Each morning when shaving I look at my reflection and a small and depressingly accurate mirror presents me with an image from which I have never derived any satisfaction. That is not to say that I am disappointed. I have never expected anything. If I were asked to write a short essay describing my face, the description would be unrecognisable to anyone who knew me well. I will not distress myself by offering descriptions of individual items of the entire contour. I well recollect on one occasion, after giving a lecture, seeing a report of it from a young woman which said that 'the lecturer (a singularly ugly man) came into the room' - but then I must with vanity add her further words: 'and with a few well chosen sentences induced oblivion about his appearance that remained until the lecture ended and thereafter was immediately restored.' I have any number of vanities. In the whole of this diary, in the whole of this issue, it would be impossible to compress the catalogue. I shall not gratify my enemies with this material, but it does enable me to say that common sense has always precluded personal vanity as one of my weaknesses.
LRB 18 July 1985 | PDF Download