Extracts from memoirs and diariesby Ian Irvine / April 24, 2014 / Leave a comment
Published in May 2014 issue of Prospect Magazine
Charles de Gaulle, left, and Winston Churchill in 1944.
© Getty Images
In 1878, Benjamin Disraeli and German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck met at the Congress of Berlin. They formed a warm regard for each other. When asked where the centre of gravity lay at the conference, Bismarck replied:
“Der alte Jude, das ist der Mann” [“The old Jew, he is the man.”]
Later, Disraeli, raised to the peerage as Lord Beaconsfield, writes to Queen Victoria: “Lord B. waited on the Chancellor. They had not met for 16 years but that space of time did not seem adequate to produce the startling change which Lord B. observed in the Chancellor’s appearance. A tall pallid man with a wasp-like waist was now represented by an extremely stout person with a ruddy countenance on which was now growing a silvery beard.”
He writes again: “Dined with Bismarck alone, and then we talked and smoked. If you do not smoke under such circumstances, you look like a spy, taking down his conversation in your mind. Smoking in common puts him at ease… His views on all subjects are original, but there is no strain, no effort at paradox. He talks as Montaigne writes. When he heard about Cyprus [Disraeli had struck a deal with the Ottoman Empire allowing Britain to occupy Cyprus], he said ‘you have done a wise thing. This is progress. It will be popular; a nation likes progress.’ His idea of progress was evidently seizing something.”