Thursday Jan. 28, 2021’s Smile of the Day: Serendipity

On this Day:

In 1754, Horace Walpole, in a letter to Horace Mann, coined the word serendipity.  Horace Walpole is never to be confused with Horace Rumpole of the Bailey, a fictional barrister created by the British writer and barrister John Mortimer. Horace Rumpole is an elderly London barrister who defended a broad variety of clients, often underdogs, but I digress…

Horatio Walpole, 4th Earl of Orford (24 September 1717 – 2 March 1797), also known as Horace Walpole, was an English writer, art historian, man of letters, antiquarian and Whig politician.

He had Strawberry Hill House built in Twickenham, south-west London, reviving the Gothic style some decades before his Victorian successors. His literary reputation rests on the first Gothic novel, The Castle of Otranto (1764), and his Letters, which are of significant social and political interest. They have been published by Yale University Press in 48 volumes.

The youngest son of the first British Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole, 1st Earl of Orford, he became the 4th and last Earl of Orford on his nephew’s death in 1791. His barony of Walpole descended to his first cousin once removed of the same name but Baron Walpole of Wolterton. Horatio Walpole the younger was later created a new Earl of Orford.

Walpole’s numerous letters are often used as a historical resource. In one, dating from 28 January 1754, he coined the word serendipity which he said was derived from a “silly fairy tale” he had read, The Three Princes of Serendip. The oft-quoted epigram, “This world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel”, is from a letter of Walpole’s to Anne, Countess of Ossory, on 16 August 1776. 

The original, fuller version appeared in a letter to Sir Horace Mann on 31 December 1769: “I have often said, and oftener think, that this world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel – a solution of why Democritus laughed and Heraclitus wept” (per Wikipedia).

First, a Story:

Men blame fate for life’s maladies, but take full credit when they make a hole-in-one.

Second, a Song:

Serendipity is a 2001 film starring John Cusack, Kate Beckinsale and Jeremy Piven.

Jonathan Trager and Sara Thomas met while shopping for gloves in New York. Though buying for their respective lovers, the magic was right and a night of Christmas shopping turned into romance. Jon wanted to explore things further but Sara wasn’t sure their love was meant to be. They decided to test fate by splitting up and seeing if destiny brought them back together… Many years later, having lost each other that night, both are engaged to be married. Still, neither can shake the need to give fate one last chance to reunite them. Jon enlists the help of his best man to track down the girl he can’t forget starting at the store where they met. Sara asks her new age musician fiance for a break before the wedding and, with her best friend in tow, flies from California to New York hoping destiny will bring her soulmate back. Near-misses and classic Shakespearean confusion bring the two close to meeting a number of times but fate will have the final word on whether it was meant to be (from

Here is the scene when they finally meet.  The music is “Northern Sky” by Nick Drake and “January Rain” by David Gray.  

January Rain was part of “Lost Songs 95–98” which was the fifth studio album by musician David Gray, released in February 2001. The songs on the album were written between 1995 and 1998, and recorded across 10 days in October 1999.

David Peter Gray (born 13 June 1968)] is a British singer-songwriter. He released his first album in 1993 and received worldwide attention after the release of White Ladder six years later. It was the first of three UK chart-toppers in six years for Gray, of which the latter two also made the Top 17 in the United States. White Ladder became the fifth best-selling album of the 2000s in the UK. In October 2019 it was ranked the tenth best-selling album of the 21st century in the United Kingdom. Gray has been nominated for four Brit Awards – twice for Best British Male.

“Northern Sky” is a song from the English singer-songwriter Nick Drake’s 1971 album Bryter Layter, produced by Joe Boyd. During the recording sessions for the album, the chronically shy and withdrawn songwriter formed a friendship and a mentorship of sorts with producer Joe Boyd, an early supporter of Drake. Boyd saw commercial potential in the acoustic and unaccompanied demo version of the song, and recruited former Velvet Underground member John Cale as producer. Cale added piano, organ and celesta arrangements, initially against Drake’s wishes.

The song marked a strong redirection in Drake’s sound. He was pleased with Cale’s production, and anticipated that the song would be his commercially successful breakthrough. However, Island Records decided against releasing it as a single, and the accompanying album, like its predecessor, did not receive marketing support, and so failed to sell. 

In the 1980s “Northern Sky” became pivotal in resurrecting interest in Drake’s music which, until then, had been largely forgotten. Biographer Patrick Humphries describes the song as “the finest … to which Nick Drake ever lent his name. Again sounding alone and vulnerable … he pleads for the brightness to come” (per Wikipedia).

Here is “Northern Sky”, a song from the English singer-songwriter Nick Drake, in the ending scene from the movie Serendipity. I hope you enjoy this!


Serendipity is available on Prime Video.

Thought for the Day:

“I’ve always loved life, and I’ve never known what’s ahead. I love not knowing what might be round the corner. I love serendipity.” – Twiggy


Have a great day!

Dave & Colleen

© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky

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