the dry humour of lord berners

from lord berners’ second volume of memoirs, the château de résenlieu, about the author’s stay in france as a young man:

The luncheon hour had been delayed for our benefit — usually the midday meal was at half past 12. Two more members of the household appeared in the dining room. One was an anaemic looking youth with a blackbeard whom Madame O’Kerrins introduced as her nephew and addressed as Gerard. He was only a few years older than myself but the black beard created a formidable impression of seniority. The other was a diminutive woman with a tight little face, a swarthy complexion and rather beady eyes. Her dark hair was scraped up into a knot on the top of her head. She was very plainly dressed in a tailor-made costume but a profusion of oriental jewelry, bangles, necklaces, brooches added an exotic touch to an otherwise prim exterior. She looked like a secretary who told fortunes as a sideline. She was a distant relation of Madame O’Kerrins and helped in the administration of the household. Her name was Mademoiselle Laurens but she was always known as ‘Baghdad.’ Her father had been Consul in Baghdad and she was born there. Even the servants referred to her as Mademoiselle Baghdad.


Lord Berners (1883-1950) a composer, novelist, painter and conspicuous aesthete. The character of Lord Merlin in Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love is based on Lord Berners, who would drop his pigeons into basins of magenta, green and ultramarine so that when released they resembled, as Mitford wrote, “a cloud of confetti in the sky.” Known as “The English Satie,” Berners as a composer collaborated with Sacheverell Sitwell, Gerturde Stein, and Serge Diaghilev.