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The Letters of Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh

The Letters of Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh

by Charlotte MosleyNancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh
Publication Date: 01/03/2001
Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh, two of the twentieth century's most amusing and gifted writers, matched wits and exchanged insults in more than five hundred letters, a continuous irreverent dialogue that stretched for twenty-two years. Their delicious correspondence, much of it never published before (for fear of speaking ill of the living), provides colorful glimpses of both lives, testifies to their enduring but thorny friendship, and evokes the literary and social circles of London and Paris at midcentury. In their letters they sharpened their wits at the expense of friends and enemies alike, but with particular relish they dissected their friends, who included Harold Acton, Graham Greene, the Sitwells, Duff and Diana Cooper, Randolph Churchill, and their favorite butt, Cyril Connolly. Waugh's pessimistic brand of Roman Catholicism clashed with Mitford's cheerful iconoclasms; her francophilia only fueled her friend's dislike of all things French. He accused her of bad grammar and worse theology; she nailed him with snobbery and anti-Semitism.
Literary studies: fiction
Publication Date:
Houghton Mifflin
Country of origin:
United States
Dimensions (mm):
Nancy Mitford

Nancy Mitford was born in London on November 28 1904, daughter of the second Baron Redesdale, and the eldest of six girls. Her sisters included Lady Diana Mosley; Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire and Jessica, who immortalised the Mitford family in her autobiography Hons and Rebels.

The Mitford sisters came of age during the Roaring Twenties and wartime in London, and were well known for their beauty, upper-class bohemianism or political allegiances. Nancy contributed columns to The Lady and the Sunday Times, as well as writing a series of popular novels including The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate, which detailed the high-society affairs of the six Radlett sisters.

While working in London during the Blitz, Nancy met and fell in love with Gaston Palewski, General de Gaulle's chief of staff, and eventually moved to Paris to be near him. In the 1950s she began writing historical biographies - her life of Louis XIV, The Sun King, became an international bestseller. Nancy completed her last book, Frederick the Great, before she died of Hodgkin's disease on 30 June 1973.

Evelyn Waugh

Evelyn Waugh was born in Hampstead, London, in 1903. He studied History at Hertford College, Oxford, but left without a degree. After a brief period as a teacher, he published his first book, a biography of the artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti, in 1928. The same year also saw the publication of his first novel, Decline and Fall, which established his reputation.

Further novels, including Vile Bodies (1930), A Handful of Dust (1934) and Brideshead Revisited (1945) were highly acclaimed. Waugh also wrote several travel books and short stories, and was a prolific journalist and book reviewer. Waugh died on Easter Sunday, 1966, at his home in Combe Florey, Somerset.

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