Monday, October 20, 2008

David Fromkin's "The King and The Cowboy"

David Fromkin is the Director of the Frederick S. Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future at Boston University. He also holds appointments as Frederick S. Pardee Professor for the Study of the Longer-Range Future, University Professor, and Professor of International Relations, of History, and of Law.

Fromkin's new book is The King and The Cowboy: Theodore Roosevelt and Edward the Seventh, Secret Partners.

He applied the “Page 99 Test”--Is Ford Madox Ford's statement "Open the book to page ninety-nine and read, and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you," accurate for The King and The Cowboy?--and reported the following:
“Quality” is perhaps too strong a word, but it does suggest its scope: from low sex to high politics.

From Page 99:

In the 1800s letters and other documents show a pattern of using call girls. A woman recommends a girlfriend for a meeting—Willy and the two of them. There are missed appointments and a final disagreement about Willy paying travel expenses. He asks for another engagement; they meet and take a single room for the night at an inn; the other guests complain of the noise they make. The lady remains, on a sporadic basis, part of his life: her name recurs.

Another lady regrets that she cannot come to him in Berlin at the end of August, as he asks, because she has a prior appointment in Switzerland; what about someday in autumn?

At about this time Willy contracted Frau Wolf. Röhl tells us that she was “a famous Viennese procuress,” who supplied him with lady companions. His expenses in this respect must have been considerable; he was driven to borrow large sums from Archduke Rudolf.

From his grandfather, William I, Willy inherited the apparently all-powerful Chancellor Otto von Bismarck. The question, when Willy because William II, was who would rule. Before dying, William I confided to one of his intimates that “when Prince Wilhelm is Kaiser he will insist on appearing as a man who really rules—that is why I do not think he and the chancellor will agree for long.”

That turned out to be true. It explains a great deal about Wilhelmine Germany. It explains why the new Kaiser always surrounded himself with flatterers and yes-men. But it also explains why several of the most disastrous decisions of his reign were ones in which he allowed himself to be overruled by his government: if it looked as though a certain decision had to be made, he preferred that it appear to have been made on his authority. He wanted to seem to be the person in charge: to seem, but not necessarily to be.
Read more about The King and The Cowboy at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue