Curing Hiccups with Small Fires: A Delightful Miscellany of Great British Eccentrics
An 18th-century French scholar attributed the British talent for eccentricity to a "mixture of fogs, beef, and beer . . . aggravated by the tedium of the English Sunday." Whatever the reason, the British Isles do seem to have thrown up more than their fair share of magnificent oddballs, the finest of which are profiled in this fast, funny celebration of over 200 aristocrats, inventors, artists, and the just plain weird. Some included examples are: Dr. Samuel Johnson is said to have shaved off all of his bodily hair, just to see how long it would take to grow back; Spencer Cavendish, 8th Duke of Devonshire, once related an experience he had at Westminster, "I had a horrid nightmare. I dreamed I was making a speech in the House of Lords, and woke up to find I actually was"; and†Percy Bysshe Shelley once tied a cat to a kite in a thunder storm to see if it would be electrocuted. Obviously a romping, roaring good time.