The Rest Is History

A broke novelist, a bird-loving composer, and a murderous pig.

By Angela Serratore

Friday, September 15, 2017

A pig stands trial for murder in 1471. Illustration from The Book of Days: A Miscellany of Popular Antiquities, c. 1869.

• Edgar Allan Poe, freelancer: “A lot of fans know ;Edgar Allan Poe earned just $9 for ‘The Raven,’ now one of the most popular poems of all time, read out loud by schoolteachers the world over. What most people don’t know is that, for his entire oeuvre—all his fiction, poetry, criticism, lectures—Poe earned only about $6,200 in his lifetime.” (The Millions)

• Leafing through Vogue, c. 1892. (Pictorial)

• Oscar Dunn, the first black lieutenant governor in American history: “Dunn was born a slave in 1822 in New Orleans. In 1831, his mother married a free man of color named James Dunn who bought her freedom, and that of Dunn and his sister, for $800. Dunn assumed his stepfather’s surname and received a traditional English education, Mitchell wrote, which likely meant he attended the Grimble Bell School, an institution that educated free black people in Louisiana. He also apprenticed as a plasterer, becoming extremely skilled at the craft. That work led him to leadership positions in Louisiana’s black masonic lodges, which, according to Mitchell, were extremely influential in Reconstructionist politics in the South.” (Atlas Obscura)

• Mozart and his pet starling. (The Spectator)

• A brief history of animals on trial: “In 1386, in the old Norman city of Falaise, a ‘vast and motley’ crowd gathered to witness the execution of a convicted murderer. Spectators donned their best velvet and feathers, the prisoner was given a new suit for the occasion, and an artist memorialized the scene in fresco. For more than 400 years (until its careless destruction in 1820 by a whitewasher), the west wall of the town church was a testament to that day’s incredible proceedings: the aforementioned criminal was a pig, which ‘had indulged in the evil propensity of eating infants on the street’ and was sentenced to be maimed in the head and forelegs prior to hanging.’ ” (JSTOR Daily)

• Fred Astaire dances through the 1950s. (The Paris Review Daily)