How to be Insulting Intellectually
Benjamin Disraeli's wife. Lady Beaconsfield, was no intellectual match for her husband, much as he loved her. One evening at dinner she was intrigued by the conversation which centred on a certain Dean Swift, a man who sounded the sort of guest that her ladyship ought to have entertained.
'Who is this Dean Swift?' she asked one of her companions. 'Can I ask him to my parties?'
'Hardly so, my dear,' was the reply.
'Why not?' asked Lady Beaconsfield, intrigued.
'Well, some years ago he did a thing which effectively prevented him from ever appearing in society again.'
'Good heavens, what ever did he do?'
'He died,' said her companion.
Talleyrand was told by a colleague that a certain cleric, the Abbe Sieyes, was a very profound man.
'Profound, yes,' said Talleyrand. 'He is a perfect cavity.'
Albert Einstein was chatting pleasantly to a hostess on one occasion when the woman asked him airily if he would explain his Theory of Relativity to her.
'I was taking a walk with a blind friend on a hot day,' he told her, 'and I mentioned that I would like a drink of milk.
' "I know what a drink is." said my friend, "but what is milk?"
' "A white liquid." I answered.
' "I know what a liquid is, but what is white?"
' "The colour of a swan's feathers," I told him.
' "I know what feathers are. but what is a swan?"
' "A bird with a crooked neck," I answered.
' "I know what a neck is. but what is crooked?" The only way of explaining this to him-was by taking his arm and bending it.
' "That is crooked," I told him.
' "Oh, now I know what you mean by milk." he told me.'