What I Learned On My Way to My Novel

Part of the fun of doing historical research is finding the quirks of famous people.  My writing partner, Gail Upp (really her name), and I included some of these into World Enough and Time, the mystery-romance we are writing.  We discovered them while researching the 18 famous artists, writers, musicians and mathematicians who time-travel into the future.  Some didn’t make the cut, some did.  Below are tidbits we enjoy.  Hope you do, too.

Felix Mendelssohn didn’t butter his toast, he dunked it into his coffee.

Jane Austen loved the color yellow.

Ludwig van Beethoven liked his coffee so strong that it took 60 beans to make one cup.  He also like mac & cheese.

Christopher Marlowe was killed—possibly assassinated—in a swordfight where he was fighting three other men.  Take that, Errol Flynn!

The artist Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio was a murderer, who was condemned by the Pope.  He (Caravaggio) left town quickly.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was left-handed, and may have had Asperger’s Syndrome.

Ada Augusta King, Countess Lovelace, was a computer pioneer.  Although she died in 1852 she created computer programs for computers which didn’t exist yet.  In the 1940s her programs were loaded onto computers, and they worked.  The computer programming language ADA is named for her.  She was also Lord Byron’s only legitimate offspring.

Franz Schubert was only 5’2”, and so near-sighted he sometimes fell asleep wearing his glasses.

Percy Bysshe Shelley was a vegetarian.

The poet Amy Lowell was part of the famous Lowell family of Massachusetts.  The town of Lowell, MA is named for a relative.

Charles Baudelaire kept a bat in a cage by his writing desk.

What quirks do you think people will remember about you after your death?

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12 thoughts on “What I Learned On My Way to My Novel

    • OMG! Talk about a Sophie’s Choice. The singer in me says: Having nobody care! The writer in me says…pretty much the same thing.

  1. Greetings, LARA sister. I will probably end up being killed in a fire started by my own candles, which I generally have burning somewhere around me. Or by a towering stack of books, but aren’t most readers and writers in danger of that?

    • Not a bad way to go, actually. Second only to in a bubble bath, after fabulous sex, with a glass of pinot noir in one hand and a slice of fudge cake with rum meringue icing in the other.

  2. I’ve recently re-developed a fascination with the author John Crowley–and through one of his novels, I knew about Ada Augusta King. The novel is called, appropriately enough, Lord Byron’s Novel: in it, Crowley channels both Bryon (the titular novel itself is included) and Ada (through found correspondence), as well as several other voices. It reminds me a bit of A.S. Byatt’s Possession, though it’s not quite as ponderous. It isn’t my favorite Crowley, but it’s a good read. The dunking of toast into coffee instead of buttering it is not unique to Mendelssohn, though it is interesting he indulged in it (I always thought of it as something Ozark Hills people did). And I had no idea mac & cheese had been around so long–though I bet they didn’t use Velveeta in Beethoven’s day (and probably still don’t in Germany, nor did we in my house, back when I used to indulge in such hedonism).

    I wonder what kind of bat?

  3. You mean apart from being amazon.com’s best customer and being a book nut? I’ll have to think about that, but while we’re on the subject of historical quirks of Percy Bysshe Shelley, we should include the somewhat substantiated rumor that while living in Wales, an assassin (from a political party opposed to Shelley’s quite open and radical views) nearly succeeded in killing him.

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