Patriot Games

I found this buncha nonsense on Futility Closet’s blog here. The original story was found in Barbara Tuchman’s The Proud Tower.

“Until 1890, the minority party in the U.S. House of Representatives could block a vote by ‘disappearing’; they’d demand a roll call, remain silent when called upon, and then declare that too few members were ‘present’ for the House to conduct its business.

“To incoming speaker Thomas Brackett Reed this was a ‘tyranny of the minority,’ and on Jan. 28 he resolved to break it. When Democrats demanded a roll call and refused to answer to their names, Reed marked them present anyway; when Kentucky representative James B. McCreary objected, Reed said sweetly, ‘The Chair is making a statement of fact that the gentleman from Kentucky is present. Does he deny it?

“There followed a sort of ontological shooting gallery. Democrats hid under their desks and behind screens to avoid being observed to exist. When they tried to flee the chamber entirely, Reed ordered the doors locked, which started a scramble to get out before the next vote. Representative Kilgore of Texas had to kick open a locked door to escape. Amid the howled objections, Confederate general ‘Fighting Joe’ Wheeler came down from the rear ‘leaping from desk to desk as an ibex leaps from crag to crag,’ and one unnamed Texas Democrat ‘sat in his seat significantly whetting a bowie knife on his boot.’ Finally the Republicans mustered a majority even with the Democrats entirely absent, and the battle was over: Reed’s new rules were adopted on February 14.

“Throughout all this Reed had seemed imperturbable, ‘serene as a summer morning.’ He told a friend later that he had made up his mind what he would do if the House did not support him. ‘I would simply have left the Chair and resigned the Speakership and my seat in Congress,” he said. ‘I had made up my mind that if political life consisted in sitting helplessly in the Speaker’s Chair and seeing the majority helpless to pass legislation, I had had enough of it and was ready to step down and out.‘”

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More Duels

I’ve found a few fun stories about dueling. Enjoy.

1.) English poet Mark Akenside avoided a duel with Counsellor Ballow because one refused to fight in the morning and the other refused to fight in the afternoon.

2.) In 1806, an MP named Humphrey Howarth got into a fight with the Earl of Barrymore after both had been out for a night of drinking after the Brighton races. A duel challenge was issued and they met the following dawn.

Howarth shocked everyone by turning up stark naked. He said that he knew “if any part of the clothing is carried into the body by a gunshot wound, festering ensures; and therefore I have met you thus.” The Earl of Barrymore declared that fighting a naked man would be quite ridiculous, so they both left the field without any further ado.

3.)  During the French Restoration (1814-1830), there was a lot of bickering between former members of Napoleon’s army and the newly instated Royal Guard. Things got heated when a Napoleonic colonel named Barbier-Dufai mocked the cockade of a royal guardsman named Raoul.

Because hat ribbons are DEFINITELY something worth killing over, the two men decided to fight it out on the street then and there. Barbier-Dufai disarmed Raoul four times, which should have settled the matter. But nope.

For whatever reason, they decided that a four-time conclusive victory wasn’t enough. The two men tied their left arms together, got in the back of a coach, and  stabbed at each other with daggers until one of them died.

Barbier-Dufai won, making it a five-time victory. But–considering that Raoul was dead, Barbier-Dufai had no one left to stab, and the coach upholstery was completely ruined–did anyone truly win that day?


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Victoria’s Granddaughters – Princess Sophie

I’ve been reading Julia Gelardi’s Born to Rule: Granddaughters of Victoria, Queens of Europe (2004) and am going to do a series of posts on Queen Victoria’s five granddaughters, all of whom went on to be European queens themselves.

Today we will talk about Princess Sophie, who was the daughter of Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter Vicky. Sophie (1870-1932) was born Princess Sophia of Prussia (daughter of Emperor Frederick III of Germany, and sister to the future Kaiser Wilhelm; she grew up to marry Constantine I, King of Greece. All quotations below are from Gelardi’s book.

Despite being born and raised in Germany as a German princess, Sophie’s mother, Vicky, bred a certain Anglophile nature into her daughter. Vicky, as a British princess, was a bit of a snob when it came to moving to Germany.

When Vicky “was betrothed to marry Prince Frederick of Prussia (the further Emperor Frederick III), the queen refused Berlin’s demand that Vicky should marry in Germany. The idea was simply ‘too absurd’. After all, proclaimed Victoria proudly, ‘it is not every day that one marries the eldest daughter of the Queen of England‘” (15).

Over the years, her brother Wilhelm resisted every attempt to be Anglicized by his family and instead became deeply embedded in German nationalism, which led to a lot of tension between the siblings over the years. Wilhelm was also famously tempestuous, leading many to speculate that he was mentally ill. I have no idea how true this is, but some of Wilhelm’s behavior certainly strained an already tense relationship he had with his parents and siblings.

In 1888, Emperor Frederick died a terrible death the day after Sophie’s 18th birthday. He had suffered from throat cancer for a long while but attempted to hide the severity of it from Sophie especially on her birthday:

“Having just celebrated her eighteenth birthday some hours before, Sophie now witnessed the poignant last good-bye between her parents. After lapsing into unconsciousness, Frederick III died. Scarcely had the corpse grown cold, however, when Willy’s unsavoury character emerged in spectacular manner.

“With great disrespect, he ordered his soldiers to ransack the Neues Palais for ‘incriminating’ evidence  of ‘liberal plots’. In his delusion, the new Kaiser was sure he could find something to accuse his mother and father of. His newly widowed mother was horrified that ‘William’s first act as Ruler was to have our house, our sanctuary, our quiet house of mourning where death had set up his thrown, cordoned off my a regiment of Hussars who appeared unmounted with rifles in their hands from behind every tree and every statue!’ Wilhelm’s soldiers found nothing – despite literally turning the contents of the entire palace upside down, leaving papers and other objects strewn everywhere. Anticipating this, Fritz [i.e. Frederick III] had had his papers sent to England, where Wilhelm could not get his hands on them” (20).

Sophie and Tino

The next year Sophie married Prince Constantine of Greece (whom she called ‘Tino’). “Sophie’s marriage was sign to the Greeks that Greece was set to see greatness again, for there was an old prophecy which said that when Constantine and Sophia reigned, Constantinople would again fall into Greek hands . . . . it came then as no surprise that when Sophie appeared outside the cathedral on the arm of her new husband, ‘the enthusiasm of the enthusiasm of the people was unprecedented.

“After the Orthodox ceremony, in deference to the bride’s religion, a Protestant service was performed in the Royal Palace, conducted by the king’s own chaplain. The day ended with a spectacular fireworks display, which bathed the Parthenon in blazing reds and greens. When Kaiser Wilhelm prepared to depart Athens, he took leave of everyone ‘most affectionately’. ‘The only one he forgot to say good-by [sic] to,’ according to a witness, ‘was his own sister, the bride’” (22).

From what I understand, Sophie’s marriage to Tino was a happy one. She eventually even converted to Orthodoxy for him, although this enraged Kaiser Wilhelm. He attempted to lambast her via letters, but she told him exactly where he could shove his disapproval.

Together, Sophie and Tino had six children:

“In February 1890, Sophie excitedly told her mother that a baby was on the way. Since, as the Empress Frederick [i.e., Vicky] later explained, ‘accidents happen very easily‘, Vicky wisely thought that Sophie might need some help in a medically primitive Athens. She accordingly smuggled into Sophie’s entourage a midwife from Germany, a certain Frau von E. Displaying a characteristically Victorian approach to sexuality, Vicky went on to explain to Sophie why there was need to keep Frau von E.’s true purpose a secret: ‘Of course I could not tell you what her real profession was when you were a young girl, so I have to invent the name and function of housekeeper, so that you might have her always near at hand . . . you married, so she went with you; but I could not tell you why.’

“Had it not been for her mother’s foresight, Sophie’s life and that of her baby might not have been saved. The birth, on 19 July 1890, was dangerous – at one point the umbilical cord was wrapped around the baby’s neck. The doctor in attendance was at a loss what to do, but thanks to the German midwife’s skill, Sophie’s life and that of her baby, George, were saved. In England, Queen Victoria followed events in Greece with a close eye. The queen was taken aback with the speed at which little George arrived – not quite nine months after his parents’ wedding, prompting the queen to write to the Empress Frederick [Vicky]: ‘What shall I say at this most unfortunate and yet fortunate event happening so soon?‘ The queen calculated that ‘it must be a week at least too soon, for she won’t have been married nine months till the 27th'” (25).

Oh, Sophie, you saucy minx. I know babies are born early all the time, but part of me really hopes that he was a little, uh, engagement present. Also, I would like to point out that although the author claims it was a typically Victorian mindset not to tell your daughter where babies come from or the purpose of a midwife, this is actually quite unusual for that period. Nineteenth-century people discussed sex all the time and it was probably rare for a girl as old as Sophie to enter marriage not knowing the finer points of the birds and the bees.


Despite the public’s initial love of Tino and Sophie, whom they felt would fulfill a prophecy, Greece went through a time of upheaval, which led to some strong anti-monarchy sentiments. It didn’t help that Kaiser Wilhelm was openly supporting the Ottoman Empire in their fight against Greece.

However, “The family’s fortunes changed dramatically in February 1898, when King George [Tino’s father] and his daughter, Princess Marie [Tino’s sister], were nearly shot to death by would-be assassins. Instantly, the tide turned in the Greek royal family’s favour. The would-be assassins had accomplished what they surely had not set out to do. Hostility turned into sympathy for the royals” (88).

King George would go on to be assassinated in 1913, ostensibly by a man who didn’t really have any political motivation. George had been planning to abdicate his throne for Tino later that year anyway.

Sophie and Tino reigned for 4 years before Greece got swept up in WWI, during which time they were deposed. They were restored to the throne in 1919 during the Greco-Turkish War, but Tino was forced to abdicate in favor of his and Sophie’s eldest son, George, in 1922. They went into exile in Italy, where Tino died one year later. Sophie returned to her native Germany for about the next ten years before dying of cancer, the same disease which took both her mother and father.

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Bad “Tess of the d’Urbervilles” Book Covers

It’s time for another edition of Bad Book Covers! Today we’ll be looking at Thomas Hardy’s 1891 shocking realist novel, Tess of the d’Urbervilles.

Previous posts in this series include: Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, The MoonstoneDracula, East Lynne, Lady Audley’s Secret, Wuthering Heights, The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Scarlet Letter, Frankenstein, A Christmas Carol, Little Women, Jekyll and HydePamela, Ivanhoe, Anne of Green GablesVanity FairTurn of the ScrewShe, and The Jungle Book.

Usual disclaimers:

1.) These are all professional book covers instead of fan or amateur artwork (or at least I hope so). I’m more than happy to pick on marketing boards who thought these were good ideas, but I don’t want to pick on fans trying to express their love of books. If a fan cover made it in to this collection, then I’m very sorry and you are clearly a good enough artist to make me assume it was professionally done.

2.) I’m ridiculing the covers, not the book itself.

3.) I’m going to swear. A lot. If this isn’t your thing, then don’t read it.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the plot, here is a martini-fueled recap that’s lovingly swaddled in cuss words. If you already know the story, then skip down to the covers below.


John Durbeyfield, an uneducated peasant, runs into the local vicar. The vicar tells him that he, John, may be descended from noble blood, since “Durbeyfield” is a corruption of “d’Urberville”–a nearly extinct aristocratic family. John goes, “AWWWWWWW YEAAAAAAAAAAH” and immediately gets drunk to celebrate.

He’s too full of dat sizzurp to drive his wares to the market that night, so his eldest daughter, Tess, is like, “Oh, ffs, I’ll do it.” Only, because she hadn’t been planning on staying up the entire night to cover for her dad’s fuckwittery (and because Redbull hasn’t been invented yet), she is exhausted setting out and falls asleep at the … wheel? Reins? Horse? Falls asleep at the horse. Anyway, another speeding carriage drives head-on into them and kills the Durbeyfield family’s only horse.

RIP, PrancerHoof, we barely knew ye.

Tess feels so hideously guilty over accidentally causing her family’s total economic ruin that she decides to throw herself on the mercy of a distant relation, an old Mrs. d’Urberville, and beg her for a job. Instead of meeting Mrs. d’Urberville, Tess runs into her sexy-but-shitty son, Alec, who is basically just a walking hard on. He’s like, “Hey, baby, baby, sure you can have a job. You can look after the chickens, which everyone knows is the sexiest job on a farm.”

Alec is pretty creepy (he even hides under Tess’s bed at one point), but her parents are like, “Oooh, he’s rich. What are the chances on a scale from zero to zero that he’ll marry you?” Tess is uninterested in Alec, but she’s also pretty innocent and wants to stay long enough to earn money to buy a replacement horse for her family.

Tess goes to a party with some villagers one night, only she inadvertently pisses of a rough crowd and is about to get beat up when, all of a sudden–ALEC D’URBERVILLE TO THE RESCUE!!!!!!!!!!!!!! He rides in on a white horse and sweeps her up and they gallop off into the woods together. He gets lost in the fog and tells Tess to wait there while he gets his bearings. When he comes back, Tess has fallen asleep under a tree, and Alec looms closer and closer and closer and–

Nine months later, Tess has a baby and living back at home with her parents. Was she raped or did she submit willingly to his sexual advances? This was the big, controversial debate when the book came out. I personally read it as rape, because 1.) she was NOT into him at all, 2.) he’s well-established as a sexual predator, 3.) the book is subtitled ‘A Pure Woman Faithfully Presented’, and 4.) SHE WAS ASLEEP, but there is juuuuust enough ambiguity for people to go, ‘Eh, maybe she was into it.’

Tess names her baby ‘Sorrow’, which is probably not the best way to set your already-disadvantaged son up for the future. Then the baby dies. Because this is a Thomas Hardy novel, so of course he does.

Tess moves away to work as a milkmaid in another village where people don’t know her tragic backstory and her poor child-naming choices. She meets this dude named Angel Clare, a vicar’s son, and all the other milkmaids are like HUBBA HUBBA, because Angel Clare is like George Clooney and Idris Elba and Orlando Bloom wrapped up in one nubile package. Angel falls in love with Tess and asks her to marry him. Tess is like, ‘Well, he should probably know about my past before we get married,’ so the night before the wedding she writes him a letter confessing her ‘sins’ and slips it underneath his door. The next day he’s still cool with the marriage, so she’s like, ‘Awesome! He forgives me for being sexually assaulted! Nothing could possibly go wrong now!’

Except Angel never received Tess’s letter–it got shoved underneath the carpet when she slid it under his door. They get married, and Angel confesses to her that he once had a love affair with a woman. Tess thinks that’s cool, and–realizing that he never got her letter–tells him about Alec d’Urberville. Angel, in the biggest dick move in maybe all of literature, is like, “YOU WHORE” and leaves her, asking one of the other milkmaid biddies to come with him and be his mistress.

Tess goes back to her family and, after a while, runs into Alec d’Urberville again, who asks Tess to be his mistress. Tess’s father dies suddenly and her mother is like, “PROSTITUTE YOURSELF FOR OUR WELFARE, GIRL”, so Tess breaks out the ruffly knickers of despair and goes off with Alec.

Years later, Angel comes back from wherever he’s been, and finds Tess and tells her that he was wrong to leave her and begs for her forgiveness. She is devastated, as she is Alec’s mistress now and still hates his guts, but hey, her mother is living the high life, so I guess everyone’s happy.

Except for Tess, who instantly goes upstairs where Alec is sleeping and STABS HIM TO DEATH IN HIS GODDAMN PREDATOR FACE.

She tells Angel about the murder, and they run off in the sunset together and have five blissfully happy days on the lam before the law catches up with them. In the maybe most ridiculous scene in the book, they end up trying to evade the police at Stonehenge, but then they get caught and Tess goes to her death on the gallows, and Angel vows to look after Tess’s younger siblings. THE END.

The moral of the story is: PrancerHoof and Sorrow were the lucky ones to get out of this bleak tale so early.

Phew, that was an exhausting recap. ON TO THE COVERS!

Let’s start with the worst of the worst today. This is a category I call Angel Clare Was Right: Tess is a Whore

What the actual shitting fuck is this

Actually, wait

You’re damn right: she is no Angel

Because Angel was a total cockmuffin

Never mind, I love this cover now

I could actually kill someone for this cover.

“Should we show Tess innocently sleeping?”

“Nah, let’s show her swooning in a vague state of sultry undress in Alec’s arms. That’s totally what happened in that scene.”

“Do you like my coy flowers of sexual awakening?”

Tess of the d’Urbervilles and the Strawberries of Sex

A related category: Tess Undressed

Because everyone does farm work in their underwear.

I, too, always brood with my back (and presumably breasts?) exposed. It helps me to think.

Nipples in the Cemetery: A Thomas Hardy Novel.

And what good “Bad Book Covers” post would be complete without an Inaccurate Costuming section?

Stop using this goddamn painting for EVERYTHING.


Wow, if Tess had managed to live until 1910, she could have had that outfit in every color!

I . . . I don’t even know what that hat is.

Is Tess a sous chef? Some sort of Puritan maiden? A smurf?

Thank god that Tess–the poor teenage farm girl–is 45 years old and can afford expensive lace collars and jewelry!

The art department clearly has no idea when this novel is supposed to be set.

(hint: it’s the 1870s)

Fun fact: that second cover is a photograph of the French painter and model Juliet Manet. Who has absolutely nothing to do with anything.

Then there’s a category called Women Who Are Bored As Shit

Here’s a good overlap between this category and the last one:

“I, Tess, the Mexican mural painter from the 1930s, am ever so bored with life.”

“Goddamn it, Gary, you Holstein mother fucker.”

“Yeah. I am rolling my eyes at you, Gregory, and I’d like to hear what you think you’re gonna do about it.”

*flicks cigarette into cattle pen*

“Waiting around for your life to be ruined is literally the worst. Can’t we just get it over with?”

“I wonder where my hypocritical, estranged husband is.

“Oh. I just remembered: I don’t care.”

“You know what would liven up the day? More horse impalement. Should I? Oh, go on. I’ll be a devil.”

And then we have a section that is technically fine, but a little repetitive: Tess is a Sleepy Bitch


Tess of the d’Urbervilles: Now With Extra Armpit

Eh, we’ll just use Sir Frederic Leighton’s “Flaming June” painting. It’s 1890s-ish. A woman falls asleep in the book. It’s probably thematically appropriate.

To wrap things up, we should (for the sake of fairness) include some Good Covers


These are all lovely and creepy and oppressive and at least vaguely thoughtful.

That’s it for me today–as always, I’m open to suggestions for books for another one of these posts.

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Regency Slang – Section B

I found this list of vocabulary and slang from The Regency Assembly Press, here. I’m only picking a few excerpts, so visit their site for the full list.

Bacon Fed–Fat, greasy.

Back Gammon Player–A sodomite.

Back Door (Usher, or Gentleman of the Back Door)–A sodomite.

Baker-Knee’d–One whose knees knock together in walking, as if kneading dough.

Barber’s Chair–She is as common as a barber’s chair, in which a whole parish sit to be trimmed; said of a prostitute.

Barque of Frailty–Woman of easy virtue.

Bastardly Gullion–A bastard’s bastard.

Bat–A low whore: so called from moving out like bats in the dusk of the evening.

Batchelor’s Son–A bastard.

Bawbee–A halfpenny–Scotch.

Bawbels, or Bawbles–Trinkets; a man’s testicles.

Beard Splitter–A man much given to wenching.

Beau-Nasty–A slovenly fop; one finely dressed, but dirty.

Become A Tenant For Life–marry.

Bed-Maker–Women employed at Cambridge to attend on the Students, sweep his room, &c–They will put their hands to any thing, and are generally blest with a pretty family of daughters: who unmake the beds, as fast as they are made by their mothers.

Beetle-Browed–One having thick projecting eyebrows.

Belly Pleas–The plea of pregnancy, generally adduced by female felons capitally convicted, which they take care to provide for, previous to their trials.

Bill at Sight–To pay a bill at sight; to be ready at all times for the venereal act.

Bird Of Paradise–Woman of easy virtue.

Bit O’muslin–A woman of who gives sexual favors in exchange for payment.

Bitch Booby–A country wench–Military Term.

Biter–A wench whose **** is ready to bite her arse; a lascivious, rampant wench.

Blanket Hornpipe–The amorous congress.

Bleached Mort–A fair-complexioned wench.

To Sport Blubber–Said of a large coarse woman, who exposes her bosom.

Blue Skin–A person begotten on a black woman by a white man–One of the blue squadron; any one having a cross of the black breed, or, as it is Termed, a lick of the tar brush.

Bob Tail–A lewd woman, or one that plays with her tail; also an impotent man, or an eunuch.

Bottomless Pit–A prostitute.

To Box the Jesuit, and get Cock Roaches–A Sea Term for masturbation; a crime, it is said, much practised by the reverend fathers of that society.

Bracket-Faced–Ugly, hard-featured.


Bread and Butter Fashion–One slice upon the other–John and his maid were caught lying bread and butter fashion.

Break-Teeth Words–Hard words, difficult to pronounce.

Bread Basket–The stomach; a Term used by boxers–I took him a punch in his bread basket; i.e–I gave him a blow in the stomach.

Breast Fleet–He or she belongs to the breast fleet; i.e–Is a Roman catholic; an appellation derived from their custom of beating their breasts in the confession of their sins.

Breeches Bible–An edition of the Bible printed in 1598, wherein it is said that Adam and Eve sewed figleaves together, and made themselves breeches.

Brim–(Abbreviation of Brimstone.) An abandoned woman; perhaps originally only a passionate or irascible woman, compared to brimstone for its inflammability.

Bristol Man–The son of an Irish thief and a Welch whore.

Brother Starling–One who lies with the same woman, that is, builds in the same nest.

Bube–The venereal disease.

Buck Face–A cuckold.

Buck Fitch–A lecherous old fellow.

Bug–A nick name given by the Irish to Englishmen; bugs having, as it is said, been introduced into Ireland by the English.

Bull Beggar, or Bully Beggar–An imaginary being with which children are threatened by servants and nurses, like raw head and bloody bones.

Bull Chin–A fat chubby child.

Bull’s Feather–A horn: he wears the bull’s feather; he is a cuckold.

Bully Cock–One who foments quarrels in order to rob the persons quarrelling.

Bully Trap–A brave man with a mild or effeminate appearance, by whom bullies are frequently taken in.

Bumfiddle–The backside, the breech

Bumping–A ceremony performed on boys perambulating the bounds of the parish on Whit-monday, when they have their posteriors bumped against the stones marking the boundaries, in order to fix them in their memory.

Bung Upwards–Said of a person lying on his face.

Bunter–A low dirty prostitute, half whore and half beggar.

Burning Shame–A lighted candle stuck into the parts of a woman, certainly not intended by nature for a candlestick.

Burnt–Poxed or clapped–He was sent out a sacrifice, and came home a burnt offering; a saying of seamen who have caught the venereal disease abroad–He has burnt his fingers; he has suffered by meddling.

Bushel Bubby–A full breasted woman.

Butcher’s Dog–To be like a butcher’s dog, i.e–lie by the beef without touching it; a simile often applicable to married men.

Butter Box–A Dutchman, from the great quantity of butter eaten by the people of that country.

Buttered Bun–One lying with a woman that has just lain with another man, is said to have a buttered bun.

Buttock–A whore–(Cant)

Buttock Broker–A bawd, or match-maker–(Cant)

Buttock Ball–The amorous congress–(Cant)

Buttock and File–A common whore and a pick-pocket–(Cant)

Buttock and Twang, or Down Buttock and Sham File–A common whore, but no pickpocket.

Buttock and Tongue–A scolding wife.

Buttocking Shop–A brothel.

Bye-Blow–An illegitimate child–A bastard.

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Moby Dick

I found the following story on Futility Closet’s blog here.

“On Nov. 20, 1820, the Nantucket whaler Essex was attacking a pod of sperm whales in the South Pacific when an immense 85-foot whale surfaced about 100 yards off the bow. It spouted two or three times, dove briefly, then charged and ‘struck the ship with his head just forward of the fore chains,’ reported mate Owen Chase. ‘He gave us such an appalling and tremendous jar as nearly threw us all on our faces. The ship brought up as suddenly and violently as if she had struck a rock, and trembled for a few moments like a leaf. We looked at each other in perfect amazement, deprived almost of the power of speech.’

“The whale passed under the ship and lay on the surface, stunned at first and then convulsing. Chase ordered men to the pumps and called back the boats, but as the Essex began to settle in the water a man called, ‘Here he is — he is making for us again.’

“‘I turned around, and saw him about one hundred rods directly ahead of us, coming down with apparently twice his ordinary speed, and to me it appeared with tenfold fury and vengeance in his aspect,” Chase wrote. ‘The surf flew in all directions, and his course towards us was marked by a white foam of a rod in width, which he made with a continual violent threshing of his tail.’ The second blow stove in the Essex’s bows, and the whale ‘passed under the ship again, went off to leeward, and we saw no more of him.’

“If this was vengeance, it was well accomplished. The Essex sank more than 1,000 miles from land; of the 21 crew who piled into three boats, only eight would survive, three on a barely habitable island and five after resorting to cannibalism during three months at sea. The whale acquired a further kind of immortality: Chase’s account of the disaster, written on his return to Massachusetts, helped inspire Herman Melville to write Moby-Dick.”

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Peculiar Bets

I found this story in The Star, Thursday, Iss: 104 (August 30, 1900); pg. 1. It reads:

“Peculiar bets on the outcome of the Presidential election are causing considerable amusement in the Western States. If Mr. McKinley is elected, Henry Winstead of Kinkley Junction, Indiana, is to engage in a butting match with a full-grown ram; while should Mr. Bryan be the victor, John Burns, of the same town, will drink three pints of hard cider while standing on his head in a barrel.

“Arthur Williams, of Burr Oak, Michigan, has agreed to support the mother-in-law of his neighbour, George Stebbens, if the Democrats win, while if they lose, Mr. Stebbens will twist the tail of a vicious mule owned by Williams once a day for three weeks.

“The strangest bet of all has been made by George Wren, of Deepwells, Wisconsin, and Samuel Carpenter, of a neighbouring town. If the former, who is an ardent Bryanite, loses, he is to wear all his clothes backwards during the next four years, and if he wins, the other man is to walk backwards during Mr. Bryan’s incumbency of office, and is to eat crow pie every day for breakfast.”

As McKinley DID win that election, and assuming all men followed through on their bets, presumably Henry Winstead died headbutting a ram, George Stebbens spent three weeks assaulting and probably rightfully being kicked by an ill-tempered animal, and George Wren spent the next four years looking like a complete tit.

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