What Churchill feared; the real ‘Bloody Mary’; revisiting Watergate; newsletter April 20, 2018

April 23, 2018 | By Jim Stovall | Filed in: journalism, newsletter.

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (4,129) on Friday, April 20, 2018.

The weather in East Tennessee has gone from sunny with a high near 80 degrees last Friday to a cold rain on Sunday and sleet — and even a bit of snow — on Monday. All that has prevented me from giving you an update on the beehives that we installed a couple of weeks ago. I was hoping to report that the crimson clover was in bloom and that the bees were happily gathering nectar and pollen and on their way to making honey. Alas, no such luck. The clover is not in bloom yet, and the bees have had only a few hours outside the hive.

Even when the temperatures have been good, many of the days have been windy — and bees hate wind.

So, maybe next week I will have more to report.

I hope everyone’s had a great week. Other than the weather, mine has been pretty good.

Important: Remember to open the images or click on one of the links so that my email service will record your engagement and you will stay active on the list. Thanks.


Churchill: I am afraid only of people who cannot think

In early 1915 — during the first year of World War I — Winston Churchill was First Lord of the Admiralty, commanding the vast forces of the British Navy. He was barely 40 years old. Few doubted that one day he would be prime minister.

By the end of the year, he was a battalion commander in the British Army serving in a relatively quiet sector of the Western Front. In those intervening months, Churchill (the watercolor to the right shows him as a young man) had helped plan an invasion of Turkey and had absorbed most of the blame — much of it unfairly laid — when the operation was badly bungled. He was forced to resign his cabinet post, given a meaningless government position, resigned that, and sought and received a commission in the Army. His fall from public power had been precipitous and without precedent in his charmed life.

While at the front, according to biographer William Manchester (Winston Spenser Churchill: The Last Lion, Volume 1: Visions of Glory), Churchill started reading poetry, particularly the poems of Siegfried Sassoon, a British soldier not well known at the time but whose anti-war poetry would later become famous. Churchill not only read Sassoon’s poems but memorized some of them and recited them whenever he could. He was advised by a fellow officer to leave Sassoon alone and that one day the poet might write something about him.

“I am not a bit afraid of Siegfried Sassoon,” Churchill replied. “The man can think. I am afraid only of people who cannot think.”

A poem by Siegfried Sasson is below the signature of this newsletter.


More on the real maybe-not-so-Bloody Mary 

In last week’s newsletter, I had an entry on the phrase “Bloody Mary” and mentioned that the drink to which it refers was named after Queen Mary, daughter of Henry VIII, who persecuted Protestants in an attempt to return England to Catholicism.

A newsletter reader, Frank C., wrote to say that this “persecution” was a matter of interpretation, especially when Mary’s reign is compared to that of her father or her half-sister, Elizabeth I, who came after her.

I have always suspected that Mary I (we tend to forget there were two regnant queen Marys) got a raw deal in being branded Bloody Mary. How many executions for religious reasons occurred in her reign compared to that of Henry VIII or Edward VI or Queen Elizabeth or even Charles II? I have not researched it but I keep an open mind on it. I would not regard the execution of Archbishop Cranmer as religious persecution but as fair retaliation for his part in branding her a bastard and her mother a liar. She was initially forgiving to the Northumberlands and Lady Grey and executed them only after a further rebellion broke out. She did not execute her half-sister (who managed to execute Queen Mary of Scotland while denying it). maybe it all depends on who gets to write the histories?

Good points, all.

I did a little more research on her. While most histories and biographies do brand her as intolerant of Protestants — even though she began as a tolerant and even indulgent queen — she had a number of other accomplishments (and failures) during her five-year reign. This from the History Extra, the official website for BBC History Magazine and BBC World Histories Magazine:

She restored the navy, renewed the coinage and increased crown revenue, and also established new hospitals, improved the education of the clergy and increased the authority of local government. Despite this, many of her achievements have been overlooked. In 1557, England was dragged into a war with Spain against France. This was a disastrous campaign for Mary’s troops and England officially lost possession of Calais in January 1558, which was its last stakehold in France. Source: Life of the Week: Queen Mary I – History Extra

So, stick all that in your next Bloody Mary and stir it up.



The Prolific Reader. Kill the Quarterback is listed there along with some other great mysteries. https://theprolificreader.com/mystery/


Folger Shakespeare Library podcast about the Bard’s sources

The Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. has an interesting podcast with June Schlueter and Dennis McCarthy.

These authors were mentioned in a post on JPROF.com in February (and also in Jim’s newsletter) about a newly discovered source for William Shakespeare. How they discovered this source is as interesting as what they discovered.

You can hear the interview with these authors embedded on this page on JPROF.com.


Slow Burn: a podcast series about Watergate

If you lived through the Watergate crisis (1972-1974), you probably remember a lot about what happened and about the major characters, such as John Dean, Richard Nixon, John Ehrlichman, etc. And you probably remember how it felt to have a new development in the story just about every day. It was an interesting, often thrilling, and uncertain time. (I was living in Washington, D.C., at that time and felt like I had a front-row seat.)

If you didn’t live through it, you may be wondering what it was all about. How did a president of the United States, who had been elected overwhelmingly in 1972, come to resign in disgrace just two years later?

In either case, you might want to listen to Slate magazine’s eight-episode podcast series Slow Burn by Leon Neyfakh:

Why are we revisiting Watergate now? The connections between the Nixon era and today are obvious enough. But to me, the similarity that’s most striking is not between Donald Trump and Richard Nixon (although they’re both paranoid, vengeful, and preoccupied with “loyalty”), or their alleged crimes (although they both involved cheating to win an election), or the legal issues in the two cases (although they both center on obstruction of justice).

Rather, it’s that people who lived through Watergate had no idea what was going to happen from one day to the next, or how it was all going to end. I recognize that feeling. The Trump administration has made many of us feel like the country is in an unfamiliar, precarious situation. Some days it seems like our democratic institutions won’t survive, or that permanent damage has already been done. Pretty much every day, we are buffeted by news stories that sound like they’ve been ripped out of highly stressful and very unrealistic novels.

The point of Slow Burn is to look back on the most recent time Americans went through this en masse, and to put ourselves in their shoes.

The first episode of Slow Burn is about Martha Mitchell. If you know the story of Watergate, that might seem an odd character to begin with, but Neyfakh makes a compelling case. Listen to it, and you will get hooked. 

(The pen and ink sketch is Sen. Sam Ervin of North Carolina, who chaired the Senate Watergate Committee, which figures prominently in the Watergate story.)

The lightning sketch artist

Not long ago, a friend alerted me to Gurney Journey, the website of artist James Gurney, and it has become one of my daily stops on my web rounds.

Gurney comes up with a wide variety of fascinating items, including the video above that shows sometimes about which I was completely unaware: the lightning sketch artist.

The lightning sketch artist was a vaudeville act that was highly popular during the turn of the last century, and if you watch this video, you will understand why. This video comes from British Pathe and has been speeded up a little (but not much). 





Finally . . .

This week’s watercolor: Edward Abby (caricature)


Best quote of the week:

“A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government.” Edward Abby (1927-1989)
The Best Quote of the Week in the last newsletter was also from Edward Abby, and sharp-eyed newsletter reader Frieda M., who sent the quote above in. That inspired me to do a little more research on Edward Abby and his importance as an environmental writer and to paint the caricature above as a tribute. Here’s  some of what the Encyclopedia of World Biography has to say about Abby:

Abbey’s voluminous writings, mostly about or set in the Western deserts, ranged from intensely detailed descriptions of the natural world to angry or satirical commentaries on effects of modern civilization on American wildlands. One of Abbey’s most widely quoted aphorisms, first appearing in the essay collection Desert Solitaire , held that “Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.” Abbey held anarchist convictions, and he viewed government and industry as collaborators in the destruction of the natural environment. Desert Solitaire and Abbey’s comic novel The Monkey Wrench Gang achieved mass success, winning Abbey a strong following among members of the counterculture of the 1970s and beyond. The overarching emphasis of Abbey’s writing, however, was personal and philosophical; like the 19th-century New England essayist Henry David Thoreau, to whom he has sometimes been compared, Abbey viewed the natural world in almost mystical terms.


Read more: http://www.notablebiographies.com/supp/Supplement-A-Bu-and-Obituaries/Abbey-Edward.html#ixzz5DAbszckF


Helping those in need

This is my weekly reminder to all of us (especially me) that there are many people who need our help. It’s not complicated. Things happen to people, and we should be ready to do all the good we can in all of the ways we can. (Some will recognize that I am paraphrasing John Wesley here). When is the last time you gave to your favorite charity? The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR.org)is my favorite charity. Please make a contribution to yours.

Keep reading, keep writing (especially to me), and have a great weekend.


Jim Stovall 


You can connect with Jim on FacebookTwitterLinkedin, and BookBub.

His Amazon author page is where you can find more information about his books.

Last week’s newsletter: Starting beehives; surviving March; sketching in the urban; more on Darwin: newsletter April 13, 2018


Prelude: The Troops (1918)

Siegfried Sassoon

Dim, gradual thinning of the shapeless gloom
Shudders to drizzling daybreak that reveals
Disconsolate men who stamp their sodden boots
And turn dulled, sunken faces to the sky
Haggard and hopeless. They, who have beaten down
The stale despair of night, must now renew
Their desolation in the truce of dawn,
Murdering the livid hours that grope for peace.

Yet these, who cling to life with stubborn hands,
Can grin through storms of death and find a gap
In the clawed, cruel tangles of his defence.
They march from safety, and the bird-sung joy
Of grass-green thickets, to the land where all
Is ruin, and nothing blossoms but the sky
That hastens over them where they endure
Sad, smoking, flat horizons, reeking woods,
And foundered trench-lines volleying doom for doom.

O my brave brown companions, when your souls
Flock silently away, and the eyeless dead
Shame the wild beast of battle on the ridge,
Death will stand grieving in that field of war
Since your unvanquished hardihood is spent.
And through some mooned Valhalla there will pass
Battalions and battalions, scarred from hell;
The unreturning army that was youth;
The legions who have suffered and are dust.

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