Nancy Mitford, Harold Acton, Diana Mitford
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What was Nancy Mitford's wicked sense of humour really like? The writer and poet Harold Acton was - like Nancy Mitford herself - one of the Bright Young Things and a life-long close friend with whom she stayed in touch from Paris and London. From the letters and materials she had been gathering for her autobiography, Acton draws an irresistibly sparkling portrait of the author of "Love in a Cold Climate" and "The Pursuit of Love", who was so unhappy in love herself. Full of her waspish wit, gossip, and the drops of acid she liked to pour on the pretensions of her time, he paints a fresh portrait that is unlikely to be surpassed.
she was vastly enjoying her new life while searching for a suitable apartment. ‘Oh the potins,’ as she exclaimed. ‘Too long to describe.’ However, she described a good many, and though some of the protagonists are dead and gone they evoke Parisian smart society at that period and the background of her future writings. From 19 Quai Malaquais she wrote to me in November 1947: ‘I’ve got this lovely flat, lent me by Audrey Bouverie, jusqu’à nouvel ordre—anyhow I think until February—which is really
It was the beginning of a pattern which often recurred: seemingly less brilliant members of his generation were far more successful than he, when they put pen to paper. Both brothers loved parties, and all the intellectual feasts a great city can offer. Harold was a star, and when he left London in 1932 to go and live in Peking it was as if a light had been extinguished. William returned to Florence, Lancaster Gate was no more, and we felt bereft. Harold wrote to us all from time to time, and
September. As she wrote to Mrs. Ham: ‘I found a postcard from you written a year ago saying “everything looks very bad.” It looks a good deal worse now doesn’t it! But I pin all my hopes to Fontaines, ses eaux, ses agriments, ses jeux, son clair de lune, etc. etc.’ Back in Paris—‘lovely and hot again so my spirits, which move with the thermometer, are up’—Nancy went on a sight seeing tour of all Voltaire’s houses. Mr. Besterman’s edition of his letters was a constant stimulus. But in Paris
groaning, in order to educate their children. This could not have happened in the England of your (and my) young days. To state that it did not happen is not to reproach you but the whole social structure. I carefully said in the essay that the relationship of parents and children is quite different now.’ ‘But the person who appears completely vile is me!!… No more efforts at autobiography. I’ve learnt my lesson.’ Examining Nancy’s references to her mother objectively, one can understand Lady
Marie is wilting.’ No doubt her compatriots hoped to meet the originals of Nancy’s Gallic heroes. Among the compatriots were several fans, including journalists who needed taming or even ‘buttering’ for as Lesley Blanch remarked, she had a keen sense of publicity and an instinct ‘how to retreat, tease, drop a bomb, become indifferent, absent. She had decided on her line, how to present Nancy’s façade, behind which one caught glimpses of another Nancy.’ To Mark she confessed: ‘I write tenderly to