That Alfred Duff Cooper had very small feet strikes me as one of the most emblematic facts about him, but I’m hard pressed to say just how. Certainly it’s tempting to quip, in view of his prodigious adulteries, that this helps explain why he was rarely on them, spending as much time in the sack as the grandes horizontales of his beloved Paris. One might also remark that Cooper nevertheless left big shoes to fill: His too-early death robbed the diplomatic world of an ornament, and the wide circle of his friends and mistresses (to say nothing of his adoring wife) of a magnetic personality. But there’s something more nuanced to be said about those feet. They accurately point to a dandiacal quality, and yet Cooper was far from mincing or effete: This was a man brave enough to win, almost in record time, the Distinguished Service Order in World War I; to lock horns with some of the most domineering figures of his...


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