the mitford girls wrote extensively to each other throughout their lives, and this book is a mere 5% of the letters they wrote to each other- apparently there are about 12,000 letters between the six sisters. all the girls had a million different nicknames, for each other, as well as other family members and friends, so it may get a bit confusing when you read the quotes.
Nancy to Diana, early 1927
So awful, the head of the whole university had us all up the other day & said there is a lady thief among us. I tried not to look self conscious but I’m sure they suspect me. I now leave my old fur coat about everywhere, I long for the insurance money.
Deborah to Diana, 20 October 1933
Thank you SO much for the HEVERN evininger [heavenly evening bag], Blor was dumbfounded when Nancy told her what it cost. I honestly never seen anything quite so lovely in all my.
I even forgive you being a fascist for that.
Thanks ever so much.
Best love from Debo
(muv and farve: mom and dad. blor was the nickname for their nanny. unity is writing to jessica, who has eloped.)
Unity to Jessica, 3 March 1937
You see ever since you left Muv & Farve haven’t slept, Muv cries all night & Farve has to make her tea, and they both look 10 years older, & Blor’s face has gone all grey & she divides her time between crying and saying ‘Jessica has only taken two pairs of knickers & they are both too small for her & I’m afraid they will burst.’
Nancy to Jessica, 26 May 1937
The German Amb. invited us to a party in German which is very rude so Rodd refused in Yiddish but I took the letter away because of my weak mind & not wanting to be tortured when the G’s have conquered us.
Deborah to Unity, 20 June 1937
It is more than ever like a Russian novel here because Farve has taken terrific trouble to buy things he thinks Muv will like & she goes round putting all the things away that he has chosen. The worst of all was when she went to her bedroom for the first time & saw two wonderfully hideous lampshades with stars on them & she said ‘I certainly never bought these horrors’ & Farve’s face fell several miles. It is simply pathetic.
Deborah to Jessica, 30 June 1937
Everyone does the same old things here. Farve goes off to The Lady & The House of Lords & Muv paints chairs & reads books called things like Stalin: My Father or Mussolini: The Man or Hitler: My Brother’s Uncle or I was in Spain or The Jews- By One Who Knows Them
Nancy to Unity, 9 August 1938
I am getting on well with my German. I know Herrschaft [power], Tisch [table] and pfui [ugh]; Pfennig [penny], gemutlich [cosy] and Rassenschande [racial disgrace i.e. interracial sex]. Six words which would get one a long way if made good use of.
Well, head of bone, heart of stone – here is a little poem to show you what a lot of German I know.
Rassenschande is my joy
(Tisch Tisch and a merry go round)
Gemutlich is my hochgeboren [highborn] boy.
My hochgeboren love sits mit mir [with me]
(Tisch Tisch and a merry go round)
With all our Pfennigs we buy delicious beer.
And Rassenschande we do all day
(Tisch Tisch and a merry go round)
For my lover is a geboren Malay.
Pretty good, eh what?
Nancy to Diana, 22 November 1941
When my symptoms were explained to her [Lady Redesdale] she said ‘ovaries – I thought one had 700 like caviar’. Then I said how I couldn’t bear the idea of a great scar on my tum to which she replied ‘But darling who’s ever going to see it?’
Deborah to Nancy, 7 May 1944
I don’t appreciate the SHORT NOTES I have received from you, my frail fingers are well able to open a VERY LONG letter so kindly write one.
Deborah to Diana, 8 February 1952
(telling Diana about Jessica, who has moved to California)
The accent is what struck me most, I still can’t believe it, she not only does the accent but says completely American sentences like when I asked her how old Bob was she said “Pushing forty”
Nancy refused to send letters by Airmail. She regarded it as “very middle-class to be in a hurry” (330)
Diana to Deborah, 13 January 1960
Another remark from Pamela: “Nard, would you like two absolutely wonderful armchairs for your flat?”
Me:”Oh Woman you are kind, but I think really we’ve more or less got enough now.”
Woman: “But Nard these are super armchairs. You could never afford that quality. And they’ve got flat arms to put a drink on. They are really lovely, don’t you remember them at Tullamaine?”
Me: “Oh yes Woman I believe I do, lovely, you are kind.”
Woman: “It would be quite impossible to get such wonderful armchairs now however hard you tried.”
Me: (as before).
This went on for several minutes. I know one day I shall wake up & find armchairs with drinks on each arm filling the flat.
Deborah to Diana, 21 July 1965
I had letters from you & the Lady & Henderson today, wouldn’t it be dreadful if one had a) no sisters b) sisters who didn’t write.
(jessica, discussing lsd)
Jessica to Nancy, 4 May 1967
And apart from the danger, the annoying thing is the people of one’s age who try it. Goodness they are boring about it. They at once become pitying of one for not having some. Asked what it is like, they can only say, “Indescribable!” Also it makes one love everyone, they say. For instance, a locally well-known poet called Ginsberg said it made him feel very sympathetic to Lyndon Johnson. I wish they would invent a Loather’s Drug.
(jessica, when she taught a semester at yale)
Jessica to Deborah, 14 February 1976
Am loving the students. The first few days were pure torture as I had to choose 18 students (max. size of class) out of 200 applicants, goodness it was difficult. They’d all had to write on a card why they wanted to take the course. Mostly I rather followed instructions of higher-ups (deans etc.) & chose illustrious-sounding people with Rhodes Scholarships. But one boy aged 17 wrote on his card “I believe I have the qualifications for a journalist as I am tall enough to look over walls & thin enough to hide behind trees”, so I could see I would worship him, & let him in. A girl wrote “There comes a time in every person’s life when he or she must burst into some new form of action”. She’s an athlete, so I let her in mainly because I long to see her burst into some new form of action.
Deborah to Jessica, 17 November 1985
Started at Dallas. Good Lady Bird Johnson came all the way from Austin to have dinner. I do love her. She ordered Fee Lay of Sole & the waiter understood, brill eh. And a nasty wind is called a Her Cane in those parts. I do love it but am sometimes in need of an interpreter.
Thence to Washington. We were royally entertained, dinner after dinner, lunch upon lunch, smashing food. The waiters are dangerously handsome & are supposed to be out of work actors. They act being waiters very well.
Then New York. Hen isn’t it ghoul beyond compare, how can anyone like it. I stayed in the Waldorf Astoria, 1,800 rooms, queued for 35 mins to book in & had the strong feeling that if I had died in my room someone would have turfed my body out of the window and made the bed for the next unfortunate.
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