MITFORD, NANCY

Characteristically Witty and Chatty Nancy Mitford Autograph Letter

Item #20189


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MITFORD, NANCY - Characteristically Witty and Chatty Nancy Mitford Autograph Letter
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MITFORD, NANCY - Characteristically Witty and Chatty Nancy Mitford Autograph Letter

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MITFORD, NANCY.(1904-1973). English writer and historian; one of the famous “Mitford Sisters” and “Bright Young People” of London. ALS. (“Nancy”). 2pp. Small 4to. Paris, May 3, 1952. On her Paris stationery. To British-American art critic JOHN RUSSELL (1919-2008).

 

No I flew over London like some migratory bird without alighting. To tell the truth I was in a hurry to get home – my flat has been painted & now the politique du tapissier is in full swing, also the terrible terrible politique of buying furniture which can only end in ruin. Morte dans la misère – morte dans une misère extreme – nearly all the biographies of Larousse end with such words, have you noticed. They sound indeed like a knell to me.

 

Did you write the truly wonderful article on Fénelon? I read it twice. My political joke, which few have seen, is that M. Pinay is the Mme. Guyon of French politics. But I am reading Erlanger’s Régent & I must say that Burgundy sounds altogether too priest ridden & bigoted, I don’t feel he would have been much good you know, really.

 

I’ve sent for Doting [?] & know I shall enjoy it all right though the Revered Senior says it is pitiable (sic).

 

Madame Antonia 121 rue de Sèvres 7ieme. Oh gracious, no telephone, aucun confort. I should think by the look of it I have made her fortune – Berta Ruck & Claudel’s daughter in law have both been observed sneaking in. She charges 600 francs & a bit more for spells. Meanwhile my Irish article has produced a flood of letters. “Hell will be a more suitable place for you than Ireland, GET OUT.” All right all right, I have.

 

Might you be here on 21 May? I give a mammoth cocktail party for the old literary ladies, the critics & the pretty young ladies all mixed up in honour of Le Cher Ange which comes out then. It will be one of those heures d’affluence parties – I’ve asked more than 100, & in Paris everybody always comes, but quite funny I daresay. Do try & be of us…”

 

Mitford was one of the six famous “Mitford Sisters,” born into an aristocratic British family and whose interesting lives were eagerly followed by the public. Two sisters married the nephews of prime ministers; two were close to Adolph Hitler; one became a social justice activist, journalist and Communist; and the eldest, Nancy, was a writer, whose characters were often inspired by her sisters and their diverse beliefs and lives.

 

After coming out as a debutante, Nancy became one of London’s “Bright Young People,” a group which included writer Evelyn Waugh with whom she maintained a close friendship and lengthy correspondence and who first encouraged her to write. She began with submissions to gossip columns followed by the publication of her first novel, Highland Fling, in 1931. Her best known works of fiction, which satirize the aristocracy, are Love in a Cold Climate and The Pursuit of Love. However, she was also the author of several biographical works including Madame de Pompadour, published in 1954, Voltaire in Love and The Sun King. In addition to longer works, she frequently penned articles for such periodicals as House & Garden, Vogue, New Statesman, The New York Review of Books and Atlantic Monthly. Our letter discusses the publication of her novel Le Cher Ange, the French translation of her 1951 novel The Blessing that recounts the culture shock sustained by an Englishwoman whose husband is French. 

 

In 1942, despite her marriage to an estranged husband, Mitford began an affair with French officer Gaston Palewski who was a member of Charles de Gaulle’s London staff and whom she portrayed in Love in a Cold Climate and The Pursuit of Love. In 1946, she moved permanently to Paris, to No. 7 rue Monsieur on the Left Bank, in order to be close to Palewski’s home, and where she would spend the next 20 years.

 

Our letter compares Antoine Pinay (1891-1994), prime minister of France from March 1952-January 1953, to French Quietist mystic Jeanne Guyon (1648-1717), author of A Short and Very Easy Method of Prayer, and who was imprisoned in the Bastille for heresy for eight years. Guyon was greatly admired by her cousin, Roman Catholic archbishop François Fénelon (1651-1715), author of Les aventures de Télémaque, an epic recounting the travels of Ulysses’ son Telemachus and written for the edification of Louis, Duke of Burgundy to whom Fénelon served as royal tutor. The Duke was the father of Louis XV. Philippe Erlanger’s Le Régent, was a 1938 biography of Philippe d’Orléans, ruler of France from 1715-1723, while his nephew, King Louis XV, was a minor.

 

Madame Antonia was likely a fortune teller or medium. British romance writer Berta Ruck (1878-1978) wrote more than 90 romance novels during her 73-year career and was married to prolific writer Oliver Onions, remembered for his ghost stories. Paul Claudel (1868-1955) was a French diplomat, poet and six-time nominee for the Nobel Prize in Literature. Our letter also comments on biographies published by Éditions Larousse, the famous French publishing house.

 

After WWII interrupted his internship at London’s Tate Gallery, Russell obtained a position as a critic at The Sunday Times with his Admiralty colleague Ian Fleming. From 1974 to 1990, Russell was an art critic for the New York Times.

 

Folded with some light creasing and in fine condition.

 


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