Posted on 05/19/2015 at 12:00 AM by Sadye Scott-Hainchek

May 19 saw the passing of two key literary figures (James Boswell and Nathaniel Hawthorne) and the birth of a third (Malcolm X).

Boswell, born to a prominent Scottish family on Oct. 29, 1740, gained fame in his lifetime for his biography of dictionary author Samuel Johnson. 

More than 150 years after his May 19, 1795, death, Boswell’s long-lost journals were first published. His diaries include detailed dialogue and vivid descriptions of characters, and are noteworthy for having been written as though Boswell is still living in each particular moment. 

Next to live, leave his mark and die was Hawthorne. The descendent of a judge who presided over the Salem witch trials was born July 4, 1804, in Salem, Mass. (Unsurprisingly, the noted author added a W to his name to distinguish himself from John Hathorne.)

Hawthorne is best-known for his novels “The Scarlet Letter” and “The House of the Seven Gables” and the short story “Young Goodman Brown.” Literary scholar/critic extraordinaire Harold Bloom said recently of “The Scarlet Letter”:

"Hester Prynne remains the grandest, most poignant, and most enduring female character in American literature. She is our truest feminist in that she will not yield to the Puritan morality that condemns her and her heroic sexuality."

Hawthorne died in his sleep on May 19, 1864, after years of poor health. 

The short life of Malcolm X began May 19, 1925, as Malcolm Little. At a young age, he lost both parents – his father to murder by the Klan-like Black Legionaries, his mother to a mental breakdown and institutionalization.

By his mid-20s, he’d been jailed for burglary, joined the Lost-Found Nation of Islam, and shed his “slave name” in favor of the letter X. 

His autobiography, compiled in the final two years of his life with author Alex Haley, details his eventual disillusionment with the Nation of Islam and his participation in the civil rights movement. The book concludes with an epilogue on his Feb. 21, 1965, assassination.

Categories: Today in Books

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