Even earlier still, we get the story of how, in 1492, Pope Innocent VIII lay dying and how his Jewish physician, Giacomo di San Genesio, gave him a transfusion orally, by having him drink the blood of three ten year old boys, which Pepys probably would’ve put down as a very good success, seeing the boys died and, later on, so did the pontiff. This tale is, however, somewhat like the women Pepys got his mitts upon, completely without foundation, being probably no more than anti-Semitism and given away by the rather apocryphal ten year old boys.
storms and flooding are actually caused by gay marriages?
We’ll need to skip straight past Charles Darwin “departing by horse for Montevideo” in 1833 (that he suffered horribly from seasickness could be the explanation there) and William Thomson in 1834 entering Glasgow University aged ten years and four months, and even the publication of Moby Dick, all of which came this day, otherwise we won’t have time to mention the very fellow who should be star of any November 14 celebrations: an American preacher by the name of Charles Julius Guiteau who should be infamous but, rather like the rest of us, even some of our American contingency will not have recognised the name. Anyone care to take a guess at his bid for notoriety?
Guiteau may have shot Garfield but, sadly, it proved to be his own doctors that finished the President off. At first, they said he wouldn’t last the night (he lived eleven weeks) and then they took to probing for the bullet without washing their hands first, and then generally sticking their dirty fingers in entirely the wrong place, one of them puncturing his liver just for good measure. Alexander Graham Bell even devised a metal detector to try and locate the bullet but this proved to be largely unsuccessful, mainly because they’d forgotten that the bedframe was made of metal too. Though Navy engineers did manage to rig up an early version of air conditioning by having fans blow over a large box of ice against the heat of a Washington summer, which worked well enough to lower the temperature by twenty degrees. Nonetheless, Garfield still died, on Monday 19 September.
On 14 November, Guiteau went on trial, amazingly pleading not guilty, because God had told him to do it, and then going on to constantly insult his defence team and giving his testimony in the form of epic poems before singing John Brown’s Body to the court. He remained blissfully unaware of the public’s revulsion and hatred of him (two assassination attempts were made on him), going so far as to advertise for “a nice Christian lady under thirty.” None of did him any good: on 25 January 1882, he was found guilty and condemned to the rope, his execution being set for 30 June that year. Even then, he was not done, dancing his way to the gallows before shaking hands with his executioner, waving to the crowd and then reciting a lengthy poem he had written that morning, called I am Going to the Lordy. He had wanted full orchestra backing for this last (request denied) but he sang it solo, though numerous times breaking down to sob on the shoulder of the nearest man. The hood was then put over his head and, at the agreed signal (he would drop the paper the poem was written on), he was sent to meet the Lordy.
Your four assassinated Presidents are, of course, Abraham Lincoln (15 April 1865); Garfield, as we’ve seen; William McKinley, the generally overlooked one (14 September 1901); and John F. Kennedy, also in November (22 November 1963). How did you do? Bizarrely, it was not until the Twenty-fifth Amendment was ratified in 1967 that there was an official procedure for what to do if the President became incapacitated. We British, on the other hand, and without wanting to sound too pompous and superior about it, have an absolutely foolproof method of ensuring nothing calamitous befalls Our Glorious Leader: we simply utter those three dread words: Clegg’s In Charge …
Kepler: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AJohannes_Kepler_1610.jpg [public domain]
Pepys: By John Hayls (1600–1679) (Flickr) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Comet over Rotterdam: Lieve Verschuier - painting by Dutch artist Lieve Verschuier [public domain]
Kirch: By Polylerus at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons
Librarian: Giuseppe Arcimboldo [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Guiteau: By Unknown photographer, cropped by User:Connormah [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Garvey Shot: By A. Berghaus and C. Upham, published in Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Franklin: Joseph-Siffrein Duplessis [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons