Wigs on the Green

( 6 )


Nancy Mitford’s most controversial novel, unavailable for decades, is a hilarious satirical send-up of the political enthusiasms of her notorious sisters, Unity and Diana.

Written in 1934, early in Hitler’s rise, Wigs on the Green lightheartedly skewers the devoted followers of British fascism. The sheltered and unworldy Eugenia Malmain is one of the richest girls in England and an ardent supporter of General Jack and his Union Jackshirts. ...
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Wigs on the Green

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Nancy Mitford’s most controversial novel, unavailable for decades, is a hilarious satirical send-up of the political enthusiasms of her notorious sisters, Unity and Diana.

Written in 1934, early in Hitler’s rise, Wigs on the Green lightheartedly skewers the devoted followers of British fascism. The sheltered and unworldy Eugenia Malmain is one of the richest girls in England and an ardent supporter of General Jack and his Union Jackshirts. World-weary Noel Foster and his scheming friend Jasper Aspect are in search of wealthy heiresses to marry; Lady Marjorie, disguised as a commoner, is on the run from the Duke she has just jilted at the altar; and her friend Poppy is considering whether to divorce her rich husband. When these characters converge with the colorful locals at a grandly misconceived costume pageant that turns into a brawl between Pacifists and Jackshirts, madcap farce ensues. Long suppressed by the author out of sensitivity to family feelings, Wigs on the Green can now be enjoyed by fans of Mitford’s superbly comic novels.

From the Trade Paperback edition.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Mitford has a gift for detecting the absurdities of character.” —The Times Literary Supplement (London)

“Devastatingly witty, Miss Mitford [was] one of Britain’s most piercing observers of social manners.” —The New York Times

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307740854
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 8/10/2010
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 364,868
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Nancy Mitford (1904-1973) was born in London, the eldest child of the second Baron Redesdale. Her childhood in a large remote country house with her five sisters and one brother is recounted in the early chapters of The Pursuit of Love (1945), which according to the author, is largely autobiographical. Apart from being taught to ride and speak French, Nancy Mitford always claimed she never received a proper education. She started writing before her marriage in 1932 in order 'to relieve the boredom of the intervals between the recreations established by the social conventions of her world' and had written four novels, including Wigs on the Green (1935), before the success of The Pursuit of Love in 1945. After the war she moved to Paris where she lived for the rest of her life. She followed The Pursuit of Love with Love in a Cold Climate (1949), The Blessing (1951) and Don't Tell Alfred (1960). She also wrote four works of biography: Madame de Pompadour, first published to great acclaim in 1954, Voltaire in Love, The Sun King and Frederick the Great. As well as being a novelist and a biographer she also translated Madame de Lafayette's classic novel, La Princesse de Clèves, into English, and edited Noblesse Oblige, a collection of essays concerned with the behaviour of the English aristocracy and the idea of 'U' and 'non-U'. Nancy Mitford was awarded the CBE in 1972. Charlotte Mosley lives in Paris and has worked as a publisher and journalist. She is the editor of Love From Nancy: The Letters of Nancy Mitford, The Letters of Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh, The Mitfords: Letters Between Six Sisters and In Tearing Haste: Letters Between Deborah Devonshire and Patrick Leigh Fermor.

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Read an Excerpt

‘No, I’m sorry,’ said Noel Foster, ‘not sufficiently attractive.’
He said this in unusually firm and final accents, and with a determination which for him was rare he hung up his office telephone receiver. He leant back in his chair. ‘That’s the last time,’ he thought. Never again, except possibly in regard to the heiresses he now intended to pursue, would he finish long and dreary conversations with the words, ‘Not sufficiently attractive.’
Now that he was leaving the office for good he felt himself in no particular hurry to be off . Unlike other Friday evenings he made no dash for the street; on the contrary he sat still and took a long gloating look round that room which for the last two years had been his prison. With the heavenly knowledge that he would never see them again he was able to gaze in perfect detachment at the stained-glass windows (a cheerful amber shade, full of bubbles too, just like champagne), and the old oak furnishing – which made such a perfectly delightful setting for the charms of Miss Clumps the pretty typist, Miss Brisket the plain typist, and Mr Farmer the head clerk. This amiable trio had been his fellow prisoners for the last two years, he most sincerely hoped never to see any of them again. He said goodbye to them cordially enough, however, took his hat and his umbrella, and then, rich and free, he sauntered into the street.
He had not yet had time since good fortune had befallen him to leave his dreary lodging in Ebury Street, and as a matter of habit returned to it now. He then rang up Jasper Aspect. This he did knowing perfectly well that it was a mistake of the first order. Poor young men who have just received notice of agreeable but moderate legacies can do nothing more stupid than to ring up Jasper Aspect. Noel, who had been intimate with Jasper for most of his life, was aware that he was behaving with deplorable indiscretion, nevertheless some irresistible impulse led him to the telephone where the following conversation took place:
‘Hullo Jasper?’
‘My dear old boy, I was just going to ring you up myself.’
‘Oh, what are you doing to-night?’
‘I thought it would be exceedingly agreeable to take a little dinner off you.’
‘All right, I wanted to see you; where shall we dine – how about Boulestins? Meet you there at eight?’
‘Look here, I haven’t got any money, you know.’
That’s all right,’ said Noel. He would keep his glorious news until such time as he could see the incredulity and disgust which would no doubt illumine Jasper’s honest countenance when it was broken to him. Jasper now once more proclaimed his inability to pay, was once more reassured and rang off.
‘This is all exceedingly mysterious,’ he said when they met.
‘Why?’ said Noel.
‘Well, my dear old boy, it isn’t every day of the week one can get a free meal off  you, let alone an expensive one like this is going to be. Why did you choose me for the jolly treat? I find it very puzzling indeed.’  
‘Oh! I wanted to see you. I want your advice about one or two things actually, and after all one must eat somewhere, so why not here?’ And fishing for his handkerchief he produced, as though by accident, and replaced with nonchalance, a roll of ten pound notes.
Jasper’s expression did not change however, as Noel had hopefully anticipated that it would. He merely ordered another champagne cocktail. When it came he said, ‘Well, here’s to the Scrubs old boy, hope you’ll find it comfy there, you can come and see me sometimes in between terms, I’m never at all up-stage about my jail-bird friends.’
‘I don’t know what you mean,’ said Noel, coldly.
‘Don’t you? Well it’s fairly obvious that you’ve got the skates on, isn’t it? And I suppose you want me to help you get away with the dough. Now I suggest that we should go fifty-fifty on it, and do a bunk together. That suit you?’
‘First of all you had better tell me frankly if you are wanted. I’ve been wanted in Paris, and not wanted anywhere else, for simply ages, there’s nothing I don’t know on the subject of wanting.’
‘My dear old boy,’ said Noel, comfortably. ‘I’m afraid you’ve got hold of the wrong end of the stick.’
‘But you came to me for advice.’
Yes, I did, I thought you might be able to put me in touch with some rich girl who would like to marry me.’
‘That’s a good one I’m bound to say. To begin with, if I was lucky enough to know any rich girls can you see me handing them out to you? And to go on with, I shouldn’t think the girl is born who would like to marry you.’
‘Oh! nonsense, girls will marry anybody. Besides, I’m a pretty attractive chap you know.’
‘Not very. Anyhow, let me tell you something. Courting heiresses is an exceedingly expensive occupation. You didn’t give me time just then to count exactly how much you have managed to extract from the till, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t enough to finance a racket of that sort. Why, you don’t know what these girls run you in for, nights out, lunches, orchids, weekends to all parts of the Continent, that’s not the beginning, I’ve been through it, I know what I’m talking about. I suppose the worst part of it,’ he went on, warming to his subject, ‘is the early-morning telephoning. The precious little poppet, buried in lace pillows, likes to have a nice long cosy chat between 9 and 10 a.m., she doesn’t realize that you, meanwhile, are shivering half-way up your landlady’s staircase with an old woman scrubbing the linoleum round your feet. And what’s the end of it all? When she marries her Roumanian prince she may remember to ask you to be one of those pretty young gentlemen who leave the guests to find their own pews at weddings. It’s all fearfully dismal I can tell you.’
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