13 April 2010

Ms. Mitford did not attend


I just finished another MITFORD book- Losing count, as there are so many and something to enlighten in each one. I know-some may say what? How many THE LETTERS OF ___________ MITFORD could there be or could you want to read? More, more, more. These are the sisters that keep on giving. Written by her great friend Harold Acton- Nancy Mitford A Memoir by Harold Acton- two years after Nancy Mitford's death,  Acton fills the book with all the little idiosyncratic details I adore. Mitford was an enchanting woman, a flirt, a feminist-(to a point) & all with the the proper point on it. She was sharp. About her sitting with photographer Cecil Beaton early on in her career: 'I was photographed by Cecil Beaton this afternoon, a fantastic experience. How do you magage to be so skinny with such ruddy cheels?" Too easy I might haver replied, one has only to be crossed in love and adept at make-up...' One of the first Englishwomen to  wear Dior, Nancy wrote ' I am now always torn between clothes and antiques but with me clothes are almost a matter of health you know..' & 'Evelyn is here, (Waugh): I was forced by his dreadful behaviour to enquire how he reconciles so much wickedness with being a Christian...'

happily- I snagged a first edition-but I love this cover.
Acton's brother, William, sketch of Nancy

Nancy Mitford had tripped through a lifetime of parties and costume balls by the time the legendary Beistegui Ball took place in Venice-1951. Nancy sat the Ball out and relied on her confidante's tales for entertainment, she wrote to Harold  Acton,  'a lady who advertised for a dwarf to accompany her in the role of Spanish Infanta, arrived home to find her hall filled with rich dwarfs of her acquaintance who had not been invited... Nancy continued in her letter, with that sharp pen-her acerbic wit,... 'a yacht race round Italy ensued, since there is only one good mooring in Venice for a big Yacht. It is to be hoped that these ships will not suffer the fate of the Spanish Armada, as in that case the ball would be depived of its most splendid entrees...' Her friends drifted back, 'like survivors from a battle. Each has a tale of daring to recount, each gives ther impression that it was a damned close-run thing and would never have done without his or her particular entree.'

Pompadour by Baron Charles de Steuben

Cecil Beaton, 1933
(this may have been the photograph NM refers to in her letter)

 Who might Nancy have made her own entree as? She would have been researching Madame de Pompadour-whom she adored? Her book about Louis the XIV (The Sun King) was 15 years to come. Her Frederick the Great-not until 1970. What would have inspired  this British Francophile? Likely her Pomp-it would have been consuming her thoughts- but I like think of Nancy as young Frederick-daring, dashing, yet charmingly feminine and always with her wit in hand.

1st image from The Finest Houses of Paris -Jean Bernard Naudin(photographer) and Chrisiane de Nicolay-Mazery, at the Temple of Glory, home of Diana Mitford Mosley-Nancy's sister.

read Lucindaville for a Mitford-Acton post here
read Scala Regia here All about the Ball
read more about Nancy Mitford here


  1. thanks for posting this! i want to read the memoirs ASAP

  2. It was another time, and spirit, so much energy and wicked-wit. Love the quotes. And your line "These are the sisters that keep on giving", another enjoyable post.

  3. I'm adding this to my list! In fact, many of the books on my list come from you! Keep em coming.....love learning from you!

  4. The first picture is very lovely. I think the Mitford ladies were fascinating women, perhaps it was the era and the roads they all took out from one home in such different directions.

  5. My two favs-Nancy Mitford was a National treasure , the Duchess of Devonshire-is well a Duchess, what's not to love. thanks for all the comments. pgt

  6. I love the Mitford's and must have every single book. I haven't finished reading them all though. Wish I had more time! I'm currently re-reading The Pursuit of Love which I haven't read for twenty years and with my memory it's like reading it for the first time. xx

  7. I adore Nancy Mitford.My fave is Love in a Cold Climate.
    Have you read The Sisters (I think that's the title), bio about the family, it's fascinating.
    I love Evelyn Waugh too.
    Great post, excellent blog, thanks!

  8. Gaye, I too own a copy of Harold Acton's memoir
    about Nancy Mitford but with an entirely different
    jacket design. Nancy dressed by Balmain or Dior and
    seated at her French writing table. James Lees Milne
    called that cover "hideous". Of course, there's nothing
    better than the William Acton heads.

  9. My cover is the torso of the Mogens Tvede portrait- yours must be the full one- which I think is lovely. She is wearing Dior at least the boot is-the Dior 'Daisy' boot, c.1948
    according to Megan
    She designed the new NM site here
    Read my post about her experience. Yours must be the UK first edition? Mine does have a lovely inscription woolton lodge...derbyshire england- etc etc. pgt

  10. you are so cultured with your reading. confession: i am hopelessly addicted to fanfic. twilight fan fic. shhh. don't tell anyone!!!!!

  11. There is simply "no such thing" as too many Mitford books. I would read their shopping lists. In fact I think that might be coming out soon....

  12. haha, Lucinda. that sounds just perfect for you-and I would love to read it too. pgt



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