Sunday, 15 June 2008

High Society

Currently I am reading a truly fascinating book, and today I was asked why I found it so fascinating. A quote from Jane Shilling's review in The Times of the book, Mitfords: Letters Between Six Sisters, encapsulates my reason:

''An anthropologist's treasure: a keyhole view of the private rituals of the British upper classes [and] the pure ore of that very peculiar world"

It's an absolutely enthralling collection of letters between six entirely unique individuals: Nancy, a writer; Pamela, a country wife; Diana, a beautiful fascist; Unity, obsessed with Hitler; Jessica, a communist who ran away to America and the youngest, socialite and Duchess of Devonshire, Deborah. As I was reading yesterday, something clicked in my mind. I have that sort of mind, which can match two pieces of entirely obscure information but can't figure out the tube after well over a decade travelling around London.

Anyway, here she is, the youngest and only surviving sister in a Vogue photoshoot. She is with her grand-daughter, the super-model Stella Tennant in front of the family estate of Chatworth. Chatworth is mentioned in some of Deborah's letters: 'We went for a picnic to Chatsworth in a pony cart which was great fun' - 1943.

Then this:

She's on Vogue's best dressed from 1916-2006 list! Stella Tennant is featured on the opposite page. Seeing this made me think about how Vogue did and still does operate within high society. It also made the book an even more fascinating read. As an aside - Vogue appears to have made a rather convenient error. They say that 'Debo' was considered the most beautiful, yet in the book of their letters, it is categorically stated that her older sister Diana was the most beautiful, and often overshadowed her other siblings in this respect.


  1. She looks good. Lots of wacky politics in that family.

  2. What a coincidence, I've been reading that book too- the Mitfords are a fascinating family at any time, and the letters are a real insight into their relations with each other.
    Though I must say, Vogue also got Deborah's age at the time of her marriage wrong- she was twenty-one, not nineteen (though she was eighteen when she got engaged).

  3. Why yes blue floppy hat you're right!

    Today in the library I saw a compilation of just Jessica's letters (to everyone not just her sisters) called 'Decca' or something like that. I didn't take it out though, I think a Mitford obsession would be all too easy!

  4. I have a mild obsession with the Mitfords that borders on being quite crazy...