A unique correspondence coming in September
On Friday I complained about the physical weight of the book I'd been reading in bed.
Over the weekend I switched to a 217-page Hamish Hamilton hardback bought for £12.50 in 1986 : A Talent to Annoy : Essays, Journalism and Reviews 1929-1968 by Nancy Mitford, edited by Charlotte Mosley. [The word Journalism on the dust jacket is replaced by Articles on the title page.]
The blurb begins –
" 'Hell would be a more suitable place for you than Ireland,' wrote an Irish correspondent when Nancy Mitford's article on that country appeared in the Sunday Times. Such violent reactions to her journalism were not uncommon; a piece describing a visit to Rome was solemnly burnt by an Italian countess in front of her friends and an article branding Marie-Antoinette as a traitor who richly deserved her fate led more than one Parisian to cut Nancy dead…[her] idiosyncratic point of view, her sense of the comic and her lack of pomposity make this collection of articles as fresh, funny and enjoyable as when they first appeared in print."
I agree, but many of the writers I encounter in online forums would not. Today political correctness is rife.
Six years ago, in the Telegraph, Oliver Poole wrote : "…the publishers Fourth Estate, are paying £200,000 for the right to print the 500 letters, which are kept at Chatsworth House, the home of the youngest Mitford sister, Deborah, who married the 11th Duke of Devonshire. The family was known as the "mad, mad Mitfords", taken from the headline of a 1930s newspaper story that recounted some of the sisters' exploits which scandalised society."
Gill Coleridge, the literary agent for the collection, said that 500 letters between the sisters would be issued in a one-volume edition. It had taken her five years to persuade the family to allow them to be made public. She said: "I think they realise that this is an important historic archive and that it is time it was opened up to a wider audience."
Finally coming out in September, the book's title is The Mitfords: Letters Between Six Sisters, edited by Charlotte Mosley, daughter-in-law of the third Mitford sister, Diana Mosley. In October there will be a reception and an illustrated hour-long lecture by Charlotte Mosley in the theatre at Chatsworth. How I should love to attend, but I don't think it will be possible. Tickets £10 per person, or £17.50 for two.
The book is described thus –
"The never-before published letters of the legendary Mitford sisters, alive with wit, affection, tragedy and gossip: a charismatic history of the century's signal events played out in the lives of a controversial and uniquely gifted family. Spanning the twentieth century, these magically vivid letters between the legendary Mitford sisters constitute not just a superb social and historical chronicle (what other family counted among its friends Hitler and the Queen, Cecil Beaton and President Kennedy, Evelyn Waugh and Givenchy?); they also give an intimate portrait of the stormy but enduring relationship between six beautiful and gifted women who emerged from the same stock, incarnated the same indomitable spirit, yet carved out starkly different roles and identities for themselves. Nancy, the scalding wit who transferred her family life into bestselling novels; Pamela, who craved nothing more than a quiet country life; Diana, the fascist jailed with her husband, Oswald Mosley, during WWII; Unity, an attempted suicide, obsessed with Hitler; Jessica, the runaway communist and fighter for social change; and Deborah, the genial socialite who found herself Duchess of Devonshire. Writing to one another to confide, commiserate, tease, rage and gossip, the sisters wrote above all to amuse. A correspondence of this scope is rare, for it to be penned by six such born storytellers makes it unique."