MUSIC and LITERATUREJohn Philip Sousa (1854-1932) was very interested in the 1882 transit of Venus. In 1882-3 he wrote his 'Venus Transit March'. He didn't write it specifically to commemorate the transit itself, but wrote it to honor the great American physicist Prof. Joseph Henry who had died on May 13, 1878.
The Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. asked Sousa to write this march for the planned unveiling of the statue of Henry in front of the Smithsonian Institution in 1883. The music was to be played while dignitaries solomly walked from the museum to a special receiving stand in front of the Smithsonian. Sousa's Transit of Venus March remains a delightful, and rarely-played addition to Sousa's opus of compositions.
Transit of Venus piano score [Page1, Page2, Page3]. You can also hear a rendition of the Transit of Venus at this MIDI recording (45 kby). The MIDI recording was obtained from the Dallas Wind Symphony Sousa Pages
Of course, Sousa wasn't the only musician producing music at the time. If you had the opportunity to visit a concert hall or opera, you would be hearing the music by such composers as Claude Debussy, while enjoying a painting by the new school of Impressionism with such young artists as Mary Cassat!
John Phillip Souza, when he was not composing his famous legacy of marches, was himself a writer who penned a short story 'The Transit of Venus' in 1920. It was an imaginative story of a group of women-haters who embarked on a voyage to South Africa to photograph the 1882 Venus Transit. Their goal was to have an adventure and to get away from women for a few weeks.
By the way, the 1882 transit happened a year after the famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral. In other areas of literature. Jules Verne had written his novel 'Mysterious Island' in time for the 1874 transit towards the end of his career.By the 1882 transit, H.G. Wells was the up and coming new 'science fiction' author of the day. His very first novel 'The Time Machine' was published in 1893.