Did you know?

by Ejike Okpa II

George Washington Carver developed hundreds of products from peanuts, sweet potatoes, cotton and soy beans. He created over 300 products from the peanut.

Edgar Allan Poe was expelled from West Point in 1831 when he appeared at a parade in his birthday suit.

Agatha Christie wrote several mysteries about people getting poisoned. She really knew about chemicals because she worked in a hospital laboratory during World War I. Christie once considered a career in opera.

Though he was not blind but had failing eyesight, Aldous Huxley learned Braille so that he might rest his pained eyes without having to give up reading, which he so enjoyed. One of the compensations, Huxley said, was the pleasure of reading in bed in the dark, with book and hands snugly under the bedclothes.

Alexandre Dumas, author of The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers, embarked on the career of a romantic at 23, when he fought his first duel, during which his trousers fell down.

While still in his mid-teens, Arthur Rimbaud revolutionized French poetry. His poems had a hallucinatory dream-world quality. Then at the age of nineteen, he abandoned his writing career and became a traveling salesman. (He smuggled guns into the Ethiopian jungle and lived there with his African harem. He died at 37, in Marseilles, following amputation of a gangrenous leg.)

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author of the Sherlock Holmes stories, was an ophthalmologist by profession.

Because of his spindly arms and legs, the satirist Alexander Pope was described as a “crazy little carcass” of a man. To keep his miniature body erect he wore stiff canvas. To swell his pin-sized legs to something approaching normal, he wore three pairs of stockings.

For the last 12 years of his life, Casanova was a librarian.

Charles Darwin cured his snuff habit by keeping his snuffbox in the basement and the key for the snuffbox in the attic.

Charles Dickens had to be facing north before he could write a word. He was also an insomniac and always had to be in the middle of the bed, which had to be pointed in a northerly direction, so that he would be aligned with the poles.

Clare Boothe Luce was not allowed by her husband, Henry Luce, founder of Time Inc. to participate in the development and running of Life magazine, though she had created the concept. She turned instead to writing the Broadway play The Women. It ran for 657 performances on Broadway, was translated into 26 languages and was twice made into a movie.

Cyrano de Bergerac really lived (from about 1620 to 1655) big nose, dueling and all. He was a poet, a dramatist and a science-fiction writer. He wrote of voyages to the moon and to the sun, and was the first person in history to suggest (in 1650) the one method that could carry us into space—rockets.

Mystery writer Dashiell Hammett was once a detective with the Pinkerton agency. He got his first promotion for bringing in a man who had stolen a Ferris Wheel.

D. H. Lawrence, on of the most original and controversial writers of the twentieth century, had a fancy for removing his clothes and climbing mulberry trees.

Dylan Thomas was fond of reducing the results of a heavy evening by lying in bed and eating jelly-babies.

One of Dylan Thomas’ more amusing pastimes in his 20’s was to heat pennies up on a Bunsen burner in his friend’s second floor jewelry shop and toss them into the street. He and his friend spent many an hour curled up on the floor in hysterics as people burnt their fingers trying to pick up the pennies.

The phrase “a lost generation” used by Ernest Hemingway in The Sun Also Rises (1926), originated with a garage owner in the French Midi. In conversation with Hemingway’s friend Gertrude Stein, the man had referred to his young mechanics as “une generation perdue.”

Edgar Rice Burroughs served in the U. S. cavalry, fighting against the Apache Indians out west until he was discharged, when it was discovered that he was under age.

Emily Dickinson used to talk to visitors from an adjoining room because she was so self-conscious about her appearance.

Lord George Byron was so devastated upon the death of his beloved Newfoundland, whose name was Boatswain, that he had inscribed upon the dog’s gravestone the following: “Beauty without vanity, strength without insolence, courage without ferocity, and all the virtues of man without his vices.”

Dante, Christopher Marlowe, Daniel Defoe, Andrew Marvell & Lord Byron all acted as government spies.

Goethe couldn’t stand the sound of dogs barking and could only write if he had an apple rotting in his desk drawer. Goethe knew six languages by the time he was 15-years-old.

British author John Galsworthy was desperate for a quiet place to finish his play “Justice,” so he threw a brick through a storefront window and finished the play during a six-month jail sentence.

Jonathan Swift wrote in Gulliver’s Travels about 2 moons circling Mars. He described their size and speed of orbit 100 years before they were discovered by astronomers.

Hans Christian Andersen sang while working in a cloth factory until his work mates pulled down his pants to see if he was a girl. His singing won him the patronage of an Italian opera singer and the director of the Dutch Royal Theater.

Henry Wheeler Shaw was thrown out of Hamilton College in 1833 for removing the clapper from the chapel bell. He became a drifter and jack-of-all-trades until after he was fifty years old, when he took the pen name Josh Billings and began writing humorous pieces with deliberately bad spelling. He said, “man haz az much rite tew spell a word az it iz pronounsed as he haz tew pronounse it the way it ain’t spelt.” People in those days laughed themselves silly over this kind of thing, and Josh Billings became a tremendous success, leaving behind such timeless sayings as (spelled corrected): The wheel that squeaks the loudest is the one that gets the grease.

Henry David Thoreau’s nose was so long he could swallow it.

That death-defying, lady killing master spy 007 was the fictional namesake of a bird fancier. One of Ian Fleming’s favorite books was Birds of the West Indies, written by a naturalist named James Bond.

Isaac Asimov is the only author to have a book in every Dewey-Decimal category.

John Keats was so influenced by Shakespeare that he kept a bust of the Bard beside him while he wrote, hoping that Shakespeare would spark his creativity.

Poet John Mansfield, famous for his poems about ships, saltwater and wind, actually spent only a very small part of his life aboard ship as sea life did not suit him. Mansfield’s first voyage brought to him the experience of sea sickness and on his second voyage he deserted ship to find work as a land-lubber in New York City.

Kazuo Ishiguro, author of Remains of the Day, once aspired to be a rock star.

Leo Tolstoy, author of War and Peace had his wife copy his manuscript by hand seven times. As a boy Leo Tolstoy and his brother formed a club whose initiation required the prospective member to stand in a corner for thirty minutes and not think about a polar bear.

Lewis Carroll wrote his books while standing up.

The first book ever written on a typewriter was The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Mark Twain used a Remington in 1875. When Mark Twain was born, Halley’s comet was visible over Florida, Missouri. Twain predicted that he would die when it returned. When he died on April 12, 1910, Halley’s comet was once again visible in the sky.

It took Noah Webster 36 years to write his first dictionary.

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