20
May
08

Happy 340th Birthday, Dolly Madison

From Will Cuppy‘s wonderful book, How To Get From January to December:

Once there was a little Quaker girl named Dorothea Payne, or Dolly for short, down in Hanover County, Virginia. She grew up and married John Todd, who soon died, and then she married a little man named James Madison, who later became President of the United States.

As our First Lady she was famous for her tact, and in my opinion she never displayed this quality to better advantage than when she put completely at ease a young man who was so excited at meeting her that he tried to cram a teacup into his pocket. Nobody seems to know what happened to the young man afterwards, but I fear the worst. You guessed it–this is Dolly Madison’s birthday. She was born May 20th, 1768.

If you haven’t read Mr. Cuppy, you should. First and foremost you should read The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody, one of the best history books ever. It contains many wonderful stories, all of them scrupulously researched. It is where I found out that every time Hannibal lost every time he used those damn elephants in battle. Turns out elephants do not like having spears pointed at them (elephants aren’t dumb). When they find themselves facing large groups of humans with spears they tend to commit a rapid strategic relocation in a rearward manner, as our friends at the Pentagon might put it. While I have not read them all let me just list a few of his other books whose titles recommend themselves: How To Tell Your Friends From The Apes, The Great Bustard and Other People, and How To Attract The Wombat.

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1 Response to “Happy 340th Birthday, Dolly Madison”


  1. 1 Bob Colonna
    May 22, 2008 at 2:12 pm

    If you like Will Cuppy you sould be hip to Barbara Holland, who picked up the torch where the magnificent Will dropped it on his way off the planet. Her book, “Hail To The Chiefs” is a Cuppy-esque look at the lives of the presidents, and has been periodically updated and re-released. She has many funny and wonderful things to say about Dolly, including how much she loved Jemmy Madison: “She could have broken him over her knee like a stick of kindling but she didn’t want to.”


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The Ministry of Culture is a blog (duh!) about whatever interests me, a professional journalist. It looks at current events, culture -- rock & roll, literature, roller derby, opera, comedy -- military history and whatever else crosses my path. All opinions are my own.

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