A group of Mark Twain’s friends in New York, having recognised the date as that of his birth, decided to send him a suitable greeting. Unfortunately, the globe-trotting traveller was away and no one knew where he might be reached.
After some deliberation, a letter was simply sent off with the address: “Mark Twain, God Knows Where.”
Several weeks later a letter arrived from Twain: “He did.”
In 1951, photographer Arthur Sasse captured this image of Einstein leaving a 72nd birthday celebration held in his honour in Princeton, New Jersey. At the time the photo was taken, Sasse had been attempting to get the Nobel Prize-winning physicist to smile, but instead Einstein stuck out his tongue as he sat in the back seat of a car. As it turned out, Einstein liked the shot so much he had some prints made for himself. It became an iconic image.
James A Michener was once invited by President Eisenhower to a dinner at the White House. He wrote a letter to Eisenhower explaining why he couldn’t accept:
I received your invitation three days after I had agreed to speak a few words at a dinner honouring the wonderful high school teacher who taught me how to write. I know you will not miss me at your dinner, but she might at hers. In his lifetime, a man lives under fifteen or sixteen presidents, but a really fine teacher comes into his life but rarely.
Eisenhower wrote back to say that he understood.
George Bernard Shaw was once asked by a manufacturer of electric razors to endorse their new product – by shaving off his trademark beard. Shaw explained that, like his father before him, he had grown a beard for a very good reason:
“I was about five at the time and I was standing at my father’s knee whilst he was shaving. I said to him, ‘Daddy, why do you shave?’ He looked at me in silence, for a full minute, before throwing the razor out of the window, saying, ‘Why the hell do I?’ He never did again.”
The celebrated dancer Isadora Duncan once wrote to George Bernard Shaw declaring that, given the principles of eugenics, they should have a child together.
“Think of it!” she enthused. “With my body and your brains, what a wonder it would be.”
“Yes,” Shaw replied. “But what if it had my body and your brains?”
George Bernard Shaw is the only person to have been awarded both a Nobel Prize in Literature (1925) and an Oscar (1938), for his contributions to literature and for his work on the film Pygmalion (adaptation of his play of the same name), respectively.
Unable to take his Spanish royalties out of the country, W Somerset Maugham decided to use the money to pay for a luxury holiday there. He chose one of the best hotels and dined extravagantly every evening, until he felt satisfied that he had spent most of the accumulated sum. He informed the manager that he would be leaving the following day, and asked for his bill.
The manager beamed at his distinguished guest. “It has been an honour having you here,” he replied. “You have brought much good publicity to us. Therefore, there is no bill.”
Thomas Mann was introduced to an American writer of some note who abased himself before the famous novelist, saying that he scarcely considered himself to be a writer in comparison with Mann.
Mann answered him civilly, but afterward he remarked, “He has no right to make himself so small. He’s not that big.”
A local anecdote, from the vault . . .
The Australian political party now known as the National Party of Australia, representing graziers, farmers, and rural voters generally, began as the Australian Country Party.
Sir Winton George Turnbull (1899 – 1980) was an Australian Country Party Member of parliament in Canberra.
On one occasion Turnbull became irate during a parliamentary debate and shouted 'I am a Country member.'
Prime Minister Gough Whitlam interjected 'I remember'.
According to Whitlam later, Turnbull could not understand why, for the first time in all the years he had been speaking in the House, there was instant and loud applause from both sides."