20 DECEMBER 1930, Page 27

Good Gossip

WELL-CHOSEN selections from Sir Mountstuart Grant Duff's famous but long diaries cannot fail to nourish the sense of humour and appease the insatiable appetite for good gossip in a great crowd of readers. The book covers fifty years, beginning from 1853. It is not a book to read through. We should open a little of this Victorian Vintage now and again, when we are tired and want to be picked up. Here is a nice little " sip " from the French :- " November 4. George Bunsen mentioned that a certain person having teased Bismarck to write in his album, and having met with frequent refusals, returned to the charge and pointed out a page on which Guizot and Thiers had already written. The first had put the words ' Ma longue vie m'a appris a bean. coup pardonner et It rien oublier.'

Beneath these the second had written : Tin pen d'ouhli ne rata pas 4 la sincerita du pardon.'

Bismarck, having read these, took up a pen and wrote : Quanta moi, jai appris a tout oublier et 8 me faire pardonner beaucoup. ?

There is a great deal that is not jest in these pages. There is also much wisdom and many strange occurrences marvel- lously well recounted. Nothing has interested us more in its pages than the picture of Abraham Lincoln's last Council Meeting as told by Staunton and repeated by Dickens : " When we came in we found the President sitting with his head on his hand, and looking very unlike himself. At length he lifted his head and, looking around us, said= Gentlemen, in a few hours we shall receive some very strange intelligence.' Very much surprised, I said to him, ` Sir, you have got some very bad news.' No,' he answered, ' I have got no news, but in a few hours we shall receive some very strange intelligence.' Still more astonished, I said, ` May we ask, sir, what leads you to suppose we shall receive this intelligence.' He replied, I've had a dream. I had it the night before Bull's Run. I had it on some other occasion' (which Mr. Dickens had for- gotten), ' and I had it last night.' This was stranger than ever, and I said, ' May we ask, sir, the nature of your dream ? ' He replied, ' I'm alone—I'm in a boat, and I'm out on the bosom of a great rushing river, and I drift, and I drift, and I drift.' Five hours afterwards Lincoln was assassinated." Those who know the quantity in Sir Mountstuart's cellars will appreciate Mr. Tilney Bassett's skill and taste in the quality of his selection.