Marguerite Steinheil, 1869-1954 : Succès Malgre Scandale

Many  of you will recall that the first plot point of Downton Abbey was the daughter Mary Crawley’s sleeping with the Turkish diplomat and doing such a  bang up job of it that the poor fellow keeled over with a heart attack.  Those family and staff in the know must all must be silent lest she be ruined by the scandal, and soap opera being what it is, every episode must involve threats to destroy that silence and schemes to ensure it.

Well,  it may have been the sort of thing to bring down members of the upper-crust, but the reverse, Bad Behaviour boosting one’s reputation, maybe not so much.  Reality tells at least one happier story.

That is, after a fashion and some twists and turns.   Continue reading

Count Sergei Witte, 1849-1915: Another Man of Steel

Tales of Imperial Russia: The Life and Times of Sergei Witte, 1849-1915, Francis Wcislo, Oxford University Press.

A minor Russian aristocrat of German-Baltic roots, hence the surname, and a cousin of Madame Blavatsky.  His own mysterious powers were  a little more earthbound  than hers.

Witte was one of those provincial top-of-the-class boys who was smarter than you and he knew it.  He shamed his parents by opting to study mathematics rather than law at U of Odessa, with the aim of teaching at the college level.  That was apparently too low an ambition for the family, and therefore scotched.

Instead he went into the high tech hot subject of the day – railroads. Continue reading