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An ode to my literary heroes!

Posted On : October 12 2017

An ode to my literary heroes!

I was going through the calendar for the month of October, and I found that some of the gems of English Literature were born in this month. So instead of writing about each of them separately I brought them all together in one blog.


October 16, is Oscar Wilde’s birthday, he was born in the year 1854. I was introduced to Oscar Wilde by two of his works. I remember studying ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ in my 12th class syllabus (now the likes of Chetan Bhagat are being considered to be part of a syllabus...I am appalled!). I read ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’, while in college. The story is of an exquisitely handsome Gray, who prays for eternal good looks as his sits in front of an artist for his portrait to be painted. And, as a result his picture ages and withers while he remains an Adonis ‘made out of ivory and rose leaves’ this despite the corrupt and dissolute life that he starts to lead truly captivated me.  

What makes Oscar Wilde relevant even today? Because according to me he observed human behaviour and showed it realistically with wit and the tragedy in his work, he created characters that resonated with the reader. Finally, I would say, who can write as elegantly as him...sample this... "We are all of us in the gutters. But some of us are looking at the stars."

Although he wrote beautifully his own life was no less dramatic with his-physical beauty, intelligence, a doomed love affair, the trial, jail, and memorable last words (whether he actually said them or not), “Either that wallpaper goes or I do.”

He had something for every age, as a child, one can read his exquisite fairy tales ‘The Happy Prince and Other Tales’; as a teenager, ‘The Portrait of Dorian Gray’ is a delicious fable which has the capacity to run shivers down your spine; and as adult you read everything he wrote and rather wish you'd written it yourself!

To get on with the other literary figures who were born this month...

A student of English Literature everyone will have definitely studied Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Born on October 21, in the year 1772, he is best known for his long poems, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Christabel. Do you use the metaphor ‘an albatross around one's neck’, the quotation ‘water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink’ (almost always used as ‘but not a drop to drink’), and the phrase ‘a sadder and a wiser man’ (again, usually used as ‘a sadder but wiser man’). The phrase ‘All creatures great and small’ have all been taken from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. His works Christabel, known for its musical rhythm, language, and its Gothic tale and Kubla Khan, have an additional ‘romantic’ aura around them because they were never finished.  

At eighty-nine, Doris Lessing, born on October 22, was the oldest writer to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, and the eleventh woman to do so. She was born in Persia, in 1919, to British parents, and she grew up on their failed farm in what was then Southern Rhodesia. She moved to England, took younger artists into her home, and wrote book after book. Her phenomenal body of work includes The Grass Is Singing (1950), the sequence of five novels collectively called Children of Violence (1952–69), The Golden Notebook (1962), The Good Terrorist (1985), and five novels collectively known as Canopus in Argos: Archives (1979–1983). When she won Nobel, she titled her Nobel Lecture On Not Winning the Nobel Prize and used it to draw attention to global inequality of opportunity, and to explore changing attitudes to storytelling and literature. The lecture was later published in a limited edition to raise money for children made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS. Her works are a must read.

The next bit is not about the birth date of a literary figure, but, nevertheless a birth of a literary gem- Sense and Sensibility, a novel by Jane Austen. It was first published on October 30 in the year 1811. Being an Austen fan I love the story of Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, sisters who respectively represent the ‘sense’ and ‘sensibility’ of the title. With their mother, their sister Margaret, and their stepbrother John, they make up the Dashwood family. The story revolves around the romantic engagements and the trials tribulations and of the family. Though not considered a masterpiece/classic it is an important work from Jane Austen in literature.

Yes, it’s a big post but I still have to write about one final literary figure. On October 31, 1795, was born another great poet- John Keats.  He was one of the main figures of the second generation of Romantic poets, along with Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley, despite his works having been in publication for only four years before his death at age 25 in the year 1821.

He published only fifty-four poems, in three slim volumes and a few magazines. I remember never missing classes when John Keats was being taught to us.  I loved studying ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’ (1819), ‘Ode to a Nightingale (1819) and ‘On Autumn’ (1820) in college. His other body of work comprises of Poems (1817), Endymion (1818), La Belle Dame Sans Merci (1819), Lamia, Isabella, and The Eve of St. Agnes, and Other Poems (1820).


I think I have captured quite a bit of English Literature in my post today. But it has been worth it, I am paying homage to my literary heroes, who I keep going back to for inspiration.

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