The Letters of Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh

Overview

Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh, two of the twentieth century's most amusing and gifted writers, matched wits and exchanged insults in more than five hundred letters, a continuous irreverent dialogue that stretched for twenty-two years. Their delicious correspondence, much of it never published before (for fear of speaking ill of the living), provides colorful glimpses of both lives, testifies to their enduring but thorny friendship, and evokes the literary and social circles of London and Paris at midcentury. In ...
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Overview

Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh, two of the twentieth century's most amusing and gifted writers, matched wits and exchanged insults in more than five hundred letters, a continuous irreverent dialogue that stretched for twenty-two years. Their delicious correspondence, much of it never published before (for fear of speaking ill of the living), provides colorful glimpses of both lives, testifies to their enduring but thorny friendship, and evokes the literary and social circles of London and Paris at midcentury. In their letters they sharpened their wits at the expense of friends and enemies alike, but with particular relish they dissected their friends, who included Harold Acton, Graham Greene, the Sitwells, Duff and Diana Cooper, Randolph Churchill, and their favorite butt, Cyril Connolly. Waugh's pessimistic brand of Roman Catholicism clashed with Mitford's cheerful iconoclasms; her francophilia only fueled her friend's dislike of all things French. He accused her of bad grammar and worse theology; she nailed him with snobbery and anti-Semitism.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Cahners\\Publishers_Weekly
More performances for each other than intimate communication between friends, the letters exchanged between Waugh and Mitford, many of which-especially Waugh's-have appeared before, seem to have been meant more to amuse than to inform. An arch air suggests awareness of likely posthumous publication, and indeed in England, where the open snobbery and name-dropping gossip have proved delicious, the letters have had a modest success. Although the exchanges begin in 1944, that appears only to be the year in which the old friends began preserving most of their letters, which continued until Waugh's death in 1966. (Mitford died in 1973.) There is little serious literary talk here, and the political chatter is much on the order of Mitford's jest from Paris that a visiting English party leader allegedly complained "he's been here a week & hasn't met the mistress of a single French politician." Anti-American slurs abound, and Waugh adds an anti-Semitism for which Mitford lightly berates him. On occasion, he chides her lack of sympathy with his ultraconservative Catholicism, and he responds to her leftist views by labeling them as "Communist." Anglophiles will sift the correspondence for revelations, often exaggerated for effect, about the indiscretions of mutual acquaintances and relish the contrived wit each offers up in attempting to top the other. Yet passage of years dims the intended sparkle. Detailed notes by Charlotte Mosley, Mitford's niece by marriage, explain allusions and frivolous identifications. Photos.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
More performances for each other than intimate communication between friends, the letters exchanged between Waugh and Mitford, many of whichDespecially Waugh'sDhave appeared before, seem to have been meant more to amuse than to inform. An arch air suggests awareness of likely posthumous publication, and indeed in England, where the open snobbery and name-dropping gossip have proved delicious, the letters have had a modest success. Although the exchanges begin in 1944, that appears only to be the year in which the old friends began preserving most of their letters, which continued until Waugh's death in 1966. (Mitford died in 1973.) There is little serious literary talk here, and the political chatter is much on the order of Mitford's jest from Paris that a visiting English party leader allegedly complained "he's been here a week & hasn't met the mistress of a single French politician." Anti-American slurs abound, and Waugh adds an anti-Semitism for which Mitford lightly berates him. On occasion, he chides her lack of sympathy with his ultraconservative Catholicism, and he responds to her leftist views by labeling them as "Communist." Anglophiles will sift the correspondence for revelations, often exaggerated for effect, about the indiscretions of mutual acquaintances and relish the contrived wit each offers up in attempting to top the other. Yet passage of years dims the intended sparkle. Detailed notes by Charlotte Mosley, Mitford's niece by marriage, explain allusions and frivolous identifications. Photos. (Mar.)
Kirkus Reviews
Twenty years (194666) of reciprocal, unconditional support between the twin sensibilities and manifestly unlike personalities of Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh, expressed in a private shorthand of shared history and coined language.

Mitford, refreshingly, "can never take [her]self seriously as a femme de lettres" or anything else; Waugh, depressive and dyspeptic, finds her characterological happiness "entirely indecent," and her punctuation "pitiable," but convention is hardly her strong suit. Or his. They write about writing (especially their own) and about politics and economics and money—Waugh unbendingly conservative, Mitford flexibly socialist ("All the poor people in the world & so on. It's terrible to love clothes as much as I do"). But chiefly they write about Society, exchanging news of scandals and slights in their overlapping circles, peevishly keeping tabs on their pets: Cyril Connolly, a.k.a. Smartyboots or just S. Boots; Diana "Honks" Mitford Mosley, the fascist sister; Lady Diana "Honks" (also) Cooper and husband, Duff; Jessica "Dekka" Mitford, the communist sister; cousin Randolph Churchill, not always "on speakers" with Nancy; "Prod," her mostly absentee husband, Peter Rodd; the "Colonel," her mostly absentee lover, Gaston Palewski. Their common references can be suffocatingly precious or jarring—they consistently consider Jews a breed apart. Their contrariness bonds them at least as much and makes for better material: Mitford is a passionate expatriate who settles in France after the war and sprinkles her letters with idiomatic French; Waugh is a resolute Francophobe who tolerates America (which she abhors); he's a father, she's childless. Withal, they seek each other's counsel and salve each other's loneliness irreplaceably. Editor Mosley (wife of Mitford's nephew and editor of Love from Nancy, 1993) orders their high gossip appreciatively and authoritatively, contributing conscientious footnotes, welcome biographical apparatus, and the admonition that the whole correspondence is "to be read as entertainment, not as the unvarnished truth."

Best in controlled doses. Quite the battle of wits.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780395740156
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 3/28/1997
  • Pages: 527
  • Product dimensions: 9.63 (w) x 9.63 (h) x 1.67 (d)

Read an Excerpt



CHAPTER ONE

Part I 1944-1946

Nancy spent the war in London, at first in the small house that she and Peter rented in Blomfield Road, Maida Vale, and later, when bombs began falling on Paddington Station, at the mews of her parents' house in Rutland Gate, Kensington. The first two war years were miserable ones. Her family was coping with the attempted suicide of one sister, Unity, whose admiration for Hitler had driven her to shoot herself in the head when war was declared. Another sister, Diana, had been arrested with her husband, Sir Oswald Mosley, under Regulation 18B, which made provision for the internment of `persons whose detention appears to the Secretary of State to be expedient in the interests of the public safety or defence of the realm'. Nancy found work as a volunteer at St Mary's First Aid Post, she looked after families of evacuees and helped in a canteen for French soldiers in west London. It was an exhausting and dispiriting time. Peter was abroad with a refugee organisation and on his occasional visits to London preferred to stay at his club rather than see her. Desperately short of money, lonely and unhappy, Nancy embarked on a brief affair with a Free French officer which resulted in an ectopic pregnancy. An emergency operation saved her life but left her unable to have children, a sorrow she characteristically made light of.

In 1942 she took a job much more to her liking at Heywood Hill's bookshop in Mayfair where she worked as an assistant until 1945. Since its opening in 1936, the shop had attracted customers from society and the intelligentsia, amongst whom Nancy numbered many friends. Her workinvolved packing and sorting books but left plenty of time for gossip. According to Heywood Hill's wife, Lady Anne Hill, who also worked in the shop, Nancy brought in many customers, `though there was also a minority whom she frightened, and who fled, not daring to return'.

In September 1942, when she was thirty-seven, Nancy met Gaston Palewski, a Free French colonel who was General de Gaulle's directeur de cabinet in London. Although not at all handsome, he was cultivated, witty, adored women and had the irresistible charm of an enthusiast. His effect on Nancy was similar to that which Fabrice, the short, stocky, very dark Frenchman in The Pursuit of Love, has on the heroine of the novel: `Linda was feeling, what she had never so far felt for any man, an overwhelming physical attraction. It made her quite giddy, it terrified her.' Nancy's love affair with `the Colonel', as she always called Gaston, lasted until May the following year when he left to join de Gaulle in Algiers. For Gaston, Nancy had represented little more than a delightful flirtation; she made him laugh, flattered him with her adoration and amused him with stories of her unusual family. But for Nancy, Gaston had become the very centre of her existence.

The war proved a bitter disillusionment to Evelyn, and an even greater blow to his self-esteem than the failure of his first marriage. In September 1939, he let Piers Court to a group of Dominican nuns and settled Laura, who was expecting her second child, with her mother at Pixton Park in Somerset. He applied for a job at the Ministry of Information but was turned down and it was not until the end of December that he finally obtained a commission in the Royal Marines. Evelyn was eager to fight but spent most of 1940 on training courses in different parts of the country where forced marches, physical discomfort and the frustration of waiting around were not at all to his taste. He soon gained a reputation for impatience, insolence and an inability to get on with other ranks. His company took part in the abortive raid to seize Dakar in September 1940, which left Evelyn feeling that bloodshed had been avoided `at the cost of honour'. Then, by a complicated manoeuvre which involved his transfer to the Royal Horse Guards, he managed to get seconded to Colonel Robert Laycock's Special Air Service 8 Commando, and in May the following year saw action during the Battle of Crete. The collapse of the British Army in the face of advancing German paratroopers and the scramble to evacuate the island appalled him. Where he had expected to find discipline and courage he found only confusion and cowardliness.

Evelyn spent the next two years in Britain, a period of futility and frustration. Colonel Laycock informed him that he was `so unpopular as to be unemployable' and his superior officers vied not to be saddled with him. When 8 Commando sailed for Italy in June 1943, Evelyn was left behind. He took the unusual step of applying for leave to write, and between January and May 1944 completed Brideshead Revisited. In June he joined the 2nd SAS, but it soon became clear that he was not welcome and that there was nothing for him to do. A telegram from Randolph Churchill inviting him to join Brigadier Fitzroy Maclean's Military Mission in Yugoslavia rescued him from idleness and ignominy. He flew to Croatia in duly and stayed until early December, when he left for Dubrovnik to act as liaison officer between the British military and Tito's Partisans. In September 1945 he was demobilised and returned to Piers Court with Laura and a family that now consisted of three girls and a boy.

Nancy and Evelyn renewed their friendship in 1942 and 1943, when his routine included a visit to Heywood Hill. They may have corresponded fitfully during the war — Nancy kept Evelyn supplied with books from the shop — but there are no letters of hers before 1944, and only two of his. Their regular correspondence begins in 1945, a turning-point in both their lives. With the success of Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn retired to Piers Court and gradually turned his back on the world. His periodic forays to London and abroad only confirmed him in his growing antipathy to post-war England. The Pursuit of Love, published in December 1945, established Nancy as a best-selling author. It gave her the financial independence to go to France, ostensibly to buy French books for Heywood Hill but in reality to be near the Colonel. She spent two months in Paris in the autumn of 1945, and returned in April 1946, determined never to live in England again.

[May 1944] Pixton Park Dulverton [Somerset]

Darling Nancy

We are so delighted that you will be godmother. The child is being christened on Sunday. It has red hair and a placid disposition & is to be called Harriet after an ancestor of Laura's who was painfully pro American and also after H. Wilson.

I found T Eliot Elliot Eliott Elliott's poems here so that is OK. Thank you very much for kind efforts. I still want F Brown's Omnibus very much if it is procurable. Returning Chagford Monday.

One US officer murdered another in the Chagford Mermaid last week.

Re rewriting magnum opus madly. It is lapsing into verse whenever it is not carefully watched.

Best love Evelyn

9 September [1944] Force 399 CMF [Topusko Croatia]

Dearest Nancy

Randolph & I got back to our headquarters after a prolonged luxury tour & found an accumulation of mail which gave me an afternoon of exquisite delight. Thank you so very much for writing so often. All your letters have arrived safely and are worth a guinea a piece to me so please go on spending sixpences & charge them to Heywood Hill as out of pocket expenses in keeping customers' good will. The books of course haven't arrived yet but I await them with the keenest expectation.

I found hundreds of chums & near chums in Rome. My illness there was excruciatingly painful & my convalescence retarded by heat & lack of light. N. Birch spoke of you with particular love. Randolph speaks of you often with something stronger. I had a curious encounter in Corsica where I was stopped in the street by a young, spruce French officer who said did I understand French and if so might he speak to me on a subject of extreme delicacy. I presumed it was money or buggery he wanted but no quite the reverse. He wanted advice as to English etiquette. He wished to send a souvenir to an English lady of good position and unimpeachable honour who had shown him much hospitality. He wanted to send her his photograph. Could he do so with propriety & inscribe it `with love'. I told him yes. He pressed the matter: did this not presume carnal knowledge? I told him no. He then said that he had put the question in this form because of his great distress & proceeded to pour out the story of his married life in Tunis. He had been a prisoner of war. He returned to find his wife more tepid in her affection and a photograph from a British officer inscribed as he had described. Was this not evidence of adultery? I told him no, but perhaps with less inward conviction. He showed me a photograph of her. I remarked how pretty she was. Yes, yes, that is what makes it so terrible. And then as a culmination: You understand I am an officer too. It is not as though I were a private soldier.

Freddy B. hasn't come & I think won't come now. Instead Bloggs Baldwin is with us which is very nice. I wish I could write more fully but everything I want to say is a kind of military secret.

But please go on writing to me.

Best love Evelyn

Capt. E. Waugh R[oyal] H[orse] G[uards]

17 October [1944] `M' Military Mission C.M.F. [Topusko]

Darling Nancy

[...] Freddy turned up the other evening unannounced and as unexpected as though the question of his coming had never been discussed. We had despaired of him. He looked like a ghost after a fortnight's dysentery in Bari. It is a great joy having him not only for his own sour & meaty company but as a relief from perpetual watch with your cousin Randolph whose boisterous good nature, after five weeks solitary confinement with him, has begun to exhaust me. Better the late colonel toll gating than Randolph's pep talks.

Bullet in the Ballet is O.K. Will you please collect & send to Pixton a set of Max Beerbohm's early editions, also Trivia, also More Trivia; will you get R. Knox's New Testament and send them. Mine was burned in my great accident.

A very sad thing has just happened. I had settled down to a luxurious day's solitude — Freddy & Randolph having driven off to the forests. I had a box of cigars, six new books (thanks to you), a deep sorrow (thanks to Debo) — all the makings of profound self indulgence. F & R have just returned, their expedition postponed. Damn.

Mr Gatfield of Chapman & Hall has just kicked the bucket. Why don't you go in for publishing? You would be supremely good at it. I read a very serious letter from you in The Times newspaper. Couldn't see the joke anywhere.

Maimiei tells me the frogs tried to shave Mrs Corrigan as a collaborationist & had a rude shock.

Do keep writing. Charge the 6d's to my account. I quite realize that with the late colonel at your elbow there is no money left for stamps.

You cannot conceive (or perhaps you can after Spain) of the hideousness of the communist women — straggled bobbed hair, cigarette in the mouth, pimply legs, men's boots, pistol & hand grenade on the belt, square bottoms in battle dress — and the exquisite grace and dignity of their peasant sisters.

We have a pig that lives for nothing but pleasure. It digs mud baths for itself and chases the chickens round the yard laughing openly.

Love Evelyn

12 November [1944] 37 M Mission C.M.F. [Topusko]

Darling Nancy

So they have changed our address again. I wish the change was more than words & numbers but Randolph & Freddy & I are still immovable and practically incommunicado.

In the hope of keeping him quiet for a few hours Freddy & I have bet Randolph 20[pounds sterling] that he cannot read the whole Bible in a fortnight. It would have been worth it at the price. Unhappily it has not had the result we hoped. He has never read any of it before and is hideously excited; keeps reading quotations aloud `I say I bet you didn't know this came in the Bible "bring down my grey hairs in sorrow to the grave'" or merely slapping his side & chortling `God, isn't God a shit!'

The Semi-attached Couple arrived safely & was a joy to me. The first half better than anything by J. Austen. What are her books on India like?

I say, V 2? Curzon Street must be hell. Our hearts bleed for you.

How odd of C Connolly to have been taken in by Maugham's mysticism. I want to write a sad story of a man who gave up drink and hated all his chums. It is me.

One of our servants got drunk the other night & as he was brandishing a loaded revolver about I put him under arrest and we all forgot about it next morning. Then the communist commissar came to call & said the sentence had not been promulgated yet; they would like to consult Randolph before carrying it out to see if it corresponded to British military custom. They were going to shoot him. We got him reprieved and the man forgot all his marxism and said with tears and an american accent `Jesus Christ bless youse guys'.

Freddy has taken to talking mock Serbo-croat to himself in the earth closet. I thought there were two Jugo-slavs in there together having an altercation. Then I saw the door open & out walked Freddy. Very disturbing.

We ate Randolph's goose — there was not enough on it to make a meal for four after its cruel treatment.

Best love Evelyn

Will you be very kind & deal with my Xmas presents to my god children — Elwes, Guinness (I say how funny about Lord Moyne) Hollis. Latter's address is John Hollis, Claveys Farm, Mells, Frome, Somerset. Handsome improving volumes.

You ought by the time this comes to have received Brideshead Revisited. Please tell me what everyone says behind my back.

Oh then there is Angie's child. I have forgotten its name but Miss Laycock, care Maj. Gen. R. E. Laycock, Ia Richmond Terrace, S.W.I will find it. Will you send it a handsomely bound Bible or Prayer Book (Protestant) or Pilgrim's Progress or something to show affection to its parents.

Just remembered the name EMMA LAYCOCK.

12 December 1944 12 Blomfield Road London W9

Darling Evelyn

I've just found this old crumpled air letter, & as I'm in bed & bored with Fred Emney I take up my pen.

I'm sending you a book called Love on the Supertax. A very droll idea which you, or even I, would have made much funnier I think, but which has moments of making one laugh out loud & that is something to be grateful for.

Heywood Hill has engaged an old dew celled Jutro to be my boss — the idea is he should know all about old books & lure a lot of other old Jewtros in to buy them. So I am biding my time. If I can keep him like Caliban in the cellar & get him up to do my work when I feel like a brisk walk round the Park, well & good. But if he is going to join in the cocktail party atmosphere I so carefully foster, I shall leave & write a book. Oh how I long to, in any case, but [pounds sterling] s d rears its ugly head — I write so slowly & my books always come out at moments of crisis & flop (my last 2 never covered their advances & as you know that is not encouraging. And one was a loss to C & H5).

The Xmas rush is complicated this year by the fact that there are no other presents to be given but books. Today two quite separate people came in & asked me to think of a book for the Duke of Beauport `he never reads you know'. If somebody could write a book for people who never read they would make a fortune.

Do come back soon, you are greatly missed in Curzon St.

I find that all the people who ran away to America, after they have been back a fortnight & heard one V2 fall 20 miles away, go on as if they had lived all through the air raids, it is faintly irritating.

I wonder what you think of the behaviour of your co-religionist Mary Dunn. David says `The curse of the Cecils is upon her'. I wouldn't care to be cursed by such a pious & socially important family would you? Robini came in today to buy Grave. I thought he looked self conscious. What do you think of Grave I ache to know.

Much love NR

25 December 1944 37 Military Mission CMF [Dubrovnik]

Darling Nancy

Your letter (written on the 12th) was my only Christmas mail — my only mail for some time — and very nice too.

The Curse of the Cecils — goodness. Is it something like haemophilia they can only give each other or is it like the common cold something they can give us? Come to think of it I think that M. Bowra must have had that curse for many years; the war cured it, hence his sudden frightful fertility.

I have escaped from your cousin Randolph and am now on my own in the Pearl of the Adriatic, which looks a little less pearlish with all the renaissance facades daubed with communist slogans in red paint. I have spent a solitary Christmas which next to having Laura's company or the few friends I can count on the toes of one foot, is just as I like it. I dined alone sitting opposite a looking glass & reflecting sadly that the years instead of transforming me into a personable man of middle age, have made me into a very ugly youth.

Well last Christmas I dined with Maimie & Vsevolode and M and I O'Brien and some howling cads. It is better than that. But two years ago I was with D. Weymouth & first met Debo. It is a great thing not to be with my children at Pixton at this season. So I met Taffy Rodd at that social centre Bari just out of Athens with alarming tales I have since learned to be untrue. And a Capt Elwes called on me today. It is interesting that H. Hill has engaged a dew named Sutro to watch the till. I knew him well at the University. You will find he fits in beautifully to the Sergeant Preston life in Curzon Street. It is very good news that you may take up the pen again. Please give the results to Chapman & Hall. They love losing money & I will get you a substantial over advance. One thing about your letter saddens me. It does not say `Thank you for your beautiful Xmas present of Brideshead Revisited. It is a beautiful work'. Is it too bad to mention or has V-2 blown it up? You should have got it by now, and though I know it will shock you in parts on account of its piety, there are a few architectural bits you might like.

I wonder what Grave is. Perhaps a book on its way to me? The last I had was an attempt to whitewash Bryan Guinness called Belchamber which I enjoyed enormously. I lent it to Randolph who was so much moved that he said he could never commit adultery again — at any rate not with the same innocent delight.

I wish I could write to you fully & freely about my military life which is full of fun. It may not be long now before I come home; I am reluctant to leave a wine growing country for V2. I may linger in Italy which is full of chums. My work will soon be over here I think.

Is London appreciably improved since the Americans went away? Has Sergeant Preston made the supreme sacrifice yet?

It is very sad if V2 has blown up my magnum opus because it might work a moral change in M. Dunn. It might have been written for her.

I see a man every day called Major Hamilton-Hall. Twice, yesterday and today, I called him Heywood Hill. He is a worm anyway.

It is extraordinary what a people's army we have now. I went to a cocktail party of officers and there was not one who was not purely proletarian. It does not make them any more sympathetic to the partisans though.

The partisans are celebrating Xmas by firing off all their ammunition under my window. My nerves are not as steady as they were before my harrowing life with R. S. Churchill.

A very nice skier named Peter Lunn claims close friendship with Dekka. True? Do you remember the M.P. who tried to seduce Romilly in Madrid? He is here too.

Love and kisses Evelyn

22 December 1944 12 Blomfield Road, W9

Darling Evelyn

Brideshead has come, beautiful in orig. boards, a triumph of book production. And a great English classic in my humble opinion. Oh how I shld like to chat about it — there are one or 2 things I long to know. Are you, or not, on Lady Marchmain's side? I couldn't make out. I suppose Charles ends by being more in love than ever before with Cordelia — so true to life being in love with a whole family (it has happened in mine tho' not lately). Oh Johnjohn & Caroline & that awful wife are simply perfect. Sebastian reminded me of Henry Weymouth & a little of Andrew Cav: I'm so glad you're nice about Brian this time too. One dreadful error. Diamond clips were only invented about 1930, you wore a diamond arrow in your cloche. It's the only one, which I call good — the only one I spotted at least. I think Charles might have had a little more glamour — I can't explain why but he seemed to me a tiny bit dim & that is the on) criticism I have to make because I am literally dazzled with admiration. I must read it again as I had to skip sometimes to get on with the story & I read it all night till one with increasing eye strain & very tired. (Xmas rush.) I told Osbert today how wonderful it is & he said I am jealous of all writers except Evelyn whom I regard as being on our side.

Mr Trumper died this week. He cut off Driberg's ear & died. The shop (Trumpers) shut for a day & Mollie & I wished it had been Dearest so that we could shut for a day too. It's like hounds not meeting, isn't it, a new point of etiquette to me.

I must tell about Alan Lennox-Boyd. Well he went to get his annual injection against colds, got a whopper & went to the House where he was on a committee. He felt queer, rather in a coma, when he heard a man opposite him say to the Chairman `I think I must be going mad because Alan L. B. seems to have swollen in the last few minutes to twice his usual size.' `My God' said the chairman `he has.' And he had. And the dr had given him elephantiasis by mistake.

Well, it took 2 ambulances to get him away & he now lies on 4 beds with his trunk hanging out of the window. Let nobody say that war time London lacks fantasy. Gerald has wired that I am to let him know if Chips turns into any sort of animal as that would be worth coming up for.

Love from NR

7 January 1945 37 Military Mission. [Dubrovnik]

Dearest Nancy,

Yes I know what you mean; he is dim, but then he is telling the story and it is not his story. It is all right for Benvenuto Cellini to be undim but he is telling his own story and no one else's. I think the crucial question is: does Julie's love for him seem real or is he so dim that it falls flat; if the latter the book fails plainly. He was a bad painter. Well he was as bad at painting as Osbert is at writing; for Christ's sake don't repeat the comparison to anyone.

Lady Marchmain, no I am not on her side; but God is, who suffers fools gladly; and the book is about God. Does that answer it?

Bad about the clip. Too late for the first edition & there are no second editions these days. I knew I should have submitted it to you for criticism. The definitive (ha ha) edition is substantially different from the first so if you really feel disposed to reread it, as you say, wait a month or two for that.

A lovely parcel of books from you. Connolly's Grave. What he writes about Christianity is such twaddle — real twaddle — no sense or interest — that it shakes me. And he seems ashamed of the pleasant part of himself — as a soft, sceptical old good liver. I am shocked by the Grave. But I have read only five or six pages. My father was a better classical scholar than Connolly but he did not trot out his recondite quotations in at all that way. I think Connolly has lived too much with communist young ladies. He must spend more time in White's.

So today is the Orthodox Christmas and I was asked to tea by the military at 3 pm. One never knows what one will get in this country. Today we were seated at tables, without a greeting from our hosts, and given (a) green chartreuse (b) tea and ham sandwiches (c) cakes and cherry brandy & cigarettes (d) two patriotic speeches. Then it seemed reasonable to think the party was over, but no, in came cold mutton & red wine. It is unsettling at my age.

50 copies of Brideshead Revisited went out, 40 of them to close friends of yours. Do please keep your ear to the ground & report what they say. For the first time since 1928, I am eager about a book.

Love Evelyn

17 January [1945] [Dubrovnik]

Darling Nancy,

I take it very kindly indeed that you and Raymond Mortimer should have been to the trouble to help correct Great English Classic. When I came to read it I was appalled at the mistakes I found, and I only see one in five. Thank you both with all my heart. I am delighted to hear that Raymond M. likes G.E.C. I remember years ago when I put on the wrapper of Decline & Fall `Mr. R. Mortimer says "extraordinarily clever & amusing"' and C & H printed it `extremely clever' and I was furious saying, rightly, that there was all the difference in the world between the extraordinary & the extreme.

I am sitting for my bust to a Mr Paravicini whom I found starving and have fed up to his former great powers. He is responsible for all the most preposterous of the monuments of the Karageorgevitch dynasty. The bust in grey mud grows more formidable daily & will soon be petrified. Short of getting myself stuffed — and not very far short of it — I do not know how I could better perpetuate myself. It will not I think be one of those works of sculpture defined by Eddy as `dangerous to touch for fear they snapped one's fingers like a mouse trap'. It is like a protestant Bishop of 1870. I am astounded at the dexterity of the old boy. I have always thought it very clever to paint bad pictures but bad sculpture is ten times more exacting. If I can get the object back to England I will have a terra-cotta replica cast & present it to Heywood Hills (as Sligger's father did to the Hammam Baths) in remembrance of happy hours spent there.

It is agony to be so far from Curzon Street with The Unquiet Grave in my mind. Lacking you to talk to I have covered my copy with annotations in red ink. I am quite fascinated by it. There was a large blank in my acquaintance with Cyril which must I suppose have been a deformative period in his life. He wrote in a book that he could no longer be polite to young men with bowler hats & umbrellas. As I then thought of myself as young, sometimes wore a bowler in London & always carried an umbrella, I thought that let me out. When I next met him he was the genial host of Bedford Square and the enviable possessor of Lys. In between he had shed Jean & espadrilles & femurs and, I rather believe, some other mistress too. Now he is White's bar chum & literary successor of E. Gosse. What a surprise then is his book! First, how Irish. I have made the note in my copy: `An Irishman's eschatology. The English Gallows; the judgement of Father O'Flynn; the U.S.A.; Hell, a dark place peopled densely with ancestral enemies.' Cyril is poor paddy escaped from the tyranny of the bog priest, dazzled by the jolly splendours of Tammany Hall, quite at a loss what to do with his freedom. Then Eton & Balliol with best & worst results worst the middle article dissertations on Chamfort etc. But the exquisite poetic laments then creep in again & again. Then there are frightful inexplicable lapses into the woman novelist's causerie and Joad at the microphone. This feature I can't explain except as the product of the oojah board.

I have no Angst & I don't believe you have. Has Prod?

How could you let Mrs Friese-Greene send me such a revolting book as The Creative Centuries?

The god-sons are disgusted with their dictionaries of quotations.

I think I want to return to England before it gets hot in the Adriatic. Can you find out for me whether my enemy Ferguson still commands at the Cavalry Barracks, Windsor? If he has shot himself, as seemed probable, I will come home quick.

Do repeat any more you hear about G.E.C.'s reception. Good & bad.

Perhaps Gerald Berners has Angst.

Has Sergeant Preston Angst? I never thought about it or indeed heard of it before. Now I look at everyone with no other curiosity.

Best love Evelyn

17 January 1945 12 Blomfield Road, W9

Dearest Evelyn

I have a great deal to say — 2 air letters (I/-, agony) if necessary & the whole evening before me. So long as my pen behaves (it has been more of a fountain than a pen lately) & so long as V[2] leaves me alone (& all London prays for it to get me as I am the only person who doesn't mind it, so it's an ill wind) we are all set for an immense tome.

I am answering your letter about Brideshead. I quite see how the person who tells is dim but then would Julie and her brother and her sister all be in love with him if he was? Well love is like that & one never can tell. What I can't understand is about God. Now I believe in God & I talk to him a very great deal & often tell him jokes but the God I believe in simply hates fools more than anything & he also likes people to be happy & people who love each other to live together — so long as nobody else's life is upset (& then he's not sure). Now I see that I am absolutely un religious. I also see this because what is a red rag to a bull to several people about your book is the subtle clever Catholic propaganda & I hardly noticed there was any which shows I am immune from it.

Now about what people think:

Raymond: Great English classic.

Cyril: Brilliant where the narrative is straightforward. Doesn't care for the `purple passages' i.e. death bed of Lord M. Thinks you go too much to White's. But found it impossible to put down (no wonder). Osbert: Jealous, doesn't like talking about it. `I'm devoted to Evelyn are you?'

Maurice [Bowra]: Showing off to Cyril about how you don't always hit the right word or some nonsense but obviously much impressed & thinks the Oxford part perfect.

SW7 (European royal quarter): Heaven, darling.

Diane Abdy: Like me & Raymond, no fault to find.

Lady Chetwode: Terribly dangerous propaganda. Brilliant.

General View: It is the Lygon family. Too much Catholic stuff.

I am writing a book, also in the 1st person. (Only now has it occurred to me everybody will say what a copy cat — never mind that won't hurt you only me.) It's about my family, a very different cup of tea, not grand & far madder. Did I begin it before reading B.head or after — I can't remember. I've done about 10,000 words & asked Dearest for a 3 month holiday to write it which I believe I shall get. I'm awfully excited my fingers itch for a pen.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements vii
List of Illustrations ix
Chronology xi
Editor's Note xiii
Preface xv
Biographical Notes xxi
Part I 1944-1946 1
Part II 1947-1949 67
Part III 1950-1952 167
Part IV 1953-1956 297
Part V 1957-1961 403
Part VI 1962-1966 443
Index 507
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