More exciting entries from my Forgotten English Calendar:
How things change… not!
The Great Disappointment
As morning dawned on this date (October 23) in 1844, many early Seventh Day Adventists were bewildered and distraught because the second scheduled Second Coming, as predicted by their leader William Miller, had fizzled. Many of these followers had, in preparation for the first Judgment Day on March 21, 1844, settled their earthly accounts, said good-bye to their friends, sold or given away their possessions, donned their white muslin “ascension robes,” and listened eagerly for the sound of Gabriel’s trumpet. According to John farmer’s Americanisms Old and New (1889), “The highways and byways were thronged with anxious crowds of men and women, while the trees in the orchards and the roofs of houses were filled with the more impatient Millerites, who thus hoped to be nearer to their new home in Heaven.” A few years later, Mark Twain lampooned this non-event in his Innocents Abroad, saying, “A multitude of people in America put on their ascension robes and made ready to fly up to heaven.”
Think Frank Sinatra and Elvis were the first to make the ladies swoon?
Birthday of Franz Liszt (October 22, 1811 – 1886)
Hungarian-born composer who followed the example set several decades earlier by dynamic soloist Niccolo Paganini. Liszt, whose performance histrionics included the tossing of his gloves to ecstatic female fans, possessed a pianistic virtuosity and unique personal charisma that inspired fainting spells.
The French in particular seem to have responded to Liszt, perhaps due to a tradition that is explained by the etymology of the verb “to faint” in William Matthew’s Words: Their Use and Abuse (1884): “Faint is from the French se feindre, to pretend, so that originally fainting was a pretended weakness or inability. We have an example of the thing originally indicated by the word in the French theaters, where professional fainters are employed, whose business it is to be overcome and to sink to the floor under the powerful acting of the tragedians.”
Think we have frivolous lawsuits NOW?
The Defense Rests
On October 17, 1521, French lawyer Barthelemy Chassanee honed his legal skills by defending his most unusual clients—rats that had ravaged a barley crop earlier that year. In Autun, France, the farmers were out for revenge, but not surprisingly the “defendants” failed to appear, prompting Chassenee to argue that the summons was invalid because it failed to have been served on ALL the rats. After another summons was issued, Chassenee pleaded cleverly that “evilly-disposed cats” owned by the prosecutors had kept his clients from appearing through intimidation, for which he demanded a bone guaranteeing the rats safe passage to court. When prosecutors refused to provide such an assurance the judge had no choice but to dismiss the absurd charges. The first recorded animal trial—that of a hive of bees that had severely stung a man—took place in 864. These cases continued for more than a thousand years, involving pigs, horses, dogs, and even chickens, caterpillars, and gnats.