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The Diarists: This week in history


13 July 1866

William Allingham, poet: "T[ennyson] and I out at 12… we swim through tall bracken. T pauses midway, turns to me, and says solemnly, 'I believe this place is quite full of vipers!' After going a little further, he stopped again and said, 'I am told that a viper-bite may make a woman silly for life, or deprive a man of his virility.'"

18 July 1954

Cynthia Gladwyn, hostess: "The Duchesse de Talleyrand told us a most unfortunate gaffe made by the Duke of Windsor at the supper party following her son's wedding. He had spilt coffee over the dress of his neighbour, and had been comforted by the fact that she was a Rothschild who could well afford another dress. After apologies and to start the conversation, he brightly remarked, 'Since you're a Rothschild, can you tell which is the Rothschild with whom Pamela Harriman is having an affair?' To which she replied. 'Sir, that's worse than the coffee; that's my husband!'"

19 July 1821

Benjamin Haydon, painter: "The appearance of a Monarch has something of the air of a rising sun; there are indications which announce his approach, a streak of light, the tipping of a cloud, the singing of a lark, the brilliance of the sky, till the edges get brighter, and he rises majestically into the heavens. So was the King's [George IV] advance. A whisper of mystery turns all eyes to the throne! Suddenly two or three run; others fall back; some talk, direct, hurry, stand still, or disappear. Then three or four of high rank appear from behind the Throne; an interval is left; the crowds scarce breathe! Something rustles, and a being buried in satin, feathers and diamonds rolls gracefully into his seat. The room rises with a sort of feathered, silken thunder! Plumes wave, eyes sparkle, glasses are out, mouths smile, and one man becomes the prime object of attraction to thousands!… As he looked towards the peeresses and foreign ambassadors, he looked like some gorgeous bird of the east."