
A tramp, a gentleman, a poet, a dreamer, a lonely fellow, always hopeful of romance and adventure.
April 14, 1865: Abraham Lincoln is assassinated.
Five days after the surrender and deactivation of the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House (the effective end of the war), Abraham Lincoln was shot in the head by John Wilkes Booth, a stage actor and Confederate sympathizer. The demise of the Confederacy pushed Booth, a strongly pro-South, anti-Lincoln Maryland native, over the edge, and he abandoned a kidnapping plot that he and co-conspirators Lewis Powell, George Atzerodt, David Herold, Samuel Arnold, Michael O’Laughlen and John Surratt had been formulating since 1864 in favor of simple assassination.
On April 14, they learned that President Lincoln would be attending a performance of the play Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theatre, in Washington, D.C., later that evening. He and the conspirators gathered once more, and it was decided that Lewis Powell and David Herold would attack Secretary of State William Seward, that George Atzerodt would carry out an assassination attempt on Vice President Andrew Johnson, and that Booth himself would kill Lincoln. The only attack of these that resulted in a death was Booth’s. He entered the Lincolns’ private theatre box during a particularly humorous moment in the play and shot the President once in the head, before leaping onto the stage, where he yelled either the Virginia state motto - “Sic semper tyrannis” - or “the South is avenged!” Booth broke his leg sometime between the fall and his escape, and he went on the run before being shot outside a barn in Virginia on April 26.
Lincoln, meanwhile, was moved to a house across the street from the theatre; he was pronounced dead early the next morning, the day before Easter Sunday. Utterly divisive as a leader in life, Lincoln was nevertheless mourned by millions in both the North and South in death.