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Taunted with the Duke of Kent, she married the Aga Khan

Rosemary Hill: Coming Out, 19 October 2006

Last Curtsey: The End of the Debutantes 
by Fiona MacCarthy.
Faber, 305 pp., £20, October 2006, 0 571 22859 3
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... rented houses in ever more outré parts of town: at Worlds End, or even Fulham. Outside London, as James Lees-Milne observed, ‘the country-house way of life as some of us have known it’ would never be revived. Some debs’ parents diversified, opened their houses to the public or turned them into businesses. The Duke of Bedford put a jukebox and a ...

Retrochic

Keith Thomas, 20 April 1995

Theatres of Memory. Vol. I: Past and Present in Contemporary Culture 
by Raphael Samuel.
Verso, 479 pp., £18.95, February 1995, 0 86091 209 4
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... rehouse the poor, did the conservation of heritage take on a Tory hue. In the absorbing diaries of James Lees-Milne, the preservation of country houses is revealingly linked with opposition to all the levelling tendencies of modern life. Lees-Milne, however, is not a typical voice of modern conservatism. The Thatcherism ...

Meringue-utan

Rosemary Hill: Rosamund Lehmann’s Disappointments, 8 August 2002

Rosamond Lehmann 
by Selina Hastings.
Chatto, 476 pp., £25, June 2002, 0 7011 6542 1
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... his mentor, John got him into left-wing politics, and at various points he was in analysis with James and in bed with Julia. Philipps’s father funded him while he tried to develop a career as a painter, but even by the lowish standards of Bloomsbury he was a terrible artist. ‘Rosamond . . . is always driving him to it and making him “follow his ...

British Worthies

David Cannadine, 3 December 1981

The Directory of National Biography, 1961-1970 
edited by E.T. Williams and C.S. Nicholls.
Oxford, 1178 pp., £40, October 1981, 0 19 865207 0
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... and Christopher Sykes on Evelyn Waugh. On the other hand, we do get José Harris on Beveridge, James Lees-Milne on Harold Nicolson, O.S. Nock on Stanier, and Hugh Thomas on John Strachey. In such circumstances, where the great have already received the supreme accolade, there is little new to add. Much more interesting are the accounts of the ...

The Grey Boneyard of Fifties England

Iain Sinclair, 22 August 1996

A Perfect Execution 
by Tim Binding.
Picador, 344 pp., £15.99, May 1996, 0 330 34564 8
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... after service, pull on his thumbs and brag about National Socialism.’ Wodehouse revised by James Lees-Milne. Fear of the mob; order and chaos. As with the world so with fiction: elephantine narratives, multiple versions running away from each other, stories begetting stories. How to keep it under control? ‘I’m talking about, I don’t ...

Wake up. Foul mood. Detest myself

Ysenda Maxtone Graham: ‘Lost Girls’, 19 December 2019

Lost Girls: Love, War and Literature, 1939-51 
by D.J. Taylor.
Constable, 388 pp., £25, September 2019, 978 1 4721 2686 3
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... love lives of these women and their later marriages, with more withering summings-up. Here’s James Lees-Milne describing Janetta in 1990, by which time she’d married a Spanish interior decorator, her previous husband Derek Jackson having left her for her half-sister: ‘now a bad seventy, straight hair pulled back like a skull-cap, one drooping ...

Diary

Alan Bennett: What I did in 1996, 2 January 1997

... of fun) who keeps cropping up in memoirs of the Second War such as those of Nancy Mitford and James Lees-Milne is Stuart Preston, nicknamed the Sergeant, an American serviceman who came over to work at US HQ in London, later taking part in the invasion. He seems to have very rapidly become a feature of the upper-class English social scene, setting ...

Little England

Patrick Wright: The view through a bus window, 7 September 2006

Great British Bus Journeys: Travels through Unfamous Places 
by David McKie.
Atlantic, 359 pp., £16.99, March 2006, 1 84354 132 7
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... had cried ‘Ourselves Alone’ and yet, following the inspiration of their executed leader James Connolly, had also linked their nationalism to the international struggle for socialism. Having lost all appetite for the patriotism that had been harnessed to the propaganda machine of the British state, Goldring imagined an England of the same stripe: an ...

It starts with an itch

Alan Bennett: ‘People’, 8 November 2012

... done by the Canadian troops billeted in the house during the war echo similar speculations in James Lees-Milne’s Ancestral Voices: Wednesday, 7 January 1942. Brocket. I walked across a stile and down a footpath to the James Paine bridge, which the Canadian troops have disfigured by cutting their names, with ...

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