October 30

1811, 1910


"Sense and Sensibility", Jane Austen's first published novel, brought out by Thomas Egerton in London, today in 1811. She was 35 years old. "Pride and Prejudice" followed in 1813, "Mansfield Park" in 1814, "Emma" in 1815, all of them written at Chawton House, the Elizabethan manor in Hampshire which her brother had acquired. 

"Persuasion, which she called "The Elliots" and may have been the reason for Mary Ann Evans choosing the nom de plume that she did, came out in 1817, alongside Northanger Abbey, both posthumously. She had fallen ill in 1816, with what was probably Addison's Disease, though that had not yet been discovered and so it was not available for diagnosis, let alone treatment. In April 1817 she made her will; in May she was hospitalised in Winchester; on July 18th she died. Six days later she was buried in Winchester Cathedral, where you can still see her grave.

Amber pages

Richard Brinsley Sheridan, dramatist, born today in 1751

Alfred Sisley, French impressionist painter, born today in 

Paul Valery, French poet, born today in 1871

Louis Malle, film director, born today in 

Orson Welles' "War of the Worlds", broadcast today in 1938 

And today in 1910, Jean Henri Dunant, the Swiss founder of the Red Cross Society, died. The irony of "posting" this will not be lost on anyone who has browsed my BibleNet. The point about the original of the Red Cross (Exodus 12:7 ff) was that, by smearing blood from a sacrificed lamb on the doorposts of your house, the Messenger of Death ("angel" is a mis-translation) would know that you were eating matzah and charoset and doing the full Spring Festival Seder, established centuries before Moses came along, rather than the pagan religious practices of the Hyksos conquerors who had officially prohibited the rite, and would "pass over" your home, leaving you alive. 

The Hyksos and their supporters would also have had a sign on their doorposts, signifying their religious faith, an Eye of Horus, or Eye of Ra - it was known as both at different times and in different parts of the Nubian world. In modern Judaism, oddly, it is as a version of the Eye that it has endured, the mezuzah - the word means doorpost - being its Hebrew equivalent, with the letter Sheen for El Shadai, Abraham's name for god, on the outside, and a parchment copy of the Shema, the central credo of Judaism, on the inside. Only a short distance from here to the Red Cross, hung like a mezuzah on the front of the building; and then, in the Jewish world, to a red Star of David (Magen David Adom), and in the Moslem world a red Crescent. Boats in Malta still carry the Eye of Horus...

And "the irony of posting this" with which I started this entry? Dunant's death-day, not his birth, nor the one on which he founded, or launched, the Red Cross society. I can only assume he forgot to place a Red Cross on his own door, and that is why the Messenger of Death failed to "pass over".

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