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Newton spent much of his time dwelling in a self-generated fog of superstition and crankery. He believed in the lost art of alchemy, whereby base metals can be transmuted into gold, and the surviving locks of his hair show heavy traces of lead and mercury in his system, suggesting that he experimented upon himself in this fashion, too. (That would also help explain the fires in his room, since alchemists had to keep a furnace going at all times for their mad schemes.) Not content with the narrow views of the philosopher’s stone and the elixir of life, he thought that there was a kind of universal semen in the cosmos, and that the glowing tails of the comets he tracked through the sky contained replenishing matter vital for life on Earth.

Read the full article here. 

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Depending on the circumstances, a major anniversary can put you in any number of moods. Celebratory certainly. Maybe a little wistful. Depressed, if you’re built that way. But in an age when nothing seems to last—not convictions, not even cities—a centennial, like the one Vanity Fair celebrates this year, makes me marvel at the simple fact of longevity. Over the past year, as we’ve been putting together a volume representing the magazine’s first century (Vanity Fair 100 Years: From the Jazz Age to Our Age; Abrams), David Friend, Lenora Jane Estes, and I have spent a lot of time leafing through old issues, from the first one, in 1913 (when the magazine came into being as Dress & Vanity Fair), up to the hiatus that began in 1936, and then from the magazine’s revival under S. I. Newhouse, Jr., in 1983, up to the present. This was one of those chores that wasn’t a chore at all— more like a safari with no precise destination, distractions everywhere you look, and an ever changing constellation of boon companions, from Robert Benchley, Robert E. Sherwood, and Dorothy Parker to Bryan Burrough, Dominick Dunne, and Christopher Hitchens. With Edward Steichen and Annie Leibovitz tagging along to take the pictures.

Read more. 

Christopher Hitchens’s Handwritten Notes in The Great Gatsby

On the heels of Baz Luhrmann’s heady film adaption, see the jottings of a writer who rivaled Fitzgerald himself, as Hitchens prepared for his May 2000 V.F. column “The Road to West Egg.

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“Fitzgerald’s work captures the evaporating memory of the American Eden while connecting it to the advent of the New World of smartness and thuggery and corruption. It was his rite of passage; it is our bridge to the time before “dreams” were slogans. He wanted to call it Among the Ashheaps and Millionaires—thank heaven that his editor, Maxwell Perkins, talked him out of it. It was nearly entitled just plain Gatsby. It remains “the great” because it confronts the defeat of youth and beauty and idealism, and finds the defeat unbearable, and then turns to face the defeat unflinchingly. With The Great Gatsby, American letters grew up.”

Read more from Hitchens here.

Martin, Maggie, and Me
In an excerpt from his memoir, late contributing editor Christopher Hitchens recalls the first time he met Margaret Thatcher: 

Within moments, too, I had turned away and was showing her my buttocks. I suppose that I must give some sort of explanation for this. Almost as soon as we shook hands on immediate introduction, I felt that she knew my name and had perhaps connected it to the socialist weekly that had recently called her rather sexy. While she struggled adorably with this moment of pretty confusion, I felt obliged to seek controversy and picked a fight with her on a detail of Rhodesia/Zimbabwe policy. She took me up on it. I was (as it happened) right on the small point of fact, and she was wrong. But she maintained her wrongness with such adamantine strength that I eventually conceded the point and even bowed slightly to emphasize my acknowledgment. “No,” she said. “Bow lower!” Smiling agreeably, I bent forward a bit farther. “No, no,” she trilled. “Much lower!” By this time, a little group of interested bystanders was gathering. I again bent forward, this time much more self-consciously. Stepping around behind me, she unmasked her batteries and smote me on the rear with the parliamentary order paper that she had been rolling into a cylinder behind her back. I regained the vertical with some awkwardness. As she walked away, she looked over her shoulder and gave an almost imperceptibly slight roll of the hip while mouthing the words “Naughty boy!”

Read more here. 

Martin, Maggie, and Me

In an excerpt from his memoir, late contributing editor Christopher Hitchens recalls the first time he met Margaret Thatcher: 

Within moments, too, I had turned away and was showing her my buttocks. I suppose that I must give some sort of explanation for this. Almost as soon as we shook hands on immediate introduction, I felt that she knew my name and had perhaps connected it to the socialist weekly that had recently called her rather sexy. While she struggled adorably with this moment of pretty confusion, I felt obliged to seek controversy and picked a fight with her on a detail of Rhodesia/Zimbabwe policy. She took me up on it. I was (as it happened) right on the small point of fact, and she was wrong. But she maintained her wrongness with such adamantine strength that I eventually conceded the point and even bowed slightly to emphasize my acknowledgment. “No,” she said. “Bow lower!” Smiling agreeably, I bent forward a bit farther. “No, no,” she trilled. “Much lower!” By this time, a little group of interested bystanders was gathering. I again bent forward, this time much more self-consciously. Stepping around behind me, she unmasked her batteries and smote me on the rear with the parliamentary order paper that she had been rolling into a cylinder behind her back. I regained the vertical with some awkwardness. As she walked away, she looked over her shoulder and gave an almost imperceptibly slight roll of the hip while mouthing the words “Naughty boy!”

Read more here

“George Orwell showed how much can be accomplished by an individual who unites the qualities of intellectual honesty and moral courage.”
Christopher Hitchens on his lifelong inspiration. 
Illustration by André Carrilho

“George Orwell showed how much can be accomplished by an individual who unites the qualities of intellectual honesty and moral courage.”

Christopher Hitchens on his lifelong inspiration.

Illustration by André Carrilho

All five parts of the Christopher Hitchens memorial—including speeches from Graydon Carter, Martin Amis, Stephen Fry, Douglas Brinkley, Christopher Buckley, Olivia Wilde, Salman Rushdie, Sean Penn, and others—are now online at VF.com.
Part One is here, the subsequent videos are in carousel below.
Photograph by John Dempsie/Associated Newspapers/Rex/Rex USA.

All five parts of the Christopher Hitchens memorial—including speeches from Graydon Carter, Martin Amis, Stephen Fry, Douglas Brinkley, Christopher Buckley, Olivia Wilde, Salman Rushdie, Sean Penn, and others—are now online at VF.com.

Part One is here, the subsequent videos are in carousel below.

Photograph by John Dempsie/Associated Newspapers/Rex/Rex USA.

Wearing badass shades in Romania:
Happy 63rd birthday, Christopher Hitchens.
Photograph from the collection of Christopher Hitchens.

Wearing badass shades in Romania:

Happy 63rd birthday, Christopher Hitchens.

Photograph from the collection of Christopher Hitchens.

Without a doubt, this is our favorite freewheeling photograph of the late, great Christopher Hitchens, whose passing we can barely comprehend. So we turn to the words of Graydon Carter, who writes of this image in his touching memoriam:
“I once sent him out on a mission to break the most niggling laws still  on the books in New York City. One such decree forbade riding a bicycle  with your feet off the pedals. The photograph that ran with the column,  of Christopher sailing a small bike through Central Park with his legs  in the air, looked like something out of the Moscow Circus.”
Photograph by Christian Witkin.

Without a doubt, this is our favorite freewheeling photograph of the late, great Christopher Hitchens, whose passing we can barely comprehend. So we turn to the words of Graydon Carter, who writes of this image in his touching memoriam:

“I once sent him out on a mission to break the most niggling laws still on the books in New York City. One such decree forbade riding a bicycle with your feet off the pedals. The photograph that ran with the column, of Christopher sailing a small bike through Central Park with his legs in the air, looked like something out of the Moscow Circus.”

Photograph by Christian Witkin.