I have confessed on previous occasions that I like to read dictionaries, chipping away at them a page or two at a go. I also like to do the same thing with collections of anecdotes, and as it turns out that I have just finished one. The plotting is terrible, and it is hard to keep track of all the characters, but the payoff is more immediate than it is with the regular dictionaries. So all I intend to do here is share a few of the anecdotes . . .
On a train journey to Bath, Halifax shared a compartment with two rather prim-looking middle-aged ladies. All three were strangers to one another, and the journey passed in silence until the train went through a tunnel. In the total darkness of the compartment, Halifax placed a number of noisy kisses on the back of his hand. As the train emerged from the tunnel, the former ambassador turned to his companions and asked, “To which of you charming ladies am I indebted for the delightful incident in the tunnel?”
Shortly after the 1912 presidential election, [Woodrow] Wilson visited an aged aunt whom he had not seen for some time. “What are you doing these days, Woodrow?” she asked. “I’ve just been elected President,” replied Wilson. “Oh, yes? President of what?” inquired the aunt. “Of the United States.” The old lady snorted impatiently. “Don’t be silly!” she said.
A charming American woman was seated next to [T.S.] Eliot at a dinner. The company drank good wine, the conversation was excellent, and after a while Eliot asked his companion to call him “Tom.” “Oh, I couldn’t,” she said. “You were required reading.”
Charlie Chaplin entered a Charlie Chaplin look-alike competition in Monte Carlo. He came in third.
During a visit to America, Churchill was invited to a buffet luncheon at which cold fried chicken was served. Returning for a second helping, he asked politely, “May I have some breast?” “Mr. Churchill,” replied his hostess, “in this country we ask for white meat or dark meat.” Churchill apologized profusely. The following morning, the lady received a magnificent orchid from her guest of honor. The accompanying card read: “I would be most obliged if you would pin this on your white meat.”