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TODAY: Births: Robert Burton, author and scholar, 1577; Giovanni Francesco Barbieri (Il Guercino), painter, 1591; Samuel Butler, poet, 1612; John Ruskin, writer, artist and art critic, 1819; Jules Verne, novelist, 1828; Dame Edith Mary Evans, actress, 1888; Lana Turner (Julia Jean Mildred Frances Turner), actress, 1920; James Dean (James Byron), actor, 1931. Deaths: Mary, Queen of Scots, beheaded 1587; Peter the Great, Tsar of Russia, 1725; Prince Peter Alekseyevich Kropotkin, anarchist and geographer, 1921; John Langstraw Austin, philosopher, 1960; Sir Victor Gollancz, publisher and writer, 1967. On this day: the Great Frost of London ended, 1740; 14 British mercenaries were executed by firing squad in Angola, 1976. Today is the Feast Day of St Cuthman, St Elfleda, St Jerome Emiliani, St John of Matha, St Meingold, St Nicetius or Nizier of Besancon and St Stephen of Muret.

TOMORROW: Births: Anthony Hope (Sir Anthony Hope Hawkins), novelist, 1863; Mrs Patrick Campbell (nee Beatrice Stella Tanner), actress, 1865; Amy Lowell, poet, 1874; Alban Maria Johannes Berg, composer, 1885; Brendan Behan, playwright, 1923. Deaths: John Hooper, Bishop of Gloucester and Worcester, burnt at the stake, 1555; Nevil Maskelyne, astronomer royal, 1811; Feodor Mikhailovich Dostoievsky, novelist, 1881; Elizabeth Mary Russell (Beauchamp), Countess Russell ("Elizabeth"), novelist, 1941; George Norman Douglas, novelist and essayist, 1952; Alexandre Nikolayevich Benois, painter and theatre designer, 1960; Bill Haley (William John Clifton Haley), rock musician, 1981; Yuri Vladimirovich Andropov, Russian leader, 1984. On this day: the Peace of Luneville was signed between France and Austria, ending the Holy Roman Empire, 1801; Rome was proclaimed a Republic under Giuseppe Mazzini, 1849; Verdi's opera Falstaff was first performed, Milan 1893; soap rationing began in Britain, 1942; the first trial flight of the Boeing 747 jumbo jet took place, 1969; an earthquake in southern California claimed 64 lives in and around Los Angeles, 1971; the British government declared a state of emergency following a month-long miners' strike, 1972; Britain and East Germany established diplomatic relations, 1973; Spain and the Soviet Union re-established diplomatic relations after 38 years, 1977; Lithuania voted to secede from the Soviet Union, 1991. Tomorrow is the Feast Day of St Alto, St Ansbert, St Apollonia, St Nicephorus of Antioch, St Sabinus of Canosa and St Teilo.