Talleyrand once found himself seated at a formal dinner between Mme de Stael and the beautiful Mme Recamier. Envious of the attention which he was lavishing upon her rival, Mme de Stael bluntly asked Talleyrand: "If you and I and Madame Recamier were shipwrecked together and you could save only one of us, which would you save?"

Talleyrand politely bowed before replying: "Madame, you know everything," he said, "so obviously you know how to swim."

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