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Musical Chairs with Ribbentrop

Bee Wilson: Nancy Astor, 20 December 2012

Nancy: The Story of Lady Astor 
by Adrian Fort.
Cape, 378 pp., £25, October 2012, 978 0 224 09016 2
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... parties at Cliveden represented any kind of pro-German conspiracy. And in her defence, she was no Diana Mosley. Waldorf may have been one of the first in Britain to meet with Hitler face to face, but it was not from any love of National Socialism. Waldorf wrote to the Times to defend the Cliveden house parties and to insist that he and ‘Lady ...

Wounding Nonsenses

E.S. Turner, 6 February 1997

The Letters of Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh 
edited by Charlotte Mosley.
Hodder, 531 pp., £25, October 1996, 0 340 63804 4
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... Court, where he corresponds with wealthy, witty ladies (Mitford takes turns with Ann Fleming and Diana Cooper) who keep him au fait with the doings of vile bodies in the world from which he has withdrawn. The postal service is so good that a letter from Mitford in postwar Paris telling of the latest liaison dangereuse can be on his desk the next day. She is ...

Find the birch sticks

R.W. Johnson: A spy’s diary, 1 September 2005

The Guy Liddell Diaries. Vol. I: 1939-42 
edited by Nigel West.
Frank Cass, 329 pp., £25, February 2005, 0 415 35213 4
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... existing regime. Duff Cooper, Liddell says, was ‘feeling rather bad’ because his wife, Lady Diana, was facing prosecution for accepting a free sack of stale bread for her pigs. More enlightening was the remark made to him by Churchill in May 1940 when France fell, and passed on to Liddell: ‘The end,’ Churchill is supposed to have said, ‘is very ...


Alan Brien, 5 December 1985

Orson Welles 
by Barbara Leaming.
Weidenfeld, 562 pp., £14.95, October 1985, 0 297 78476 5
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The Making of ‘Citizen Kane’ 
by Robert Carringer.
Murray, 180 pp., £8.95, October 1985, 0 7195 4248 0
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Spike Milligan 
by Pauline Scudamore.
Granada, 318 pp., £8.95, October 1985, 0 246 12275 7
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Nancy Mitford 
by Selina Hastings.
Hamish Hamilton, 274 pp., £12.50, October 1985, 0 241 11684 8
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Rebel: The Short Life of Esmond Romilly 
by Kevin Ingram.
Weidenfeld, 252 pp., £12.95, October 1985, 0 297 78707 1
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The Mitford Family Album 
by Sophia Murphy.
Sidgwick, 160 pp., £12.95, November 1985, 0 283 99115 1
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... But then what else can we expect if they will marry a Duke of Devonshire (Deborah), Sir Oswald Mosley (Diana), the Communist nephew of Winston Churchill (Jessica), the inspiration of Waugh’s Basil Seal (Nancy) – not to mention a Platonic crush on the Worst Man in the World, Adolf Hitler (Unity). I have left out ...


Frank Kermode: James Lees-Milne, 30 November 2000

Deep Romantic Chasm: Diaries 1979-81 
by James Lees-Milne, edited by Michael Bloch.
Murray, 276 pp., £22.50, October 2000, 0 7195 5608 2
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A Mingled Measure: Diaries 1953-72 
by James Lees-Milne.
Murray, 325 pp., £12.99, October 2000, 0 7195 5609 0
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Ancient as the Hills: Diaries 1973-74 
by James Lees-Milne.
Murray, 228 pp., £12.99, October 2000, 0 7195 6200 7
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... for ever. Many of his women friends are named after counties or important metropolitan districts: Diana Westmoreland, Sally Westminster, Caroline Somerset, Deborah Devonshire. Numerous acquaintances identified in the text by their quite ordinary first names turn out, in the footnotes, to be dukes or earls. Some, by a process of dynastic ...

Out of the jiffybag

Frank Kermode, 12 November 1987

For Love and Money: Writing, Reading, Travelling 1969-1987 
by Jonathan Raban.
Collins Harvill, 350 pp., £11.50, November 1987, 0 00 272279 8
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Original Copy: Selected Reviews and Journalism 1969-1986 
by John Carey.
Faber, 278 pp., £9.95, August 1987, 0 571 14879 4
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... his ‘asinine high-pitched Bloomsbury voice’. One after another the nobs are scarified: Lady Diana Cooper, around whom ‘men of all ages flocked ... like gulls round a council tip,’ and who herself had ‘a talent for scavenging that would have done credit to a coyote’, Lady Mosley, Daphne Rae, Beatrice ...

Humid Fidelity

Peter Bradshaw: The letters of Winston and Clementine Churchill, 16 September 1999

Speaking for Themselves: The Personal Letters of Winston and Clementine Churchill 
edited by Mary Soames.
Black Swan, 702 pp., £15, August 1999, 0 552 99750 1
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... unhappy marriage. In any event, Winston, unlike many of his contemporaries – Duff Cooper, Oswald Mosley – seems not to have strayed. Nor did he pursue anything similar to the ambiguous amitié amoureuse of Herbert Asquith and Venetia Stanley. Clementine, however, in 1935, while on a Pacific cruise, had a platonic affair with Terence Philip, a worldly and ...

Do come to me funeral

Mary Beard: Jessica Mitford, 5 July 2007

Decca: The Letters of Jessica Mitford 
edited by Peter Sussman.
Weidenfeld, 744 pp., £25, November 2006, 0 297 60745 6
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... But she shared most of Romilly’s enthusiasms and hatreds. In particular, unlike her sisters Diana and Unity, who were busy falling in love with both Fascism and Fascists (Oswald Mosley and Adolf Hitler respectively), Decca, as she was always called, was a would-be Communist, who scratched the hammer and sickle onto ...

Newspapers of the Consensus

Neal Ascherson, 21 February 1985

The Rise and Fall of the Political Press in Britain. Vol. II: The 20th Century 
by Stephen Koss.
Hamish Hamilton, 718 pp., £25, March 1984, 0 241 11181 1
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Lies, Damned Lies and Some Exclusives 
by Henry Porter.
Chatto, 211 pp., £9.95, October 1984, 0 7011 2841 0
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Garvin of the ‘Observer’ 
by David Ayerst.
Croom Helm, 314 pp., £25, January 1985, 0 7099 0560 2
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The Beaverbrook I Knew 
edited by Logan Gourlay.
Quartet, 272 pp., £11.95, September 1984, 0 7043 2331 1
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... Rothermere, the greatest ass of them all, put the Harmsworth Press at the disposal of Oswald Mosley. ‘Hurrah for the Blackshirts!’ cried the Daily Mail. Koss writes: ‘It was one thing for the press to assert its political independence, which no one could seriously dispute, but quite another for it to act responsibly upon its claims. In the years ...

You better not tell me you forgot

Terry Castle: How to Spot Members of the Tribe, 27 September 2012

All We Know: Three Lives 
by Lisa Cohen.
Farrar Straus, 429 pp., £22.50, July 2012, 978 0 374 17649 5
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... Beaton, the Sitwells, Cole Porter, Nancy Cunard, Noël Coward, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Lady Diana Cooper and countless other hedonistic Jazz Age types, Murphy, de Acosta and Garland took the right to play for granted, as well they might. Puritanism was an anachronism and in some renovated pagan sense tiresome and offensive too. In Cohen’s view, no ...

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