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Imperial Talent


Jan Morris is the author of what is, for me, the finest history of the British Empire (a trilogy comprising Heaven’s Command, Pax Britannica, and Farewell the Trumpets), a mesmerizing mix of epic, travelogue and deft character sketches. There’s more than a touch of this style in a wonderful piece on her recent european travels in the Christmas edition of the London Spectator.

Here she is on the Habsburg empire:

“Looking back at the old Dual Monarchy from a safely vicarious distance, I always love the memory of it, the yellow of its barrack walls, the pomp of its railway stations, the sickly thump of its waltzes; and when, almost at the end of our journey, we inadvertently tried to cross into Slovenia via the wrong frontier post, I was thrilled to find our way courteously barred by a gloriously authentic, uniformed figure direct from The Gold Soldier Svejk, bumble, billowing moustache and all.”



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