February 16, 2018 – Writers’ & Poets’ Birthdays & Other Literary History
Today is Friday, Feb. 16, 2018. It’s the birthday of poet Peter Porter, biographer Nigel Hamilton, and screenwriter Albert Hackett. And today in 1741, Benjamin Franklin published the first issue of “The General Magazine.” Today’s poem is “On a Pair of Garters” by Sir John Davies. Thank you for reading and sharing Bidwell Hollow.
Born today in Brisbane, Australia in 1929 was poet Peter Porter.
After growing up in Australia, Porter moved to London in 1951. On the boat to England, he met the aspiring novelist Jill Neville. Porter left enough of an impression on Neville that she based a character in her first novel, “Fall-girl,” on Porter.
In London, Porter got a job as an advertising copywriter. The agency where he worked employed other budding poets and writers, such as Edwin Brock and Peter Redgrove. This led to Porter joining an informal group of poets called The Group, of which Redgrove was a member.
Porter published his first poem in a university magazine in 1957. And his first collection, “Once Bitten, Twice Bitten,” came out in 1961.
His second volume, “Poems Ancient & Modern,” published in 1964. Porter then released many more collections over the next 40-something years.
Porter’s poetry focuses on modernity while displaying its author’s understanding of literary history. Porter’s known for short, witty poems. He was in his lifetime one of Britain’s most prolific and beloved poets.
Along with writing, Porter edited several poetry anthologies and translations.
He received many awards, such as the Duff Cooper Prize in 1983, the Gold Medal for Australian Literature in 1990, and, in 2002, the Queen’s Gold Medal. He became a Companion of Literature of the Royal Society of Literature in 2007.
Peter Porter, who died in 2010, once said, “What I have written, I have written, and I do the best I can.”
Franklin’s “The General Magazine” Publishes
On this date in 1741, Benjamin Franklin (affiliate link) published the second monthly magazine issued in America.
Franklin started his print shop in 1728. For several years he turned out publications such as Poor Richard’s Almanack. But he wanted to produce in America a monthly magazine, a format that had become popular in England.
One of Franklin’s publishing competitors, Andrew Bradford, had the same idea. Bradford already had the distinction of having published Pennsylvania’s first newspaper.
The two men raced to see who could put out their magazine’s first issues first.
Bradford named his magazine the American Magazine, or a Monthly View of the Political State of the British Colonies. And Franklin chose an even snappier title, The General Magazine, and Historical Chronicle, For all the British Plantations in America.
Bradford won the race when his American Magazine rolled off the presses on Feb. 13, 1741.
Franklin’s General Magazine followed three days later. It does have the distinction of carrying the first magazine advertisement in America.
And Franklin’s magazine outlived Bradford’s American Magazine, which folded after three issues. Franklin’s General Magazine lasted six.
Today is also the birthday of biographer Nigel Hamilton (affiliate link). He was born in Northumberland, England, in 1944.
Hamilton’s written several biographies, including about British Gen. Bernard Montgomery. But it’s Hamilton’s book about a young John F. Kennedy that may have generated the most attention.
“JFK: A Reckless Youth” published in 1992. It’s about the first 29 years of Kennedy’s life. The book paints Kennedy’s parents, Joe and Rose, in an unflattering light. And it conveys details about Kennedy’s sex life.
The book spent 11 weeks on The New York Times bestsellers list. But it also received a critical op-ed in the Times by Kennedy’s surviving siblings, including Sen. Ted Kennedy.
Published on Dec. 3, 1993, the opinion piece begins with “we categorically reject the misjudgments, mischaracterizations, insinuations and outright falsehoods about our family relationships portrayed in the book ‘JFK: Reckless Youth.'”
For his part, Hamilton said he “was rather hurt” by the op-ed. He claimed the Kennedys were more concerned with their brother’s legacy than history. And he accused the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library of withholding documents.
Even with the book’s criticism, ABC produced a TV miniseries also titled “JFK: A Reckless Youth.” It starred Patrick Dempsey as JFK and aired in 1993.
Hamilton intended, though, for the first JFK book to be one of three. But given the difficulty he faced in completing one book, he abandoned the project.
Hamilton’s instead published other books, such as two biographies of President Bill Clinton. And his most recent book is last year’s “Commander in Chief: FDR’s Battle with Churchill, 1943 (FDR at War).”
And it’s the birthday of Albert Hackett, born in 1900 in New York City.
You may not know Hackett’s name, but you’ve probably seen at least one of his movies. He, along with his wife Frances Goodrich, wrote the screenplays for films such as “The Virginian,” “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” and “It’s A Wonderful Life.”
The husband and wife team first met as actors in 1924. They married and moved to Hollywood in 1931, and by 1934 they had written their first big hit, the movie “The Thin Man.”
During their time in movies, Hackett and Goodrich earned four Oscar nominations.
But it was their play “The Diary of Anne Frank” that won them the most attention. The production is about Frank, a Jewish teenager trying to survive the Holocaust in the occupied Netherlands. The play’s an adaptation of Frank’s diary, “Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl.”
“The Diary of Anne Frank” opened on Broadway in 1955 and was an instant hit. The play won the 1956 Tony Award for Best Drama. And Hackett and Goodrich provided the screenplay for the play’s movie version, which released in 1959.
“On a Pair of Garters”
Go, loving woodbine, clip with lovely grace
Those two sweet plants which bear the flowers of love;
Go, silken vines, those tender elms embrace
Which flourish still although their roots do move.
As soon as you possess your blessed places
You are advancèd and ennobled more
Than diadems, which where white silken laces
That ancient kings about their forehead wore.
Sweet bands, take heed lest you ungently bind,
Or with your strictness make too deep a print:
Was never tree had such tender rind,
Although her inward heart be hard as flint.
And let your knots be fast and loose at will:
She must be free, though I stand bounden still.
– Sir John Davies, Public Domain