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The Independent Culture

Births: Voltaire (Francois-Marie Arouet), philosopher and writer, 1694; Cornelius Varley, water-colour painter, 1781; William Skeat, philologist, 1835; Sir Leslie Ward ("Spy"), caricaturist, 1851; Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller- Couch ("Q"), novelist and editor, 1863; Sir Harold George Nicolson, diplomat and biographer, 1886; Harpo (Adolph, or Arthur) Marx, comedian, 1888; William Alexander Gerhardi, writer, 1895; Rene-Francois Ghislain Magritte, painter, 1898.

Deaths: Sir Thomas Gresham, founder of the Royal Exchange, 1579; Henry Purcell, composer, 1695; James Hogg, writer, the "Ettrick Shepherd", 1835.

On this day: the Montgolfier brothers made the first hot-air balloon flight, 1783; a Bill making women eligible as MPs received Royal Assent, 1918; the German battle fleet surrendered to the Allies, 1918; construction work began on the Forth Road Bridge, 1958; proceedings in Parliament were televised for the first time, 1989.

Today is the Feast Day of St Albert of Louvain and St Gelasius I, pope.


Births: Thomas Cook, travel agent, 1808; George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans), novelist, 1819; George Robert Gissing, novelist, 1857; Cecil James Sharp, founder of the English Folk Dance Society, 1859; Wassily Kandinsky, painter, 1866; Andre-Paul Guillaume Gide, writer, 1969; General Charles-Andre Marie- Joseph de Gaulle, French president, 1890; Howard Hoagland (Hoagy) Carmichael, songwriter, 1899; Edward Benjamin Britten, Baron Britten, composer, 1913.

Deaths: Sir Martin Frobisher, navigator, 1594; Sir Arthur Seymour Sullivan, composer, 1900; John Griffith (Jack) London, novelist, 1916; Alfred Edward Woodley Mason, author, 1948; Clive Staples Lewis, author, 1963; Aldous Leonard Huxley, 1963; John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 35th US President, assassinated 1963; Mae West, actress, 1980; Anthony Burgess (John Anthony Burgess Wilson), novelist, philologist, composer and critic, 1993.

On this day: Vasco da Gama rounded the Cape of Good Hope, 1497; the first battle of Ypres ended, 1914; treasury notes of the value of pounds 1 and ten shillings were replaced by Bank of England notes, 1928; Juan Carlos of Bourbon was sworn in as King of Spain, 1975; Margaret Thatcher resigned as Prime Minister, 1990.

Tomorrow is the Feast Day of St Cecilia or Cecily and Saints Philemon and Apphia.