1. Nancy Mitford on Kafka Hype

    When Nancy Mitford made a trip to Prague in November 1968 to do research for Frederick the Great, she found that the locals didn’t share her enthusiasm for “Fred.” She wrote in a letter,

    Nobody in the least bit interested in any historical figures exc: Kafka. I never got to the battlefield of Kollin but you can be sure if Kafka had fought there I wld have been taken the first day!

    So, you see, Joseph Epstein, this has been going on for some time now.

  2. "Judge me for my own merits"

    Judge me for my own merits, or lack of them, but do not look upon me as a mere appendage to this great general or that great scholar, this star that shines at the court of France or that famed author. I am in my own right a whole person, responsible to myself alone for all that I am, all that I say, all that I do. It may be that there are metaphysicians and philosophers whose learning is greater than mine, although I have not met them. Yet, they are but frail humans, too, and have their faults; so, when I add the sum total of my graces, I confess I am inferior to no one.

    —The French Englightenment scientist Emilié du Châtelet writing to Frederick the Great, quoted in Jenny McPhee’s review in Bookslut of Nancy Mitford’s Voltaire in Love, a book about the productive and scandalous relationship between Châtelet and Voltaire.