Tuesday, March 25, 2014

"The number of his bastards grew in time to be a Danish problem and a European joke": C.V. Wedgwood shows history is fun

I'm twelve years into C.V. Wedgwood's The Thirty Years War, when the war is about to break out of Germany and onto the larger European scene in a big way.  I'll let you know how it all turns out, but in the meantime, a few samples from the book that prove historical writing can be as entertaining as any other branch of literature:
"In Prague the King and Queen sat at dinner with the two English ambassadors. Both were in good spirits and Frederick asserted confidently that there would no fighting; the enemy were too weak and would soon draw off. He had been told so, and he was in the habit of believing what he was told."
Does that remind you of any of Wedgwood's great predecessors? Me, too. Indeed, Edward Gibbon was a model for Wedgwood, and she wrote a short book about Gibbon and his work. Here's more:
"Christian invested his commonplace political views with an aura of romance by declaring himself passionately, although chivalrously, in love with the beautiful queen of Bohemia."
"Frederick, without armies or possessions, almost without servants, retired to his uncle the Duke of Bouillon at Sedan, there in the intervals of bathing and tennis to search for new allies."
"(H)is life of hard exercise interspersed with hard drinking had left him only the heartier. Monogamy had never suited his exuberant nature, and the number of his bastards grew in time to be a Danish problem and a European joke. In spite of his energetic tastes, he was an intellectual man and made use of his gifts; he had even conducted a learned correspondence in Latin with that prince of pedants, James I of Great Britain."
That last excerpt describes Christian IV of Denmark, who I suspect will now shoot up a few places on many people's lists of favorite seventeenth-century European kings.

© Peter Rozovsky 2014

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4 Comments:

Blogger seana graham said...

That first comment reminds me of a scene in the play Warhorse which I saw a few weeks ago, where the young Brits all run off to WWI, confident that it's only going to take a couple of months to whop the Kaiser.

Or for that matter, GWBs flight deck landing in Iraq II.

Maybe it's how every war starts out.

March 25, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

And the Thirty Years War lasted longer than most and probably went through more changes, realignments, and additions to the roster of belligerents than most.

Just a few minutes ago, I came upon Wedgwood's citation of a pasquinade urging Pope Urban VIII to act. The pasquinade is the punch line to what is in our time is a widely recognized joke.; I wonder if it was so in the 1630s as well.

I'll reveal it tomorrow, so I can get another post out of this fine book.

March 25, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Wedgewood is indeed a masterpiece of writing. To lighten up your reading on the 30 Years War, you might enjoy Simplicissimus by Grimmelshausen and follow that with Brecht's Mother Courage and Her Children.

Only suggestions

March 26, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

That should make some good collateral reading, all right. Thanks. I have read Mother Courage, but I had forgotten, I am embarrassed to say, that she was Swedish.

March 26, 2014  

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