Thursday, January 03, 2008

Eccentricity's Haven

Christopher Hitchens (who ought to know) on eccentrics in Britain. An excerpt:

In 1933, Dame Edith Sitwell decided to publish a study called The English Eccentrics. I can’t think what gave her the idea. Her father, Sir George Reresby Sitwell (son of Sir Sitwell Sitwell), maintained a country retreat named Renishaw Hall, near the Derbyshire town of Eckington. A sign at the entrance made the following heartfelt request: “I must ask anyone entering the house never to contradict me or differ from me in any way, as it interferes with the functioning of the gastric juices and prevents my sleeping at night.” This atmosphere of mild—if pronounced—megalomania was dimly policed by a faithful butler, unimprovably named Henry Moat: a christening that would not have disgraced a P. G. Wodehouse manservant. The imperturbable Moat saw quite a few things in his time, which included his master’s invention of a miniature revolver for the special purpose of shooting wasps.

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