Resources for Thinkers' Dinner XII - To Die For

The twelfth in our regular series of quarterly dinners was held at a new venue for us Institute of Directors, with a theme of To Die For. The theme was carried through into the gift for our guests, which was a book based on the As A Dodo blog.

Some of the matters from this-day-in-history quiz also seemed to fit comfortably with the theme - there are always a good collection of people who died on any given day of the year, but 8th February does feature one or two quite special feats of death dealing:
  • In 1587 Mary Queen of Scots is excecuted and we looked at one of the harrowing contemporaneous descriptions of the event and at her last letter. As Lord Gray put it, in calling for her execution: A dead woman bites not. Execution_of_Mary,_Queen_of_Scots,_created_1613,_artist_unknown
  • In 1692 a doctor in Salem Village, Massachusetts Bay Colony first suggests that two girls in the family of the village minister may be suffering from bewitchment. This is to spark the Salem Witch Trials an event which is to lead to the widespread use of the term 'witch hunt' ever afterwards, notably in connection with McCarthyism which, arguably, begins with a speech made on 9th February 1950.
    Dr. William Griggs examines Betty Parris and declares  her possessed by the Devil
    Click the above picture for more from the trials
  • This date in 1931 American actor James Dean is born. He famously dies young in a road accident, giving rise to a cult hero and adding glamour to the idea of an early death - though the phrase live fast die young pre-dates Dean's death slightly, it arrises at about the same time.

Our theme can also be interpreted in the sense of causes to die for and in this context it is perhaps most associated with the poem Dulce Et Decorum Est by Wilfred Owen, though that poem takes its title from another poem of Roman origin

It also provides a perfect excuse to include here one of my favourite quotations:

There are many causes that I am prepared to die for but no causes that I am prepared to kill for

The phrase to die for is probably most associated in modern usage as an overblown fasion statement, reputedly first used in this way by Vogue in the 1950s. As you can see from the links it's still in use . . .

Note:The images presented here are out of copyright.