World’s Strangest

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How Did the Monocle Become a Symbol of Wealth and Prestige?

The monocle was once a status symbol worn by wealthy and powerful men like Canadian politician Sir Louis-Napoléon Casault. How did this fashion develop? Slate’s J. Bryan Lowder explains: Though the exact origins of the monocle are unclear, fashion historian Richard Corson sets their general appearance around the turn of the 19th century in Great Britain, with quick [...]

Christmas Carol-a-Thon

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is such a classic tale that many, many movie versions, television shows, and stage plays have been produced since the story was published in 1843. Balladeer’s Blog has an ongoing series on those productions, from the forgettable 1923 silent movie to the silly 1983 made-for-tv special “Scrooge’s Rock and [...]

11 Historical Geniuses and Their Possible Mental Disorders

Studies have shown that there are much higher instances of mental disorder in political leaders and creative geniuses than in the general population. And while it’s impossible to be completely sure of a correct diagnosis of a historical figure, that hasn’t stopped researchers from making educated guesses. Here’s a speculative look at the mental health [...]

10 Famous Literary Characters Based on Real People

“Write what you know,” they say. So it makes sense that many authors take a good look around at friends and family when creating characters for their books. 1. Mark Twain once admitted that he wasn’t terribly creative in creating Huckleberry Finn – he based the character almost precisely on his childhood friend Tom Blankenship. From [...]

Before The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins Wrote for Clarissa Explains It All

Your Before-They-Were-Famous-Authors Fact of the Day (via @mental_floss): Years before she published The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins wrote for several Nickelodeon shows, including Clarissa Explains it All. Charles Dickens labeled bottles at a boot polish factory. John Steinbeck helped build the old Madison Square Garden. What’s your favorite Before-They-Were-Famous-Authors story?

7 Other Famous Abbeys in England

The most famous abbey in England right now is not actually an abbey at all — it’s a castle. Highclere Castle is the stand-in for Downton Abbey, the eponymous location of the mega-popular British series about an upstairs-downstairs household in the early 1900s. While Downton might be the only abbey about which people in the [...]

The Quick 10: A Christmas Carol

It was 168 years ago this week that Tiny Tim and Ebeneezer Scrooge made their debut. In 1843, Charles Dickens’ Christmas classic was published in England. Despite the fact that it’s been around for ages, there are a few things you might not know about A Christmas Carol: 1. A Christmas Carol must hold some sort [...]

How a Punctuation Mark Gave Us Uncle Tom’s Cabin

If you Google “Semi-Colon Club” right now, you’re going to get a lot of stuff about colon cancer awareness. But back in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s heyday, the Semi-Colon Club was a gathering of extraordinary writers living in Cincinnati, Ohio.   In 1832, at the age of 21, Harriet moved to Cincinnati with her father when he accepted [...]

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children: Chapter Three

I’m beginning to feel like Charles Dickens, serializing my novel like this! Actually, it’s fun — I love hearing readers’ reactions to discrete chunks of the book, although it sounds like many of you have given up reading for fear of spoiling the book for yourself. But fear not! There are lots of unexpected twists [...]

Charles Dickens Cat Paw Letter Opener

Charles Dickens’s letter opener with the paw of his cat, Bob, 1862. Berg Collection. Does the handle of that letter opener remind you of something? Perhaps something feline? It’s Charles Dickens’ letter opener and the handle is the paw of his pet cat, Bob. I’m assuming Dickens preserved the paw because he loved the cat. You [...]