Paul Johnson

What did Lord Cardigan and D.H. Lawrence have in common?

What did Lord Cardigan and D.H. Lawrence have in common?

Lord Beaverbrook always pronounced it ‘yat’. He said, ‘Let me give you some good advice, Mr Johnson. Hesitate a long time before you buy yourself an expensive steam yat.’ There are at least 40 different ways of spelling the word, from yeagh, holke, yuath, yought, yott and yuacht, to jact, zeaghr, yoathe and zoughe. ‘And all of them expensive,’ said Lord Curzon who, like his enemy the Beaver, had burnt his fingers with these millionaires’ toys. Yet I have a hankering to own one. ‘The great thing about a yacht,’ said old Aristotle Onassis, sitting on his boat the Christina in Monte Carlo harbour nearly half a century ago, ‘is that you raise anchor and then you tell the entire world to bugger off. It’s pure freedom.’ Oh yeah? Taki says that all yacht crews are spoiled, difficult, selfish and unreasonable: ‘Nothing but trouble.’ Rothermere, not the present one but his grandfather, also gave me a lecture on not acquiring a yacht. ‘It’s much simpler,’ he said, ‘to take 100,000 in Treasury notes and just set fire to them. That way, you get rid of the money at approximately the same speed, but have none of the anxiety.’ ‘But what about the pleasure?’ ‘Pleasure? Whatever made you think that yachting is about pleasure? It’s an ingenious way in which rich men punish themselves for having too much money.’

John Evelyn recorded in his diary, 1 October 1661: ‘I sailed this morning with His Majesty in one of his yachts (or pleasure boats), vessels not known among us till the Dutch East India Company presented that curious piece to the King.’ The Dutch certainly popularised the yacht, but I doubt if they invented it. An early example from European history was the White Ship, built by Henry I (an unusually rich sovereign) to his own specifications for pleasure trips, and fitted with all the latest gadgets.

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