Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Nancy Mitford a Biography by Selina Hastings. (1985)

Novels of Nancy Mitford 

Having recently read two wonderful biographies by Selina Hastings of well known British authors, Somerset Maughman and Rosamond Lehmann I was delighted to see there was a Kindle edition of her Nancy Mitford A Biography.  (She also has a biography of Evelyn Waugh I would love to read but there is no Kindle edition.)

Nancy Mitford (1904 to 1973) was the first born of the famous and infamous six Mitford sisters.( Part of my interest in learning more about the Mitford sisters,  there is also one brother,  comes from having three daughters 17, 20, and 22.)  I recently read and posted on a very interesting book  focusing on Diana Mitford's involvement with the British Union of Fascists and her affair with Oswald Mosley, leader of the organization, Mrs Guinness The Decline of Diana Mitford 1930s Socialite by Lyndsy Spence. Both Diana and her younger sister Unity Mitford became obsessed with Hitler and were ardent supports of Nazi ideology.  Diana ended up spending time in prison and Unity tried to kill herself when war broke out between England and Germany.  Nancy became very much in opposition to their views and wrote a novel mocking the political views of her sisters. She did publish an article seemingly supporting fascism, her thinking was that England should be ruled by sensible men of property.

As Hastings details in her book, the father of the girls did not particularly favor formal schooling for them.  Nancy was educated, but for six months in a boarding school in Paris, by a series of governesses.  Her father was a baron, land rich but not hugely so in ready cash so the family sometimes struggled a little to keep up appearances.  Of course once the girls got eighteen or so, they were all tall, blond, and strikingly beautiful, finding them a suitably rich titled husband was a top priority.

                          I think Nancy is sitting next to her father but I am not sure.

Nancy married young but it did not last.  It ended in divorce, a scandal at the time. Nancy's novels were very well received.  Her books on the Sun King and Frederick the Great were best sellers.  Nancy established residency in Paris, a city she came to totally love.  There she began an affair lasting many years with a wealthy Frenchman Gaston Palewski

Palewski was from a very wealthy family, highly cultured and very much a womanizer. Nancy spent much of her life hoping for a few days with him once and a while. The romantic lead in The Pursuit of Love, which is dedicated to Palewski, is said to be based on him.  Hastings tells us that Nancy Mitford very much drew from her life experiences in her fiction.  Sadly we learn that as Mitford's life drew down, she was in terrible pain for the last six months of her life, Mitford who wrote such wonderful novels was not first in the life of anyone. When Palewski was at last free to marry, he married someone else but Mitford never gave up her passion for him.

  • Nancy Mitford (1904-1973)
  • Pamela Mitford (1907-1994)
  • Thomas Mitford (1909-1945)
  • Diana Mitford (1910-2003)
  • Unity Mitford (1914-1948)
  • Jessica Mitford (1917-1996)
  • Deborah Mitford (1920-2014

Her acknowledged by all best works are The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate.

Please share your experience with Nancy Mitford and her sisters with us.

Mel u


Mystica said...

I've loved anything written on this fascinating family. Each of them were so different eccentric and quirky with very strong views on everything. Brought up by an autocratic and even more eccentric father, the stories are myriad and interesting. Nancy's personal life however seems sad.

Mel u said...

Mystica. You might enjoy the BBC videos of Love in a Cold Climate. They can be found on You Tube. Thanks as always for your commen and visits