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Brushes With History

April 2024
1min read

In your excellent thirty-fifth-anniversary issue (December 1989) I have found one of my own experiences recounted in the feature “A Brush with History.” While John Mack Carter was musing on the presidential manner of Lyndon Baines Johnson in the light of his use of the pepper mill, I was watching the gigantic mill, as it perched between Robert Stein, then editor in chief of Redbook , and the President. Having not shared the mill, as Carter notes, with any of us, LBJ also managed to deny its use to Mr. Stein, in whose easy reach it was. Every time Stein reached for the mill, LBJ, without pausing in his disquisition, without so much as a glance toward the interloper, removed it from Stein’s reach and ground more of the stuff on his own dish. After a while Stein’s reach and LBJ’s grasp became a Chaplinesque ballet.

Those of us who were watching may have missed some of the things the President said, but none missed his rewriting of Browning: “a man’s reach should exceed his [neighbor’s] grasp, Or what’s a heaven for?”

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