I have been thinking long and hard all week about this post. The Problem, naturally is not that I can't think of anyone, but that I can think of way too many people I would like to have dinner with.
First of all, since the sentence did specify history, I chose to eliminate anyone from history who lived into my lifetime, meaning people like Joseph Campbell, Harry Truman and Rex Stout got the hook. Then I started eliminating persons whom I admired, but heard weren't that great at dinner. Take Henry II of England, great king with a fascinating queen (the legendary Elanor of Aquitaine) but he notoriously had no palate at all, ate dinner standing up, and was usually done in 10 minutes. No I wanted someone celebrated for the quality of both their entertainment and their conversation.
I considered Thomas Jefferson, who built what is still the most beautiful house in the United States and entertained in it lavishly, celebrated especially for the quality of his wine cellar. But I know I would have felt guilty about who was doing the cooking, since Jefferson famously took one of his slaves to France while he was an ambassador so he could be properly trained. It left me a bit uncomfortable.
I considered having dinner with one of my idols, Edwin Booth, maybe in his later years at the Players Club. He tended to be very shy around most women however, so I'm not sure how much fun we would have. (Had this question been, what famous actor from history would you most like to see perform, he would win hands down though.)
Another person I would enjoy having dinner with would be Thomas More. Utopia as it happens is one of my favorite books, and though I greatly disagree on the religious principals that he died a martyr to, I greatly respect his integrity and courage. He was famous for the quality of the entertainment in his home in Chelsea and even more famous for the quality of the conversation. Also he was a firm believer in the educating of women, both his own 3 daughters, and several foster daughters as well. His daughter Meg was one of the most learned people of her time, male or female. We would definitely have to stay off the discussion of religion though, because he would definitely have considered me a heretic.
Thinking of Thomas More, brings me to the entire Tudor court, one of the most entertaining and well educated in history. Tudor England is filled with people who would make great dinner conversation, including Henry himself, Cardinal Wolsey, several of Henry's queens, and either of his well educated and talented daughters, both to be queens themselves someday. Also hanging about would be Eustace Chapuys, the Spanish Ambassador, one of my favorite footnote people in history. Maybe a big court banquet that all sorts of people were invited to.
It could be fun to have dinner with Shakespeare, just to prove he really did exist. Maybe he could bring Richard Burbage along to favor us with some poetry. And I could ask a few questions about that darned Freudian interpretation of Hamlet, and what is really being contemplated in the To be or not to be speech.
Someone else I wouldn't mind having dinner with is the great Civil War hero Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. General Chamberlain was involved not only in the war, but in politics (he was governor of Maine after the War) and went back to be president of his alma mater, Bowdoin College so we could find a lot to talk about also.
As you can see, I am really having difficultly deciding on just one person to have dinner with from history. I may have to do this buffet style to accommodate everyone.
This post is part of Finish the Sentence Friday. To see whom other bloggers would like to dine with, click here.