A Second Trove of Literary Trivia


I’ve finished David Markson’s Reader’s Block, yes, but no–I’m not done sharing some of the neat trivia found in this unusual “novel.” Here are more, all taken directly from his 1996 book:


Yeats once asked Hardy how he coped with the endless copies of his books sent to him with requests for inscriptions. Hardy led Yeats to a back closet. Piled from floor to ceiling.

Emily Dickinson told Thomas Wentworth Higginson that she had not read Whitman. But had heard that he was disgraceful.

Why is the red wheelbarrow beside the white chickens rather than vice versa?

C.P. Cavafy lived with his mother until he was thirty-six.

Tennyson said that scissors was the one word in the English language he could not rhyme.

Men never do evil so completely and so cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction. Said Pascal.

Napoleon told Goethe he had read The Sorrows of Young Werther seven times.

Anne Hathaway was twenty-six when she told Shakespeare she was pregnant. Shakespeare was eighteen.

Kafka laughed repeatedly when he was reading his own work.

Valéry to Gide: Do you know anything more boring than the Iliad?

An audience of fully three thousand gave Akhmatova a standing ovation after a reading in Moscow in 1944. About which Stalin, hearing of it: Who organized this response?

The books Shelley had with him when he drowned were a Keats and a Sophocles.

At Walden, Thoreau was borrowing land owned by Emerson. And was no more than a ten-minute stroll from Concord.

Philip Larkin: Who’s Jorge Luis Borges?

That man writes really too sloppily, said Joyce of D.H. Lawrence.

Oscar Wilde said that Henry James composed novels as if it were a painful duty.

Edith Wharton’s family owned the Chemical Bank of New York. Wharton lived with an entourage virtually like royalty.

Twenty-five hundred years of Western philosophy is but a series of footnotes to Plato, Whitehead said.

Jonathan Swift left his money to found a hospital for the insane. And died mad.

Wilkie Collins maintained two households simultaneously. Both with mistresses.

Stendhal was an officer with Napoleon’s armies in the retreat from Moscow in 1812.

In Act II of Troilus and Cressida, Shakespeare allows Hector to mention Aristotle. Who will not be born until some nine hundred years after the fact.

Jack Kerouac lived with his mother for most of the last twenty years of his life.

Stephen Crane was the catcher on his Syracuse University baseball team.

Henry Fielding is buried in Portugal.


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