Tobias Smollett Day

Tobias SmollettBack in 1860, William Jennings Bryan was born on this day. He has a bit of a bad reputation because he was on the wrong side of the Scopes Trial. But the truth is that he was a good strong progressive. I don’t doubt that today he would accept evolution. Sadly, he died just after “winning” that trial in 1925.

It seems most days are good days for Nazi birthdays, and today is no exception. Hitler’s architect Albert Speer was born in 1905. He spent most of his life after World War II arguing that he didn’t know about the genocide. I tend not to believe him, but I will allow that he wasn’t the evilest of men. Speaking of the evilest of men, Adolf Eichmann was born in 1906. I will give Eichmann this: at least he had the good taste to get captured so we could hang him. (I know, I know: I don’t believe in capital punishment. But if anyone does deserve it, it is Eichmann.)

Philip Roth is 80 today. He’s been spouting a lot of nonsense recently, but he was very important to me when I was younger. Burt Metcalfe, the MASH TV series writer, is 78. There are Hollywood birthdays today: Glenn Close, Harvey Weinstein, and Bruce Willis. If you want more details, go over to IMDb! One birthday today shocked me: Sirhan Sirhan is 69 today. I thought he died years ago.

And finally, the man of the day: Tobias Smollett was born in 1721. He wrote the fourth real English translation of Don Quixote. It is one of two mid-18th century translations (the other being Charles Jervas), both of which are quite readable today, even without modern editing. However, Smollett has the advantage of being edited by Carole Slade for the Barnes & Noble Classics edition. As I’ve written before, this edition is worth its price just for Slade’s notes. Give it a read!

I claim this day, 19 March, as Tobias Smollett Day. Hallmark may start printing the cards!

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