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The Letters of Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh Hardcover – 17 Oct 1996

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 551 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton Ltd; First Edition edition (17 Oct. 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340638044
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340638040
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.6 x 5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 452,558 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Evelyn Waugh was born in Hampstead in 1903. He was educated at Lancing and Hertford College, Oxford. In 1928 he published his first work, a life of Dante Gabriel Rosetti, and his first novel, Decline and Fall, which was soon followed by Vile Bodies, Black Mischief (1932), A Handful of Dust (1934) and Scoop (1938). During these years he travelled extensively and published a number of travel books. In 1939 he was commissioned in the Royal Marines and later transferred to the Royal Horse Guards. He went on to write a number of other books, including Brideshead Revisited (1945) and Men at Arms (1952). Evelyn Waugh died in 1966.

Nancy Mitford (1904-1973) was born in London, the eldest child of the second Baron Redesdale. She had written four novels, including Wigs on the Green (1935), before the success of The Pursuit of Love in 1945, which she followed with Love in a Cold Climate (1949), The Blessing (1951) and Don't Tell Alfred (1960). She also wrote four works of biography. Nancy Mitford was awarded the CBE in 1972. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

43 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Gavin H. Morris on 21 Aug. 2003
Format: Paperback
This is one of those rare books that actually changes you slightly. You can feel Nancy Mitford's effervescent love of life and a man she was destined not to have (not Waugh, read the book). Waugh's bitter humour and at times almost violently zealous faith (ex-agnostics are always the worst, aren't they?) are transformed over time into the inconveniences of old age and the beginnings of uncertainty.
Waugh's characters are here, only slightly less alive for being real than they are in his retelling of them.
By Today's standards both Mitford and Waugh would be considered bigots, racists and terrible snobs - part of all that was wrong with old England. This book raises the possibility that we may have thrown the baby out with the bath water. There's another world here, another view altogether, and it's not all bad.
The book fulfills many functions. It's a record of the mid 20th Century English upper class from the viewpoint of the bohemian intelligentsia. It's a platonic love story. It's the tale of a life long friendship. It's about disillusionment. It's gossip. It is spiky, barbed argument and profound offence, but it's also tender concern and deep respect. It is two of the best and most difficult writers the world has ever produced writing personally and mostly honestly about what mattered to them. It's about writing paper and it's about the proper use of the word 'claim.'
"It is very degrading to be constantly in the company of of people you have to "make allowances for"" - this book is a break from them.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By John Davison on 27 April 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh are my favourite writers, but I put off reading this book for some time because collected letters generally don't appeal. Even with these two I took a couple of rests from the book before realising it was a lot more enjoyable than anything else I had to hand.

I would refute the charges of "bigot" and "racist" [see other reviews] where Nancy is concerned. She is totally non-PC in her letters, but then PC had not been invented. What shines through is her love of life and her enjoyment of people. She uses "jew" as a label without embarrassment, but she meets and warmly admires Decca's husband Robert Treuhaft.

Evelyn Waugh is a different case. His contempt for the lower classes, for example, is manifest, and is evidently rooted in his shame at not belonging to the upper. You can also understand why the fundamentalist approach to Roman Catholicism appealed to him - Waugh would have no problem with other people being damned for eternity, even those close to him.

Charlotte Mosley edits with a light touch. It was nice that she thoughtfully translated all the French phrases, as until recently editors from a certain section of society tended to assume everyone knew the language. The notes are copious and generally quite dull - the most important entry in anyone's life, in Charlotte's world, is who they married - but thank goodness they are placed at the end of each letter and not in an addendum.

Unlike the reviewer from The Independent, I didn't "rock with helpless laughter", but I was fairly consistently amused, and thanks to Nancy I have ordered several more books from Amazon, on the grounds that if she enjoyed them I probably will too.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mrs. K. A. Wheatley TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 24 May 2014
Format: Paperback
You get the feeling that you wouldn't have necessarily liked to be friends with either Mitford or Waugh, but that you would have been utterly fascinated by them if you met them. The letters between them over forty odd years show a level of wit and malicious, gossipy joy that make them an indulgence to read. They neither of them come across as the nicest of people, but you can see how well they suited each other and how their ability to say exactly as they pleased to each other without fear of reprisals made for an utterly compelling correspondence.
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Format: Paperback
Difficult, you can hear the voices of both quite clearly; they aren't always "nice" and (to quote Alan Bennett, he should know) "nice" is what you generally have to be isn't it? Well written by both, of course. What it tells about the pair of them - well they set each other off into the realms of fantasy and mischief, sometimes malicious at other times not. Evelyn's advice to Nancy about her books though sincerely given, and asked for, was usually ignored. Interestingly it is quite clear that Nancy wasn't afraid of Evelyn and was not prepared to put up more than a certain amount of old nonsense. The rampant snobbery and malice of both is difficult to just accept/pass over these days - but it was a private correspondence and unless you have had a complete sense of humour bypass how you could fail to roll about with laughter at the rumoured fate of Pere Couturier & the Vicomtesse de Noailles' prized Picasso (amongst other incidents) I for one simply do not know. Susan Mary Patten and the Coronation hoax is also good for a laugh. Would I like to have met either one or known them? Both far too frightening for me.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Beryl P. Wales on 31 May 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I haven't read it all yet, but I have always read their books when I was young, and enjoyed them. This is good and interesting, but I sometimes get a bit fed up with all the explanatory notes.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Charlotte J. Bevan on 1 Sept. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Book of letters between two great writers. Full of wit and fun and evocative of an era when writing letters, not reviews, was the norm. Loved it
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