Best sentence in a book ever?

Wade Davis has an enviable job title, although one that is a bit of a contradiction in terms – an Explorer in Residence at the National Geographical Society. He has written a wonderful book: Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest.

Into The Silence: The Great War, Mallory and the Conquest of Everest

I’m half way through it. But already I’ve come across a sentence that is a candidate to be one of the best ever. It is in a paragraph about Eddie Marsh, the private secretary to Winston Churchill, who became friends with the pioneering mountaineer George Mallory. It captures both the man and the times, the confident heyday of the British Empire on the eve of World War I, run by perfect Edwardian gentlemen:

“Fourteen years older than Mallory, Marsh had traveled on foot to the source of the Nile and had once stood down a charging rhinoceros by intrepidly opening a pink umbrella in its face. But he was better known as a patron of poetry.”

This is one to read in preparation for the 1914 anniversary, along with Paul Fussell’s classic The Great War and Modern Memory. Davis writes with brilliance about the horrors of war.

The Great War and Modern Memory