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Literature Facts & Myths

23 Dec

Can't get enough of novels, poems, authors and literature facts? We put together a salmagundi of our favourite facts about famous authors, their works, and lives. We hope you will enjoy them!

1. Which poet dug his poems up from the grave?

In 1862, Elizabeth Siddal, the wife of famous English poet Dante Rossetti, died of an overdose of laudanum, shortly after giving birth to a stillborn child. Rossetti had become increasingly depressed, and on the death of his beloved Lizzie, he buried the bulk of his unpublished poems with her at Highgate Cemetery. A few years later he was offered a contract to publish the poems, but he was not able to restore them from his memory. His friends persuaded him to exhume the body of his wife, which enabled the poems to be published.

Read some of his sonnets:

2. Who added to the word "divine" into the title of the poem “The Divine Comedy"?

Dante Alighieri's work was originally simply titled Comedìa. In those days, there was a strict division of poems, whereby in the high genre, a tragedy about serious matters was written in Latin, and in the low genre, comedies about more down-to-earth matters with happy endings, were written in everyday language. Though the Divine Comedy addresses quite serious topics, due to its "vulgar" use of Italian, the poem was not allowed to be called a tragedy. The word "Divina" was added by Giovanni Boccaccio after Dante's death. The first printed edition to add the word "Divina" to the title was that of the Venetian humanist Lodovico Dolce, which was published in 1555 by Gabriele Giolito de' Ferrari.


3. What famous Voltaire quote about free speech was actually written by a woman?

The phrase: "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it" is often misattributed to Voltaire himself. In fact the quote was written in the Evelyn Hall's biographical work The Friends of Voltaire as an illustration of Voltaire's beliefs. Hall's quotation is often cited to describe the principle of freedom of speech.

Some Historical works of Voltaire:

History of Charles XII, King of Sweden:
History of the Russian Empire Under Peter the Great:

4. What was the shortest telegraphic correspondence in literary history?

An apocryphal tale about the shortest correspondence in literary history is said to have been between Victor Hugo and his publisher Hurst and Blackett in 1862. Hugo was on vacation when Les Misérables was published. He queried the reaction to the work by sending a single-character telegram to his publisher, asking "?". The publisher replied with a single "!" to indicate its success.

Notable works of Victor Hugo:

5. Who came up with the plot of the novel "The Count of Monte Cristo?"

When writing his works, Dumas used numerous assistants and collaborators, of whom Auguste Maquet was the most well-known. Maquet is known to have outlined the plot of The Count of Monte Cristo, and to have made significant contributions to The Three Musketeers and its sequels, as well as several of Dumas' other novels. Their method of working together was for Maquet to propose plots and write drafts, while Dumas added the detail, the dialogue, and the final chapters. Although it should be noted that thanks to the talent of Dumas, his novels are saturated with vivid detail and vibrant dialogue.

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