Wednesday Blogging Challenge: Favorite historic personage to read about?

….favorite historic personage to read about, eh? That’s a tough one. There are a few people I’ve read several biographies about, including Joan of Arc and John Adams. I’ve found Joan fascinating since watching a CBS drama based on her life, with a strong cast and magnificent music. and even wrote a paper on her in college for a medieval history course. My favorite biography of her remains The Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc, by no less than Mark Twain. Another favorite to read about is John Adams, whose prudent sensibilities and restrained idealism I admire: while he didn’t have the high hopes for humanity that Jefferson dead, he was more consistent about human liberty, refusing to own or even hire slaves. I can thank David McCullough for introducing me properly to Adams, but I’ve extensively on him thanks to Joseph Ellis. When it comes to favorite, though, I think I have to say…C.S. Lewis. I re-read his Surprised by Joy every year, for instance; I’ve read collections of his letters, read biographies of him, analyses of his literature and essays, etc. My devotion is not because I love his novels or find his apologetics than anything I’ve ever read: it’s because he’s such dashed good company, as Bertie Wooster might put it — and what’s more, a man of the old cloth, a genuine medieval humanist who was just as comfortable discussing literature as philosophy and gardening, who put no truck in the empty distractions of modernity but held on to that which was good — evenings spent in bars arguing with friends, intimate conversations in person or in letters, offering support and diversion, long walks with his brother amid the beauty of the English countryside, aged wine and older books. One can’t imagine him going into a McDonalds and sitting by himself, staring at tiktok videos on his phone and posting reactions to the issue-of-the-hour. He, like Henry David Thoreau, read not The Times but the eternities — and despite living with challenges his entire life long, from an emotionally difficult father to taking care of a friend’s mother who became more of a toxic chore by the year, to meeting the love of his life and then losing her swiftly to cancer — he found ways to take those adversities with grace. He’s a good chap, Jack, and I’ll never tire of spending time in his company via books.

About smellincoffee

Citizen, librarian, reader with a boundless wonder for the world and a curiosity about all the beings inside it.
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16 Responses to Wednesday Blogging Challenge: Favorite historic personage to read about?

  1. lydiaschoch says:

    C.S. Lewis seems like he would have been a very interesting person to hang out with!

  2. Michael Mock says:

    Oh, I *love* that choice! And I agree completely; C.S. Lewis would have been great fun to talk to, and is still fun to read about (or just to read).

  3. Patrick Prescott says:

    A truly great writer, able to write stories for children and the most philosophical at the same time.

  4. Cyberkitten says:

    Definitely agree on Joan. Tough kid and one of my favourite historical people. I have a few books on her that I must read at some point… [grin]

  5. Marian says:

    Heyyyy… I didn’t realize you were also really interested in Joan! She’s been a hero of mine since I was a small kid and watched Wishbone “Bone of Arc” 😆 Going to check out your reviews now (think they were posted before I started following your blog regularly)

    • She’s the only saint I’ve bought a ‘prayer card’ for, though I just have it propped up against my computer. Got it in Santa Fe, I think. Too bad I didn’t mention more of the books I drew on for that paper,,,,there were some odd ones in there. One of them cast her as a new age feminist sorceress or something. XD

      • Cyberkitten says:

        I lit a candle for her in (I think) Notre Dame when I was in Paris years ago…. There’s a GREAT gold (coloured I presume!) statue of her in Paris too. Quite brilliant.

      • If I ever go to France, I’ll studiously avoid Paris and seek out places like Rouen. I think the tower is still there where she was held.

  6. Always Eleanor of Aquitaine, obviously!

  7. Cyberkitten says:

    Oh, I really liked Paris. I was there for a week. Fascinating place and I barely scratched the surface…. Totally overloaded on Art & stuff.

    • I’m sure it has no shortage of wonder! I’d be interesting in trying its coordinated metro & bike rental system….but I have a strong aversion to crowds. When I go on vacation it tends to be to places like the desolate wilderness for a reason!

      • Cyberkitten says:

        I was born in the heart of a city, worked in and lived in/near cities all my life. I like them a lot. It took me a while to get used to London but once you acquire that skill set you can cope with just about anywhere! [lol] Oh, the Paris Metro is AMAZING. I thought the London tube was pretty good until Paris ruined me… [grin]

  8. Interesting to wonder what Lewis would have made of social media. He wailed about the necessity of writing letters and then wrote good ones. He might have made quite a discipline of answering fans’ social media posts for an hour a day…

    It’s actually sort of humanizing, I think, that Walter Hooper published the evidence that he did start to write one really bad novel and discard it when he realized it was irretrievably bad. *Almost* everything he wrote turned to gold.

  9. Tyler james says:

    A truly great writer, able to write stories for children and the most philosophical at the same time.

  10. Cassie says:

    You know, I don’t think I know *anything* about CS Lewis, past reading the Narnia books. And you’re making me want to learn more about him now – where would you recommend I start?

    • “Surprised by Joy” , his account of his early years, was where I became fond of him as a person and not just a writer, I think. It gets a bit heady toward the end when he’s trying to elaborate on his inner arguments about the the mind and the divine, but I found him entertaining and charming. I posted one of my favorite excerpts here:

      Surprised by Lewis

      If you’re looking for a more casual intro and can FIND this particular book, “Images of C.S. Lewis’s World” might be another. It mixes excerpts from letters and some biographical information with photos of Lewis, northern Ireland, Oxford, etc. I hope that helps!

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