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Black Lamb


Now in its 14th year of publication, this magazine was created to offer the discerning reader a stimulating selection of excellent original writing. Black Lamb Review is a literate rather than a literary publication. Regular columns by writers in a variety of geographic locations and vocations are supplemented by features, reviews, articles on books and authors, and a selection of “departments,” including an acerbic advice column and a lamb recipe.


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Honorary Black Lambs

May 1st, 2016


April’s auspicious aspect is affirmed by the greatest of all literary birthday boys, William Shakespeare, who, legend has it, died on his fifty-second birthday on April 23, 1616. And one of the towering geniuses of the beckettdrawingtwentieth century, Samuel Beckett, was also born this month, allegedly on Good Friday the 13th, in Dublin in 1906.

On April Fool’s Day in 1868, the popularizer of seventeenth-century poet Cyrano de Bergerac, Edmond Rostand, was born. His play based on the early poet has found its way past literature into folklore, as have (almost) the exploits of Flashman, the creation of George MacDonald Fraser, born on the 2nd in 1925. George Herbert, born on the 3rd in 1593, lived to be only forty, but he wrote a great deal of memorable verse and would be counted among poetry’s immortals if he had not confined himself entirely to devotional themes. William Wordsworth, born on the 7th in 1770, suffered no such limitation and is therefore often put in that august company.

As is Charles-Pierre Baudelaire, born on the 9th in 1821, although we’ve never been able to determine why. This may be one of those cases, as with Balzac and Hugo, of the rest of the world taking the French’s word for it.

In the meantime, while we’re in France, here’s to two transplanted Americans who lived there, both of them associated with food: Alice B. Toklas (born on the 30th in 1877) and Waverly Root (the 15th, 1903), who published The Food of France in 1958.

Henry James, whose novels are often said to be inaccessible to readers under fifty but perhaps oughtn’t to be thus restricted, was also born on the 15th, although sixty years before Mr. Root, than whom he could scarcely have been more different. Of April playwrights, besides Shakespeare and Beckett, there is no dearth: Alan Ayckbourn (the 12th, 1939); John Millington Synge, one of those people who never loses his middle name (the 16th, 1909); and Thornton Wilder (1897, the 17th).

And let us not forget fictioneers Eudora Welty (born just three years after Beckett, to the day) and Cynthia Ozick (the 17th, 1928). The best novelist of the Bronte family, Charlotte (Jane Eyre) was born on the 21st in 1816; she undoubtedly knew the writings of essayist William Hazlitt, born on the 10th in 1778.

More English novelists: Kingsley Amis (the 16th, 1922); Anthony Trollope on the 24th in 1815; and Daniel Defoe, perhaps the first English novelist, born on the 24th in either 1659 or 1660. Let us not forget American novelists: J.P. Donleavy (Shakespeare Day, 1926); Robert Penn Warren, also a remarkable poet (the 24th, 1905); and Bernard Malamud, equally if not more adept at short fiction (the 26th, 1914). And one great Russian novelist who is also a great American novelist, Vladimir Nabokov, also born on Shakespeare Day, in 1899.

Poetry anyone? C.P Cavafy (born and died on the 17th, 1863-1933) joins the others and represents Greece. Which leaves only two very clear-spoken fellows, the emperor and philosopher Marcus Aurelius, whose birthday is generally rendered as April 20, 121, and brilliant prose writer and philsopher David Hume (the 26th, 1711), one of the glories of Scotland.

Not to mention, on the 4th, Marguerite Duras (1914) and playwright Robert Sherwood (1896); on the 5th, outrageous poet Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837) and Booker T. Washington (1856); Yiddishist Leo Rosten (the 11th, 1908); poet Seamus Heaney (Beckett Day, 1939); and novelist-enabler George Henry Lewes (the 18th, 1817), remembered not for his own books for his those of his partner Mary Ann Evans (George Eliot).

And a special tip of the hat to Thomas Jefferson (Beckett Day again, 1803), whose book collection became the Library of Congress. •

From the April 2003 issue

Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Animal Issue, Books and Authors, Honorary Black Lambs | Link to this Entry


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