Wednesday, 22 August 2012


Nancy Mitford was one of the Mitford sisters, infamous between the wars in England for their eccentricity and - for a least one of them - their fascism.

Nancy was not the fascist; instead she is a rather fine and very funny novelist. These three novels are about a large family, and the love affairs of various of the women in the family.

The great advantage of living in a large family is that early lesson of life’s essential unfairness.
And also, as you can see, true.

Early on, you think you are just hearing a normal conversation between two children about a trip abroad, then you get: "Perhaps you won’t be alone,' I said. 'Foreigners are greatly given, I believe, to rape."

And here’s a pencil sketch of an uncle’s experience in the Boer War: "Four days in a bullock wagon, he used to tell us, a hole as big as your fist in my stomach and maggoty! Happiest time in my life."
His general attitude to what he called the man in the street was that he ought constantly to be covered by machine-guns: this having become impossible, owing to the weakness in the past of the great Whig families, he must be doped into submission with the fiction that huge reforms, to be engineered by the Conservative party, were always just around the corner.

It’s most interesting to read a woman who is writing right at the beginning of women being able to express themselves, and provides a startlingly counterpoint to twentieth century male fiction.
I have often noticed that when women look at themselves in every reflection, and take furtive peeps into their hand looking glasses, it is hardly ever, as is generally supposed, from vanity, but much more often from a feeling that all is not quite as it should be
Here is a young woman talking about a happy mother:
It was her sixth child and third boy, and we envied her from the bottoms of our hearts for having got it over.
And here is her view on bringing up your child without staff:
I have seen too many children brought up with Nannies to think this at all desirable. In Oxford, the wives of progressive dons did it often as a matter of principle; they would gradually become morons themselves, while the children looked like slum children and behaved like barbarians.
And on the joys of marriage
But of course I had already dived over that verge and was swimming away in a blue sea of illusion towards, I supposed, the islands of the blest, but really towards domesticity, maternity, and the usual lot of womankind


  1. I love these extracts. The writer is on point.

  2. She is so brilliant! And her writing is so clear and simple - it is such an achievement. Like a glass of water!