|Bust of Wellington, by Sir Francis Chantrey|
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Wellesley was the brilliant, Dublin-born British military leader who defeated Napoleon at Waterloo. Big in his day. “The last great Englishman,” Tennyson dubbed him.
He also visited prostitutes. Women who, then as now, had a habit of cashing in twice on their famous customers; once for their services, again in print. Nor were their friends more scrupulous. When London pornographer John Stockdale wrote to the Duke, demanding money to excise passages involving him from London tart Harriette Wilson’s pending reminiscences, Wellington scrawled “Publish and be damned” across the letter and returned it.
Supposedly. The actual letter does not exist. “The Memoirs of Harriette Wilson” were published in 1824, with the Duke of Wellington foremost among the parade of famous men marching through her bed.
Only the fullness of time will determine whether Jeff Bezos’ performance last week rises to a Wellingtonian high standard for panache. Though Bezos did the Duke one better, disseminating himself the entire correspondence from American Media Inc., parent company of the National Enquirer, which Bezos claims was blackmailing him. The Enquirer, it has been established, serves as a protective shield around Donald Trump, buying up rights to salacious stories from women he seduced, for example, then burying instead of publishing them.
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