Few people witnessed the tumultuous events of mid-20th century Britain quite like Duff Cooper, a charismatic politician whose life was as colourful as it was influential. Born in 1890, he was known as a steadfast politician who famously resigned from his government post over the Munich Agreement, only to be drawn back into the fray by Churchill during World War II. Cooper’s life outside the corridors of power was also fascinating, and he could regularly be found at glittering social events with Lady Diana Cooper, the glamorous socialite he married in 1919 and frequently betrayed. All of it was chronicled in his diaries, which are filled with anecdotes from a life that never seemed to slow down. He wrote the following entry in May of 1920, a day on which Diana had provoked an impromptu roadside picnic.
The Diary Entry
May 26, 1920
The weather broke this morning. It was raining hard when we left Breccles in our car at 10 o’clock. We had hardly gone a quarter of a mile when looking down to arrange our belongings Diana forgot to steer and before we knew what had happened the car was on its side in a ditch. Miraculously we were neither of us in the least hurt nor was the car damaged, not a pane of glass broken. With some difficulty we climbed out of the window and returned on foot to Breccles where we got the aid of seven men who pulled the car out of the ditch and set it on its legs again. It seemed none the worse and at 12 o’clock we started off again. We stopped at Newmarket and bought some food in the town for our lunch. Halfway up the hill out of Newmarket the motor stopped and refused to start again. By the luckiest of chances we were exactly opposite a motor shop whence we got help. While two men buried their heads in the entrails of the car we sat on a seat by the roadside and ate our lunch – cold veal and ham pie, sandwiches and cake, ginger beer and port. We always take with us the charming little 18th century picnic box which Marjorie gave me for a wedding present. We must have looked odd sitting by the wayside eating with gilt knives and forks and drinking ginger beer out of a golden cup.
For a long time Duff Cooper’s diaries remained unpublished due to numerous entries his family decided were too scandalous to print, and at one point they were almost destroyed. But in 2005, his son, John Julius Norwich, changed his mind and edited them for public consumption, in a volume titled The Duff Cooper Diaries.
The Duff Cooper Diaries by Duff Cooper. Copyright © 2005 The Estate of Duff Cooper. Orion Publishing Group Limited. Reproduced with permission of the Licensor through PLSclear.