My heart almost stood still

On the evening of February 1st, 1924, the New York Symphony Orchestra played Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony at Carnegie Hall in New York, conducted by Walter Damrosch. Thankfully for those who couldn’t attend, the performance was broadcast live on the radio. A couple of days later, the orchestra received a stunning letter of thanks from the unlikeliest of sources: Helen

A squeal of pain

Prominent English novelist Vita Sackville-West’s marriage to Sir Harold Nicolson was the very definition of an open one, with both partners happily enjoying extramarital relationships for much of the 49 years they spent together. In the early-1920s, Vita began what was to be her most famous affair, with Virginia Woolf, the hugely influential author responsible

I do not like scolding people

Author Katherine Mansfield and editor John Murry met in 1911 and had a turbulent relationship by anyone’s standards: by the time they wed in 1918, they had split several times and seen other people; indeed, the pattern continued through their marriage. Three years after marrying, Mansfield wrote a stern letter to fellow author Princess Elizabeth

Darling Goodnight and Goodbye

In 1918, aged just 18, Rattanbai ‘Ruttie’ Petit converted to Islam and married a man 24 years her senior: then-president of the All-India Muslim League and eventual founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah. The following few years were blissfully happy for the newlyweds, but a rift soon developed as Jinnah’s hectic political life took hold. In

A Plea for a raise, By Jack Kennedy

Late-1927, having just become a Boy Scout and acutely aware that his weekly allowance wouldn’t cover the costs of such a lifestyle, 10-year-old John F. Kennedy approached his father and asked for a raise of 30¢. Keen to teach the future President a quick business lesson, Kennedy Sr. immediately told him that, unless his plea

Houdini’s Last Trick

At New York’s Shelton Hotel on August 5th, 1926, in plain view of invited journalists and using no breathing apparatus, Harry Houdini lay in a sealed casket at the bottom of a swimming pool for an hour and a half. His motivation for the feat was the opportunity to expose Egyptian fakir Rahman Bey, a