December 26

Amber pages

Thomas Gray, English poet, born today in 
1716; though given that the only poem of his that anybody knows was an elegy in a country churchyard, perhaps this should move to his death-date, which was July 30th 1771. Himself, as it happens, is buried in an extremely picturesque country churchyard, St. Giles in Stoke Poges, in Buckinghamshire.

Charles Babbage, developer of the first speedometer, born today in 
1791. Interesting that this is how we remember the man who virtually invented the computer (but see my Ada Lovelace piece on June 5)

Henry Valentine Miller, American novelist, born today in 
1891, somewhere between Cancer and Capricorn. How far does a person's name impact on the person they become? Many who hate their name so much they use the middle name instead, or just the initials, or take a pseudonym, or change it entirely by deedpoll. Miller simply ignored his middle name, perfectly content with Henry. But it must have affected him. It isn't something you want to tell a girlfriend, on a first or even on a second date, not because it sounds gay, but because it might sound presumptive... but on the other hand, given what HVM spent most of his books writing about...

Mao Tse-Tung, aka Mao Ze Dong, leader of the Chinese communist revolution, born today in 1893 - visit his birthplace with me, in my collection of travel-essays "Travels In Familiar Lands"

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