Notable Bicentennials: Events from 1816


In 1816, Jane Austen finished the manuscript that was published as Persuasion the following year. Photo by reifyashi (Flckr/Creative Commons)

Since we’re just beginning to get to know 2016, last week I shared events from 100 years ago. Today I’d like to share another list of anniversaries, this time from 200 years ago:

  • In Europe and New England, 1816 was “The Year Without Summer.” The year before Mt. Tambora in Indonesia erupted–for four months. Not only did the volcano kill many people, but it released so much ash that it helped change the global climate. New England had snow and frost, and Europe had lots of dark, rainy days.
  • In fact, Europe’s summer weather was so dark and wet, it played a role in the creation of one of the world’s great horror stories. Nineteen-year-old, British Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (soon-to-be Mary Shelley) was in Switzerland when she began to write Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus, published the next year.
  • 1816 was a big year for British women authors. Charlotte Brontë, author of Jane Eyre, was born April 21. Her wonderful novel was published in 1847 under the pseudonym Currer Bell. I read Jane Eyre as a teen and didn’t get it. I read it as an adult and loved it!
  • Jane Austen also finished her manuscript, The Elliotts. This book was her last completed book before she died the following year, and it was published (also in 1817) with a new title–Persuasion. I have not read this one, so don’t tell me how it ends!
  • The American Bible Society was formed, and many of its early members were important in early America, such as John Jay, John Quincy Adams, and Francis Scott Key. Elias Boudinot was the society’s first president; he had also been the president of the Continental Congress. The society is still translating The Bible into every language of the world.

This list is literary-heavy. What other 1816 events would you add?


  1. Marcia Strykowski

    I just did a quick search and was amazed to discover that there wasn’t really a summer in New England in 1816, but instead they had 10″ of snow in June and frost in July. Yikes, and here I was enjoying this balmy Feb. day unaware of what could be just around the corner!

    • Deb Watley

      Isn’t it amazing that we don’t hear more about that wintry summer? Yes, it was balmy here today, too, but tomorrow we’re in for a blizzard. Did you dig out from your last storm?

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