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The way we were

First impressions–meetings with Voltaire, Bin Laden, and the Iron Duke

By Ian Irvine   October 2013

George Sand aged 60, two years after she first met the De Goncourt brothers. (© Mary Evans picture library)

James Boswell, aged 24 and on the Grand Tour in 1764, wangles an invitation to meet Voltaire at his house in Switzerland:

“He was all brilliance. He gave me continued flashes of wit. I got him to speak English, which he does in a degree that made me now and then start up and cry, ‘Upon my soul this is astonishing!’ When he talked our language he was animated with the…

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