Magazine article The Spectator

From Darkest Derbyshire

Magazine article The Spectator

From Darkest Derbyshire

Article excerpt

COUNTING MY CHICKENS... AND OTHER HOME THOUGHTS by Deborah Devonshire Long Barn Books, L9.99, pp. 175, ISBN 1902421051

We have heard a lot lately about two men sharing a bed in a French hotel and the usual speculation as to what may have happened in it. You only have to go a little way back to discover that travellers often had to share a bed whether they chose to or not. In the 1750s, Henry Cavendish, the famous scientist, and his brother Frederic journeyed to Paris together. When they arrived in Calais they stopped at an inn and had to sleep in a room where someone was already in bed. It was a corpse laid out for burial. (The Cavendish family were famed for silence until a timely injection of Cecil blood in the last generation set them talking more than most.) Lord Brougham wrote of Henry, `He probably uttered fewer words in the course of his life than any man who lived to fourscore years and ten, not excepting the monks of La Trappe.' Nothing was said by the laconic pair till they were well on the road next morning. Eventually Frederic said, `Brother, did you see?' `Yes, I did, brother,' Henry answered. Just think what would happen now. First the hotel manager would be sent for and given a dressing-down, as he often is by spoilt travellers who don't like finding a dead person in their room. Then the rich headlines would follow: `Duke's nephews practise necrophilia in French hotel.' And there is the question of incest...

If that makes you laugh, then this book is for you, full of vim and humour, and courage, because you can't have the first two without the last.

Sniffy souls may resent the family namedropping - this Milford married into the Cavendishes and the Cecils; it is her milieu, and she can't help that. However, note the `talking more than most'; there is salt in the tale. She reviews the `Dear Mary' column which appears in The Spectator and which answers people who ask for advice as to what to do in tricky social predicaments. She mentions the Cecils again.

Since beloved David Cecil died I am no longer troubled by the problem of C. S. of Islington who asks, `What is the correct way of removing spittle which someone has accidentally spat onto one's face while talking enthusiastically?' So I don't bother to read the answer.

A 'protected' life? …

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