Wounding Nonsenses

E.S. Turner

  • The Letters of Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh edited by Charlotte Mosley
    Hodder, 531 pp, £25.00, October 1996, ISBN 0 340 63804 4

The letters exchanged by Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh over twenty years were written, we are told, ‘to amuse, distract or tease’, a welcome function no doubt in times of bogged-down creativity. But it is clear they were also written to amuse, distract and tease posterity, since both correspondents were confident their dispatches would end up in the public domain, a consideration which did nothing to inhibit the flow of malice. Quite early in the correspondence Darling Nancy tells Darling Evelyn: ‘I’ve left you [in her will] all the letters I’ve kept. Your daughter Harriet might edit them.’ Asked by Waugh to burn a recent letter which was unfair to a friend, she replies: ‘What a rum request. I specially treasure your nasty letters, posterity will love them so. However just as you say.’ On a later occasion, tidying up his letters in a drawer, she muses: ‘I must ask Randolph [Churchill] how much he will give me for them.’ Literary jackals abound. Waugh warns that Cyril Connolly is ‘up to something rather fishy in collecting letters, I think for sale in America. Be wary! There is a nice nest egg for us all in our senility in our correspondence. American Universities are buying them at extravagant prices.’

The full text of this book review is only available to subscribers of the London Review of Books.

You are not logged in