Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Fun Facts about American Literature

I'm interested in history, especially American history, which I obliquely taught as American literature in high school for about, I would guess, ten years.

Through that study, we learned that Edgar Allen Poe married his thirteen-year-old cousin (though he claimed she was 21 on the marriage application) (marriage to cousins was legal and even preferred at that time since one knew the wife's family), left both the University of Virginia (gambling debts) and West Point (deliberately provoked a court martial), and possibly wrote "Anabel Lee" about a love lost to death about his wife who had died of tuberculosis two years early. Poor Poe.

We also learned that ardent conservationist Henry David Thoreau, in the words of a Boston Globe article,

"...started a  blaze in the Concord Woods (on April 30, 1844), scorching a 300-acre swath of earth between Fair Haven Bay and Concord. The fire was an accident, but the destruction of valuable woodland, the loss of firewood and lumber (it was the town wood lot), and the narrowly avoided catastrophe that almost befell Concord itself angered the local residents and nearly ruined Thoreau's reputation. For years afterward, Thoreau could hardly walk the streets of his hometown without hearing the epithet 'woods burner.'"

Another fun fact that attracted students' attention was that Ernest Hemingway's house in Key West to this day is home to 40-50 polydactyl (six-toed) cats, (Cats normally have five front toes and four back toes.) presumably descended from one polydactyl cat given to Heminway by a sea captain.

Fascinating facts all, I'm sure. Tomorrow I'll write about my discovery of some facts related to my family and American history.

1 comment:

  1. Watch out! I may retaliate with little-known chemistry facts...for example, did you know that when aluminum was first discovered, it was so rare that the French king threw out his silver service and replaced it with aluminum? (The reason it was all the rage was that it was thought to be self-renewing. Any time it was scratched, the scratch 'healed' itself--really, aluminum oxide formed from contact with the air and filled in the scratch. You can try this on your very own aluminum beach chairs....) Chem stories--I got a million of 'em.