There is no quality I adore more than charm. Except humour. And maybe high intelligence. Obviously you can’t be funny without being intelligent but you don’t have to be sharp-witted to be charming. I suspect you can even be a bit dim-witted and still be charming, for a while. But once the dimness manifests itself – as it always will, like water from a concealed leak – the charm quickly grows rusty. Actually, before advancing further into pastures of contradiction, I’m going to have to start this list over. First comes physical beauty – which is itself a form of charm, of physical intelligence. As Italo Svevo points out: “Beautiful women always strike us at first as intelligent. A beautiful complexion or a beautiful line are, in fact, the expression of the highest intelligence.” This can be fleeting but it casts the same spell as charm. In her book Eve’s Hollywood, Eve Babitz (the most charming writer I’ve read in years) quotes Jean Cocteau as saying “the privileges of beauty are enormous”. The same could be said of charm, except that charm is a privilege you can work at and cultivate, as opposed to something you are born with (beauty). Babitz links the two in an elegiac way, in Slow Days, Fast Company, when she says of her friend Mary: “Her nervous charm and beauty had been so easily banished it made you afraid for beauty itself.”
Two further thoughts on charm and physical beauty. People have said that when Harvey Weinstein wasn’t kicking your door down in his bathrobe he could be quite charming. This seems hard to believe given the huge impediment of his face. And models seem often to have a haughtiness that is the opposite of charming.