Thursday, June 21, 2012

Nancy Mitford

I have just finished reading Selina Hastings' biography of Nancy Mitford (Vintage, 1985).  It was quite an aristocratic family; her father was Lord Redesdale.  The one son (Tom) died in World War II.  Diana married Oswald Mosley, head of the British Fascists-  they both served prison time.  Another sister, Unity, was a fascist but so unnerved by Germany declaring war on England that she tried to commit suicide.  She botched it, and lived with severe brain damage for another 15 years.  Jessica (known as Decca) was a Communist who fought for the Loyalists in Spain and years later published The American Way of Death.

Other than finally unraveling the family knots (and thinking I must read Nancy's The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate again), two passages really struck me.  One was a description of Mitford's father soon after he married her mother in 1904.  His father-in-law had set him up in a job, business managing a women's magazine.  It was not his cup of tea, as Hastings explains:
"hated being indoors, knew nothing of women's magazines, and had no interest whatsoever in the printed word.  (The only book he admitted to having read was White Fang, which he thought so good he never had the least desire to read any other.)  To make his day bearable, he bought a mongoose with which he hunted the rats on The Lady's Covent Garden premises."
I don't know how to top that.

Except to say that as I read the biography, and made it into the section where Mitford was writing about Mme. Pompadour, Hastings pulled a quote from the biography.  And I remembered, years ago, getting a love letter from a boyfriend in which he told me he was reading Mitford's book and put this very same quote about Mme. de Pompadour and Louis XV in his letter to me:
"a delightful relationship of sex mixed up with laughter ...  After a few years of physical passion on his side it gradually turned into that ideal friendship which can only exist between a man and and a woman where there has been a long physical intimacy.  There was always love.  As in every satisfactory union it was the man who kept the upper hand."

So I guess this explains why he's an ex-boyfriend.
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