“I didn’t know Hitler. I only went to tea with him once.”

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09/14/2010 1:56 PM |


Read Sally Franson’s review of Wigs on the Green in the current issue of The L? The great, witty British novelist Nancy Mitford’s early roman a clef, which satirizes the fascism of her aristocratic sisters Unity and Diana (later wife of Mr. Oswald “With the Swastika tattoo” Mosley, and mother of Max), is recently back in print, part of a recent revival in interest in the six frankly phenomenal Mitford sisters. A selection of their sparklingcorrespondence was published a few years back, showcasing their charisma and centrality to a century of British society, culture and politics; here, NYRB has just released a selection of muckraking journalism by Jessica Mitford (the America-migrating communist one); they’re also putting out, next month, a book of letters between Deborah Mitford, Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, and the famed travel writer Patrick Leigh Fermor.

Deborah, the youngest of the sisters and now, at 90, the last surviving, has just published her surely endlessly fascinating memoirs, and it’s in the course of discussing them with the Guardian that she goes over the tea-with-Adolf story for the umpteenth time: “The story’s been told so often I think it’s pretty old hat.” (She was not herself a Nazi sympathizer, one hastens to clarify.) The whole piece is well worth a read; “Debo” comes across, as you might expect, as a very formidable presence. Which means you should probably be aware that this 90-year-old British aristocrat—who’s corresponded with authors and dined with Hitler, JFK and the QE2—will be appearing at the Frick Collection in November, to give a free talk. Put your (purely metaphorical) tickets in the freezer now.