If you could ask/tell an historical figure one thing ...

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If you could ask/tell an historical figure one thing ...

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Modificato: Mar 1, 2017, 4:59 pm

what would that be?

tell Henry VIII
YOUR chromosomes were the reason all the women in your life had
female children!!!

Apr 13, 2017, 6:58 pm

TO: Charles I of England and Scotland

I get it. You wish you had been born into the Spanish court instead of the English one. Well, get over it. If you can't overcome your fastidiousness and work on charming the parliaments, find someone who can do it on your behalf. It will save the country a lot of trouble.

You're a devout Christian, right? So entertain the idea that God is using your people's grievances to chasten your pride. How else do you expect him to speak to you? Angel messengers?

One last thing. Whenever you feel an impulse to make a deal with Scots or Irishmen to help you beat down your English subjects, stifle that impulse. Seriously, how would you react to that kind of treachery? If you don't want to lose your head — then don't lose your head.

Set 11, 2017, 4:40 pm

To Woodrow Wilson
I understand that while you may view your presidency as a chance to re-address the imbalance in American life between Black People and White Americans, I view your actions as regarding the employment policies of the Federal civil Service, as very injurious to the future of the USA as a country of peace and racial equality. Into the bargain you do not seem to realize the degree to which your desires for the future of Europe are undercut by your aforementioned policy. And Woodrow, as you seem in the main a rational man, and may be swayed by my clever insight....don't have a stroke!

Modificato: Mar 3, 2018, 8:33 pm

To: Ronald Reagan, R, CA

Re.: the Iran-Contra affair:
Why couldnʻt you have just told us: "Thereʻs a war going on between Iran and Iraq; neutrality is not an option; itʻs too strategic an area. So weʻre taking sides. Weʻre for Iran."? Or did that have to be Top Secret?
(Not that I would agree with you, but the outcome would beat the Iran-Contra affair; it would at least follow the principle of "Keep it Simple".)

Modificato: Mar 4, 2018, 10:28 am

To Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, a.k.a. authors "William Shakespeare", "Robert Greene," etc. :

ASK: What bacame of your personal papers, your poetry and play-drafts? To whom did you entrust these and other papers, books and belongings?

TELL: Four hundred years since your death, academic specialists in the topic of your life and writings are, as an orthodoxy, still adamantly opposed to recognizing you as the rightful author.

..."this from thee
Will I to mine leave, as 'tis left to me."

Your ever-reader.

Mar 4, 2018, 11:39 am

Mar 4, 2018, 1:21 pm

To: Sir Isaac Newton

What are your thoughts on modern physics, ie relativity and quantum mechanics which you hadn’t dreamt of and overturned the physics you thought were close to complete? Any bright ideas on where we go from here?

Mar 4, 2018, 1:55 pm

an imagined answer to (7) from a Sir Isaac Newton, who,in the afterlife, is aware of what 20th-21st Century physics upholds:

" ʻOverturnedʻ is not the word for what happened to "my physics". I would suggest

Mar 4, 2018, 6:48 pm

>8 rolandperkins: It depends how persnickety Sir Isaac is feeling. This is an ongoing matter of discussion. Some, in a spirit of generosity, offer “revised”. Others argue that Newton was in fact wrong. His equations do not give correct results under all conditions, and his fundamental conception of the universe with its notion of absolute space and time is now understood to be incorrect. Of course he could not have known this at the time.

Mar 6, 2018, 3:13 pm

"Some, in a spirit of generosity, offer "revised"
(as a description of what modern physics did
to Newton..." (8, 9)

I guess my only university-level Science teacher, Dr. I. Bernard Cohen* must have had a "spirit of generosity". He emphasized the continuing (as of 1950) importance of Newton -- and, for that matter, in a more limited field, of Benjamin Franklin; he was an expert on both. Didnʻt seem to think that Newton had been "overthrown".

*a highly respected historian of Science,a Ph.D. in Physics.

Mar 6, 2018, 4:52 pm

He is very important, no doubt. And maybe the greatest of all scientists. But it would be truly amazing had he been right about everything. After all, he was working in the late 1600s. I think he would be fascinated by what he got right and what he got wrong. Given the magnitude of the revision in physics in the early part of the 20th century - one of the truly revolutionary shifts in all of intellectual history - I emphasize how Newton’s classical physics was shown to be incorrect and supplanted by a new understanding. No disrespect to the great man intended.

Mar 7, 2018, 1:30 am

Surely I have failed to communicate how much of a hero this man is to me. So right, and despite so inevitably wrong.

Mar 7, 2018, 7:52 am

Telegram to Colonel Heinz Brandt, July 20th 1944

Briefcase fine where it is. Stop.

Modificato: Mar 13, 2018, 9:07 am

>13 Cecrow:

I wonder: if you want to go back, why you'd go to July 1944 to intervene with a word to the wise instead of sometime in 1934 or still better, have a frank talk with young Adolf's future Mutter und Vater, eh?

This is a lot of historicism : tweak one thing and, behold, the pie turns out right rather than as a disaster.

You might also have gone to Roosevelt and explained that the restrictive petroleum policies vis-à-vis the Empire of Japan's uses and needs would be tantamount to asking the Japanese to put a gun to their collective head and pull the trigger. IOW, "something's gotta give." Then there was the British diplomat and spy (for the Japanese) who blatantly turned over all the most sensitive details for superior aircraft-carrier design, construction and tactics--stolen from British naval secret documents. If that's not bad enough--the British authorities discovered this and, rather than effectively putting a stop to it, pussy-footed around, and left the fellow (William Forbes-Sempill, 19th Lord Sempill) to carry on doing immense harm to British military naval interests.

Mar 13, 2018, 9:01 am

Are we assuming these historical figures will answer truthfully?

Apr 28, 2018, 9:01 pm

I think Abraham Lincoln would, once he had gauged your level of sincerity. Do I think Woodrow Wilson would have answered me honestly, about his level of racism...probably not, but it would have been high-class bafflegab. To the Earl of Oxford, on the Shakespeare question...I'm sure he would have been surprized that anyone would confused him with so amusing, but ridiculously low class person, a playwriter. And I don't think the earl of Oxford wrote or partially wrote those plays...why would he? He didn't need the money. And i think he'd have been surprised that any one from four hundred years in the future would give a damn. After all, Tom Stoppard wrote some lovely plays, and wasn't a nobleman. One just needs access to information, and get your plays played. Newton would have been interested that his work was superceeded, and would have asked to check the math...and been delighted by our present tools for observation.
Roosevelt wanted the Japanese to stop killing people horribly in China. One toys with the idea that he was greatly surprised by the Japanese attack? A good president does weigh possible reactions to all his decisions...so surprised is the wrong word, i think.

Modificato: Apr 28, 2018, 9:16 pm

To Cecrow: Lovely.

Apr 28, 2018, 9:11 pm

Contested Will : who wrote Shakespeare? by James S. Shapiro discusses the whole question adequately in my opinion. I don't that much care who wrote such a beautiful canon.

Modificato: Apr 29, 2018, 12:11 am

The Oxfordiansʻ argument is NOT that
William Shakespeare "wasnʻt a noble",
but that his education was inadequate for
showing a knowledge (16) of court life and
Italian culture and geography, whereas Oxford had lived in Italy Iʻm not, b t w, an Oxfordian,
although my wife Leialoha is. Iʻm not really a Stratfordian, either. I donʻt think Iʻd have a cogent question for either Oxford or "the Stratford Man".

Apr 28, 2018, 10:21 pm

Considering the world's current experience and exposure to "The Trumpery" currently in Washington, I think Big Bill could have kept tabs on the machinations of the Palace of St. James during the time he lived in London. And as most of the people contributing to Library thing have some claims to being autodidacts, I tend towards the Stratfordian view, hating to see a famous autodidact being slighted. :-). As for the north of Italy being a world of mystery to a londoner of the period, there was a thing called "The Grand Tour", which was often indulged in by noblemen of England at the time...and as these travellers did not travel without servants...and servants of the period not being required to sign NDAs on geographical questions...Maybe the Stratford lad did a trip to Italy as part of Oxford's train? There are some "Lost Years" in there.

Modificato: Apr 29, 2018, 12:12 am

"Big Bill could have kept tabs on the machinations of the Palace of St. james during the time he lived in London." (20)

I doubt the "keeping tabs". His London didnʻt have a media that was a big fan of celebrities, including losers of the popular vote. Iʻve always regarded the Shakespearean ʻCourt" plays, whoever wrote them, as
mainly fiction - - except for their Holinshed input---and the Roman plays that are closely based on Plutarch.

Modificato: Apr 29, 2018, 9:00 am

>16 DinadansFriend:

"I'm sure he would have been surprized that anyone would confused him with so amusing, but ridiculously low class person, a playwriter. And I don't think the earl of Oxford wrote or partially wrote those plays...why would he? He didn't need the money. And i think he'd have been surprised that any one from four hundred years in the future would give a damn."


Actually, his writing makes it clear--to those who can read and understand it--that he, personally, didn't share this view of play-writing as a social taboo for his class--which was noble with a capital "N". Oxford was a nobleman's nobleman: being the ranking earl (first in precedence at court after dukes and higher nobility.) But his intellect set him apart even within that class structure and he saw into and right through it to its many hollow and hypocritical aspects--about which he wrote in his plays and poetry. If there were no other reasons, that, alone, would be reason enough to care to get the author's identity correct.

He didn't need the money. Quite true. That's how it was--and and how it's once again coming to be* ; that fact alone argues in his favor. William Shaksper did need money and he could hardly afford the time to master languages like Latin and Greek, French and Italian, and the geographical detail of far-flund settings of plays while he did other work all day just to earn his daily bread. How modern readers fail to understand these relationships amazes me.

" And i think he'd have been surprised that any one from four hundred years in the future would give a damn."

Again, only people who are blind and deaf could read Oxford's work and leave it with such an impression. It's abundantly clear that his reputation and his future name as the person responsible for the plays and poems was, after life itself, or even above that, his deepest desire.


* ... "said ACE’s literature director Sarah Crown. 'It’s a much more unforgiving ecosystem for authors of literary fiction today. We inevitably end up with a situation where the people best positioned to write literary fiction are those for whom making a living isn’t an imperative. That has an effect on the diversity of who is writing – we are losing voices, and we don’t want to be in that position.' "

Anyone who just imagines that the world of sixteenth-century England was made for commoners of a semi-literate or largely illiterate highly class-divided society to have the opportunity to unite all the requirements to become members of the grammatica elite is simply dreaming.

"Knowledge of grammatica defined one's position in literate culture. From the time of Bede to the age of Dante, Chaucer and Gower, it was the precondition for having a literate culture at all. It gave readers and writers what we now call a 'literate subjectivity', a position in a network of texts and Language that defined how to read and what could be written. It provided the cultural category of the literary as such, which meant an available network of writings and a textual genealogy extending back to the early auctores. It provided the first assumptions, the main presuppositions, of any understanding of Language, writing and texts. Grammatica meant literacy, but literacy in a specific kind of Language and with a specific canon of texts.

"We are used to having multiple paths and teaching methods for literacy and multiple literary canons taught in schools and universities and embraced by different cultural groups. From the eighth to fifthteenth centuries, Europe really only had one gateway and methodology. There were, of course, variations and emphases, new philosophical traditions about Language that got folded into the tradition, local limitations of access to literary works, and other modifications to what was very much a living tradition.

"Today we also talk about 'digital literacy' or 'computer literacy', and educators around the world are redefining literature, theory and criticism in a radically decentered multimedia communications environment. People today know multiple literacies, multiple objects that we call literature, and multiple methods for criticism and analysis. Studying the foundational assumptions expressed in medieval grammatica discloses the way cultural literacy of any kind works. Roland Barthes once said that literature is what gets taught: a culture determines the literary canon through official instruction. This ongoing cultural practice represents a continuity in education since Chaucer's day. The legacy of grammatica remains inscribed in all our contemporary literacies and literatures as these are expected and assumed of educated people regardless of Language or culture*(EmA)."

(from p.30, ibid)

" Medieval Grammatica was not merely a pedagoglical programme or a body of descriptive linguistic doctrine. The artes grammaticae transmitted a philosophy of Language, indeed, a whole ideology of language with explicit links to centres of institutional authority. In general, medieval grammatical theory privileged writing over speech, universal features --as embodied in Latin, a 'fixed', written language--over individual spoken languages, and the classical literary models, the auctores, over recent writings."

*(EmA) : emphasis added.

excerpts above from: (p. 40-41) Grammatica and Literary Theory by Martin Irvine with David Thomson, (from The Cambridge History of Literary Criticism, Volume II : The Middle Ages, Alastair Minnis & Ian Johnson, Editors. (2005)

See : (http://www.librarything.com/topic/253344#5999847)

Modificato: Apr 29, 2018, 7:56 pm

"Did not have a media that was a big fan of celebrities'?" Everyone who was anyone had servants, a lot of servants. Servants, having no lives of their own, gossip...it is their only means of amusement...except drinking...which leads to gossip. the College of Heralds had...servants. London had only 200,000 people, and it had no organized sports except football (sorta) and bear baiting...
A scholar of some eminence in Shakespeariana (editor of the Pelican Shakespeares) named G.B. Harrison produced in the 1960s, a set of "Elizabethan and Jacobean Journals ' running from 1591 to 1610. He often cited News sheets, proclamations as well as journals and state papers. there was a lot of court information floating about. Richard Hakluyt was not the only Elizabethan travel writer by a long shot...And even his publications often include Mediterranean information. While Mr. Beauclerk's book, "shakespeare's Lost kingdom" is an interesting read...I'm not convinced.
And..."Keeping tabs" on the careers of the great would be a good idea for an entertainer.....command performances...etc. The "Twelfth night" was a was a commissioned performance, and remember that Essex commissioned a performance of Richard II just prior to his failed putsch. Though the Globe Management that included the Stratford guy got an extra two pounds for putting it on....they has legal troubles after than. Admittedly the upper classes wrote, but "The Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia , a novel by an authenticated member of the Upper classes, had little material in it, that portrays the lower classes at all, not like the farewell scenes in Henry V. And we do have masses of paper from Greene about his theatre career....we have none from shakespeare or Oxford about theirs while there's a ton of paper relating to Oxford's legal messes, which were seriously time consuming. And, while Condell and Hemming 19 years after Oxford's death did dedicate the first folio to De Vere's heirs which would have been a way of paying Homage to "The onlie Begetter", I still remain unconvinced.

And I grant you that while Oxford did need money....I don't think plays brought in royalties, residuals and film scripting fees like now-a-days. did Big Bill ever see five thousand pounds in a lump? I don't think so.

Modificato: Apr 29, 2018, 8:05 pm

To Nathan Bedford Forrest:
I really don't think getting out of real estate and into slave trading, will do your morals any good, Nate.

To Allan Pinkerton; August 19th 1862.
since your efforts to keep general McClellan happy by giving vastly inflated figures for the Rebel armies has worked so badly in the Peninsula of late, could you just give him the real Confederate numbers since the armies are concentrating near Sharpsburg?

Mag 20, 2018, 8:58 pm

" But his Oxford's intellect set him apart even within that class structure and he saw into and right through it to its many hollow and hypocritical aspects--about which he wrote in his plays and poetry. If there were no other reasons, that, alone, would be reason enough to care to get the author's identity correct."
i feel there is a fallacy in the argument advanced above. To use American analogies...do Kennedys write about the upper echelons of American Society at the moment? No, but Gore Vidal and Tom Wolfe, both outsiders, did. Vidal, I know, was a grandson of a senator..some money in that family, but... Do the entitled children of top level mafiosi write about their royal hypocritical actions? If you are smart enough to see through your classes' sins and cruelties do you, really see them from a strict moral standpoint? you don't even see them as hypocrisies, merely the way things are, with the lower classes not seeing the advantages of your better informed life. Generally the upper people shut up and take the perks.

Modificato: Mag 21, 2018, 10:51 pm

The Authorship Debate. Again. Oh, dear.

To my mind, the point surely is that no one else before, during, or since the sixteenth century (has) had a an adequate background to write the plays in the First Folio. The only candidate who cannot be eliminated remains WS himself. Beyond that, the texts are the real marvel that endlessly reward study.

The hollowness and hypocrisy of society provided a rich theme for writers of the time — Sydney, Lodge, Greene, and others more obscure. The tensions between Arcadia and society were a common topic in the prose fiction of the time, of which there was a lot, as well as in verse and drama. Given its prominence in Scripture, hypocrisy was never far from people's minds, particularly after the Wycliffite and Lutheran revolts and the spread of the vernacular Bible.

ETA: So, I suppose my question would be: "Why didn't you just keep a diary, Will? Would that have been so difficult?"

Mag 23, 2018, 3:07 pm

Maybe, WS, after a day dedicated to herding the catherd of actors, dealing with the always edgy relationship with the Lord chancellor's office, and then trying to fix the middle of "Pericles, Prince of Tyre"...Will just wanted to slouch round to the pub and do a little people watching and a few drinks, and maybe find a side chick...before turning in, or reading a bit more of North's Plutarch looking to do a bit of plot-mining...write a diary? What if Anne-at-home got a hold of it?

Modificato: Mag 26, 2018, 5:25 am

>27 DinadansFriend:


Right. Shaks-y had to have been worried about a diary falling into Anne's hand and revealing stuff about his busy life apart from, away from her--about which Stratfordians don't otherwise much trouble their muddled little heads.

But Anne lived until 6 August 1623, and Shaks-y himself until 1616. Meanwhile, the Sonnets--remember those? -- were published in ...

"Published in 1609, the Sonnets were the last of Shakespeare's non-dramatic works to be printed. Scholars are not certain when each of the 154 sonnets was composed, but evidence suggests that Shakespeare wrote sonnets throughout his career for a private readership.


and, of course, in the Sonnets, Shaks-y goes on quite interestingly and in passionate detail about his "dark lady".

I guess you subscribe to the theory that either Anne didn't care, couldn't read or, if she both could read and did and she could also care, then perhaps you think she assumed the dark lady must refer to herself!

Whch is it, please?

I guess you'd go back and ask Anne, "Dear, did you ever bother to read your husband's published Sonnets? You did? What did you think of them?" / "You didn't? Why not?"


My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips' red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damask'd, red and white, 5
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound; 10
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.



Thine eyes I love, and they, as pitying me,
Knowing thy heart torments me with disdain,
Have put on black and loving mourners be,
Looking with pretty ruth upon my pain.
And truly not the morning sun of heaven 5
Better becomes the grey cheeks of the east,
Nor that full star that ushers in the even
Doth half that glory to the sober west,
As those two mourning eyes become thy face:
O, let it then as well beseem thy heart 10
To mourn for me, since mourning doth thee grace,
And suit thy pity like in every part.
Then will I swear beauty herself is black
And all they foul that thy complexion lack. 14


Beshrew that heart that makes my heart to groan
For that deep wound it gives my friend and me!
Is't not enough to torture me alone,
But slave to slavery my sweet'st friend must be?
Me from myself thy cruel eye hath taken, 5
And my next self thou harder hast engross'd:
Of him, myself, and thee, I am forsaken;
A torment thrice threefold thus to be cross'd.
Prison my heart in thy steel bosom's ward,
But then my friend's heart let my poor heart bail; 10
Whoe'er keeps me, let my heart be his guard;
Thou canst not then use rigor in my gaol:
And yet thou wilt; for I, being pent in thee,
Perforce am thine, and all that is in me. 14

and this one :


Love is too young to know what conscience is;
Yet who knows not conscience is born of love?
Then, gentle cheater, urge not my amiss,
Lest guilty of my faults thy sweet self prove:
For, thou betraying me, I do betray 5
My nobler part to my gross body's treason;
My soul doth tell my body that he may
Triumph in love; flesh stays no father reason;
But, rising at thy name, doth point out thee
As his triumphant prize. Proud of this pride, 10
He is contented thy poor drudge to be,
To stand in thy affairs, fall by thy side.
No want of conscience hold it that I call
Her 'love' for whose dear love I rise and fall.

William! How you talk!

Modificato: Mag 26, 2018, 5:38 pm

Well, understanding that scholars want the maximum amount of supporting material that they can get, and the major contenders in the WS authorship world are short on direct evidence as to the authorship by modern standards, I am happy that you, who seem to have a wider base in the world of shakespearean scholarship than I, found my statement "hilarious!' I am happy to entertain.
In my defence, I am glad to have occasioned another person in reading a bit more of the Canon, once again. My own real copy has had the binding repaired, thrice. average full reading per play...4.67 times..and you do seem to have chosen my most light hearted inclusion to discuss.
Hopefully on another note, it strikes me that the four sonnets quoted still find a resonance in more modern times...I quote from "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" (concocted in true Elizabethan fashion by Screenwriters Jeb Stuart, Jeffrey Boam, Frank Darabont, and Jeff Nathanson who wrote drafts before David Koepp's script satisfied the producers)
Marion:...(the film's love interest)...: and is there a Mrs. Jones?
Indie....(delivered in a fashion that makes the audience understand that Dr. jones has come to a truthful moment....) No, there's always...something...
Marion...(being remorseless)... And why is that?
Indie: 'Cause they weren't you, were they?
That may I hope sums up the Shakespeares' emotional understanding...if the marriage was a happy one. And I wish them both a happy one.

Modificato: Mag 26, 2018, 11:11 pm

>29 DinadansFriend:

I realize that your average of 4.67 readings per play does not imply N=Shakespearean canon, but I'm curious to know which of the plays lie more than one standard deviation above your mean.

My own N<Shakespearean canon, even including plays I've seen on stage but not read. The Winter's Tale, The Tempest, and Coriolanus would be among my high rankers.

After reading your list in >27 DinadansFriend:, it occurred to me that the time needed to pass himself off credibly as Joseph Fiennes would have been another major impediment to diary-keeping:
When in disgrace with Fortune and men's eyes . . .

Nov 30, 2018, 5:27 pm

I cannot see what this academic construction, the "Grammatica", had to do with the world of popular entertainment. It is, apparently a "Telling argument" with you, but as an amateur historian, intent on investigating the world as it was, this is a very small input to the total picture of the times."...Now I'll go write some dialogue for a screen play....:-)

Modificato: Nov 30, 2018, 5:49 pm

To #30 librorumamans In layman's language, what is the numeric equivalent of your "One standard Deviation above your mean."? Plays i had read often, seven or more times, by the time I posted #29, Love's Labour Lost (9) A Midsummer Night's dream (7), the Merchant of venice (7),Twelfth night (9)All's Well that ends Well (10), Tempest (14) King John (9), Henry IV Part II (10) Henry VI -parts I & II (10), Romeo and Juliet (10, partly as a friend of mine and I wrote a role playing game set in it and "Shrew"), Hamlet (9),Othello (7), MacBeth (7), Timon of Athens (8) The others usually three or more, and a good deal of quote mining over the years. I think I've given Big Bill of Stratford a fair sampling.