Inspired by the myriad of Buzzfeed articles on my Facebook feed, I decided to make my own list. Crushing on characters (both alive and dead, real and fictional) is probably what steered me toward my lucrative career path in words and stuff. Josh Lyman, Tina Fey, Gonff, Paula Poundstone, Tom Hiddleston, Minerva McGonagall, Ender Wiggin, Ender Wiggin, Ender Wiggin, the saukerl Rudy Steiner—I could gush all day about any of them, but it’s Christmas/finals season and none of us has the time.
So I shortened the list to dead people. Thus, my top five historical crushes:
5. Francis Marion, the Swamp Fox (1732-1795)
Stay with me here. I know Marion isn’t a good guy, no matter how Mel Gibson might portray in him. “The Swamp Fox” was infamous for being disturbingly brutal to the British he captured, a rapist of his black slaves, and a racist who spent a lot of his occupational energies on murdering Cherokee Indians.
Though I wouldn’t bring him home to meet my parents, I love the maverick, ends-justify-the-means anti-hero type. Francis Marion was a real-life Robin Hood—without all the redeeming qualities. He was marvelously effective at guerrilla warfare. Never once captured, he fought without pay or supplies and even moonlighted as a senator after the war. (Source: Wikipedia. I am not ashamed.)
4. Katharina von Bora (1499-1552)
Katharina is also not a crush I’d ever bring home to meet the ‘rents, but that’s because she was already married to 4b. (Martin Luther, 1483-1546). 95 Theses, protestant reformation, translated the Bible into German: Luther’s woman is by far the coolest thing about him.
Katharina von Bora was one of a passel of nuns Luther liberated from a convent at her request. After they got married (“…while I was occupied with far different thoughts, the Lord has plunged me into marriage”), Katharina took over the business side of the family, running a brewery for income and the thousand other tasks that go with being in charge of a farm, monastery, hospital, and family of ten. Ten. Although Luther’s writings clearly indicate him to be against female leaders in the church, his own life and ministry was so progressively dependent the leadership of Katherina, it’s difficult to take his writings as pragmatic rather than theoretical.
Like the polarized States of the 1860s, we need a modern Abe Lincoln: brilliance disguised as chutzpah, equanimity hidden by humble origins. We need writers who can communicate to the willfully deaf in a time of apathetic intolerance. Abe and his words are enough to tempt me towards patriotism every time I read them.
“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”
In the wake of Henry VIII’s string of wives, their beheadings, and his religious waffling, Elizabeth provided much-needed peace and stability. I cannot say how impressive I find that, given her reportedly mercurial temperament and horrid upbringing: the death of her mother, the sexual assault from her stepfather, and the imprisonment and forced religious conversion from her half-sister.
As England’s sole ruler for 45 years, Elizabeth gave her country what she herself had been denied: religious tolerance, security, and freedom. By stringing along at least 21 different suitors (mostly various kings, dukes, and princes of France, Spain, Austria, Sweden, etc.) over her lifetime she guarded her throne, famously stating, “I would rather be a beggar and single than a queen and married.” All the single ladies, amiright?! Plus, she was Shakespeare’s patron and spoke seven languages. Props.
Don’t judge a book by its cover, but judge a man by his books. I cannot express the sexiness of solid logic, clarity of expression, and wry British humor. Let’s finish with the words of my would-be-if-he-weren’t-dead-and-also-was-already-happily-married lover:
“A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.”
“No one ever told me that grief felt so much like fear.”
“Faith . . . is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods.”
“A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word “darkness” on the walls of his cell.”
Elaine Schnabel (’11) spent her twenties traveling, blogging, and earning various master’s degrees. Now earning her PhD at the University of North Carolina in organizational communication, Elaine researches and writes at the intersection of religion and communication. You can find her blogging at Religious (Not Crazy).