A shy man, he was still willing to create a sensation to demonstrate a point. Victorians regarded zebras as irredeemably wild animals, resistant to being tamed and made useful to man, an unforgivable sin to the Victorian mind. Walter believed otherwise, and to prove it drove his carriage drawn by a team of well-trained zebras...to Buckingham Palace. (read more)
Very stylish, wouldn't you agree?
* * *
Remember that ring of Jane Austen's that I mentioned a few weeks ago? It sold at auction for the tremendous price of £150,000, "more than five times its estimate." That's twice as expensive as my house! Just another indication that Austen-fever is alive and well in the twenty-first century.
* * *
Medieval Reader blogged recently about Ian Mortimer's The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England. She calls it a "lively introduction to the period," but notes that it is "punctuated by Mortimer’s apparent hostility towards what the author perceives as religious and moral ‘prudishness’." In the past, I had heard very high praise of this book, many historical authors citing it as a great source to provide background information for their novels. The review made me curious: is Mortimer's book "pop" history or is it serious stuff?
This week Spiegel featured an interview with Ian Mortimer where he answers questions about the book and about medieval life. I found some of his answers enlightening--although more enlightening about his attitude toward the Middle Ages than enlightening about the era itself.
SPIEGEL: Would people from that time period get along better in our time than we might in theirs?
Mortimer: Absolutely not. People in the Middle Ages were utterly unfamiliar with change. They had no sense of what another time might be like. When they thought of the ancient Romans, they imagined them in medieval clothes. They would be completely at a loss here and wonder: "Where are we? This can't be the Earth!"
Huh. By this argument people in the sixteenth and seventeenth century were utterly unfamiliar with change too, since all those Shakespearean actors performed Comedy of Errors in Elizabethan clothing.
SPIEGEL: If a working time machine really existed, would you take a trip back to medieval England?
Mortimer: Quite apart from the fact that, by my age, 44, I would probably have been carried off by some disease long ago, people in the Middle Ages were not exactly open-minded towards strangers, and they would have been quick to recognize my foreignness. They would not have been very nice to me. In short: No thanks!
Not exactly the response you'd expect from a tour guide. I understand that living in the dark and dirty Middle Ages doesn't appeal to everyone--but if Rick Steves told readers that he had no interest to going to any of the locations that he writes about, do you think readers would still buy his guide books?