In my January 2 essay “Beware of Years That End in 13” I explained why 1913 was an awful year and expressed the view that 2013 could hardly be worse.
That was before I realized that the Congress that just commenced in Washington is the 113th. Creepy? Inauspicious? I report, you decide.
Among the questions that essay prompted within 24 hours were several that asked about the year 1813. Some friends wanted to know what that year was like, so I took a quick look into the matter.
It turns out that 1813 was such a ho-hum year that triskaidekaphobians would have a tough time making a fuss of it.
For sure, Europe was engulfed in war with Napoleon in power in Paris. War in Europe? Anyone at the time who knew the history of the previous half-millenium could rightfully have asked, “What else is new?”
There was a tax revolt in Amsterdam in 1813 but I couldn’t find any detail about it. I love tax revolts but I fear that one fizzled. I think taxes in the Netherlands are higher today than when Napoleon occupied and looted the place.
Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice was first published that year. The millions of fans of the novel and its various film versions undoubtedly regard that as a good thing. Personally, I thought it was just a pointless story about spoiled, unemployed brats who gossip all day, but I wasn’t a literature major.
Across the pond, Americans were immersed in the War of 1812. Notable battles were fought against the British in Canada and on Lake Erie. Off Massachusetts, a mortally wounded Captain James Lawrence of the USS Chesapeake famously ordered his crewmen, “Don’t give up the ship! Fight her till she sinks!” Nonetheless, a British boarding party took the ship. Later in December, the British burned Buffalo, New York, and in 1814, they torched the White House.
1813 saw the birth of the outstanding German composer Richard Wagner; the indomitable missionary, explorer and anti-slavery activist David Livingstone; the incomparable lithographer Nathaniel Currier of Currier & Ives fame; the greatest (in my view) of all opera composers Giuseppe Verdi; and the remarkable Danish philosopher and founder of existentialism, Søren Kierkegaard.
1913 was truly a year to loathe, especially in America. 2013 isn’t especially promising. But 1813 was no big deal on balance. I took a look at events of 1713 and they weren’t very special either. So if there’s a curse on years that end in 13, it’s not a very consistent one.