The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody, first published in 1950, was written by Will Cuppy. The title itself is a play on the title of the classic book The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Although Cuppy died in 1949, this book was nearly finished at his passing, and was completed by Fred Feldkamp. Included in the 1992 edition published by Barnes & Noble are 55 line drawings by William Steig.
William Cuppy, though not well known in this day and age, was a fairly well-known writer during his time, and had rather a large following in America, England, and Australia. He wrote weekly book reviews about mystery novels for the New York Herald Tribune, various articles for different magazines, and a series of books on birds, mammals, reptiles, and fish.
Cuppy was a dedicated writer, and before embarking on The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody, read every book and article he could on these people. Many were out of print, or no longer printed in America. Thusly, Cuppy was able to discover details that many people did not know.
The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody is a factual, though at times satirical, book. William Cuppy, disgusted by other authors who described historical figures as being somehow superior, decided to collect some more 'human' facts about these great historical figures. Hence, The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody was written.
The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody had seven parts, each featuring different cultures and different people.
Part I: It Seems There Were Two Egyptians
--In which Will Cuppy gives some little-known information on two Egyptian pharoahs. Cheops, or Khufu, and Hatshepsut are the two pharoahs discussed.
Part II: Ancient Greeks and Worse
--Relates some trivia about five well-known Greek figures in ancient Greece. Details about Pericles, Alexander the Great, Hannibal, Cleopatra, and Nero are covered in this part.
Part III: Strange Bedfellows
--Basically a mish-mash of five miscellaneous historical figures. Trivial facts about Attila the Hun, Charlemagne, Lady Godiva, Lucrezia Borgia, and Philip II are revealed.
Part IV: A Few Greats
--Covers four various European rulers and leaders; Louis XIV, Peter the Great, Catherine the Great, and Frederick the Great... and one mistress, Madame du Barry.
Part V: Merrie England
--Discusses four Old-English monarchs and basic facts about their rein... and some not-so-basic facts about William the Conqueror, Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, and George III's personal lives.
Part VI: Now We're Getting Somewhere
--Information about five early explorers, unwitting discoverers, and inhabitants of the Americas. Leif Ericsson, Christopher Columbus, Montezuma, Captain John Smith, and Miles Standish are all discussed in this chapter.
Part VII: They All Had Their Fun
--Some Royal Pranks and Some Royal Stomachs: Stories about the royalty's mischief (hey, royalty needed a break from the doldrums too!) and their nit-picky stomachs.
All in all, The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody stands out as being a truly unique book because of its unique writer. While still remaining true to these figures' life stories, Cuppy presents personalities, physical characteristics, idiosyncrasies, and (sometimes large) screwups in a dry, humoristic voice. Cuppy brings these historical figures to life as they truly were: Human beings, with very human traits and faults.
The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody, Will Cuppy, Barnes & Noble Books, (c)1950