Simanaitis Says

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A QUARANTINE QUERY

WHO’D YOU LEAST like being quarantined with? Anna Whitelock, head of history at Royal Holloway, University of London, assembled responses to this Twitter query in one of the Talking Points of BBC History, June 2020.

Whitelock’s article concerns historical figures, not those still among us. (What’s the point of an almost unanimous response?) I also asked Wife Dottie for her selection. Readers are encouraged to add their own choices of historic personages they’d loathe to quarantine with.

My Choice. Being a devotee of solitude, I have an extensive list of personages from whom to choose. On reflection, though, I select Britisher Cecil Rhodes.

This is despite his last will’s 1902 establishment of the Rhodes Scholarship. Note, this largesse was denied women until 1977, and, given Rhodes’ proclivities, I suspect he spins in his grave whenever a person of color becomes a Rhodes Scholar today. (His first spin came in 1991.)

Cecil John Rhodes, 1853-1902, British diamond magnate, imperialist, jingoist extraordinaire, white supremacist.

Here’s a sample of Cecil Rhodes’ conversation points.

“Remember that you are an Englishman, and consequently have won first prize in the lottery of life.”

“I contend that every acre added to our territory means the birth of more of the English race who otherwise would not be brought into existence.”

“If the whites maintain their position as the supreme race, the day may come when we shall be thankful that we have the natives with us in their proper position.”

Apologists claim he is best seen as a man of his time, “a cultural or minimal racist.” An interesting term, that.

I am an anglophile: Morgan and Dellow sports cars, Handel operas, Pimm’s No. 1 Cup, and all that. But imagine a quarantine, nay, even a few moments, with Rhodes.

I like Mark Twain’s opinion of the man: “I admire him, I frankly confess it; and when his time comes I shall buy a piece of the rope for a keepsake.”

Wife Dottie’s Choice. Wife Dottie offered a succinct response to my question: “Martha Stewart, because she would tell me things I already knew and then claim she had taught me.”

Martha Helen Stewart née Kostyra, Jersey City-born 1941, American entrepreneur, writer, television personality, former model, convicted premature-stock trader. Image by Gage Skidmore from Wikipedia.

“But is Martha Stewart historical?,” I asked.

“Should she be?” Wife Dottie replied.

Here are two selections from Anna Whitelock’s piece in BBC History.

A Classic Roman. Cheryl Morgan, British science fiction critic, energy economist, rugby and cricket fan, nominated Nero: “He’d be putting on concerts all day and expecting me to listen and applaud.”

Emperor Nero was a gifted player of the cithara (the violin wasn’t invented for 1500 more years). Image from Classic FM.

A Classic Roman Nose? On the other hand, were it the fictional Nerone, as portrayed by mezzo-soprano Kate Lindsay in Handel’s Agrippina, I’d be delighted to be quarantined with her/his antics.

Joyce DiDonato, left, in the title role and Kate Lindsay as Nerone in Handel’s Agrippina at the Metropolitan Opera. Image by Sara Krulwich/The New York Times.

His Holiness. Claire MacLeod is working on a history degree at St. Andrews Institute of Medieval Studies. She selects a particular pontiff.

Pope Alexander VI, aka Rodrigo Borgia, 1431–1503, Pope from 1492 to his death in 1503, known for his reign’s libertinism and nepotism. As noted in Your Dictionary, “… although he used his daughter Lucrezia [yes, that Lucrezia Borgia] as a political pawn in her three marriages, he could hardly bear to be separated from her.” Image from The New York Times.

Wrote Claire MacLeod in BBC History,, “I just know in my gut that Pope Alexander VI would constantly be leaving the toilet seat up.”

All women have been there. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2020

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