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Mr. Palmer told her candidly that she tried too hard, and she notes that he was capable of being “very outspoken,” which of course suited his role in the show, which he obviously relished.

Miss Dench notes caustically that the only nasty thing that happened to her in all her years of making that television show was when a woman journalist “had the extraordinary nerve” to ask her who was the first person she slept with, and when. Miss Dench, who obviously does not suffer fools gladly, observes, “I vowed I would never expose myself to such offensive questioning again, and I never have.”

When you consider the actress’ personality and her obvious self-possession, it is surprising that the question was asked. Judi Dench has not succeeded because of scandal or controversy. She is one of an increasingly rare school of consummately professional actors who treasure what they do and work at it. It is more than their job; it is, as she makes clear, their life. For her, that life began on the stage in her teens, and those who are in her audience can only hope it will last for many more years.

Muriel Dobbin is a former White House and national political reporter for McClatchy newspapers and the Baltimore Sun.