It is Morris’s birthday today, March 24th, way back in 1834. So: happy birthday to you, William Morris! How does it feel being 176 years old – a figure that even Old Hammond in News from Nowhere, who is a respectable 105 years old himself, doesn’t come anywhere near matching?
Yet Morris’s birthday is not the only literary anniversary of note taking place on March 24th each year. We might also want to notice that:
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, of ‘Hiawatha’ fame, died on March 24th 1882
J.M. Synge, the Irish dramatist, died from Hodgkin’s disease on March 24th 1909
Lawrence Ferlinghetti, the colourful New York poet, was born on March 24th 1919
Charlotte Mew, Thomas Hardy’s favourite female poet, committed suicide on March 24th 1928
Ian Hamilton, poet and author, was born in King’s Lynn on March 24th 1938
Jo Shapcott, poet and translator, was born on March 24th 1958.
I have gleaned my facts from those indispensable volumes Poem for the Day nos 1 and 2 (2001 and 2003), which contain brief poems to memorise for each day of the year; and I intend to alert Jo Shapcott to the coincidence of dates and to invite her to write a birthday poem to William Morris on the strength of it. But there must be other things that the list above misses out ...