The collected letters of the Mitford sisters, which I raved about here, is still my favourite book read this year – and so it was with delight that I discovered Deborah Mitford (or Deborah Devonshire – or perhaps m’lady) would be having more letters published this year. In Tearing Haste is the letters between Debo and Patrick Leigh Fermor, who share the unusual trait of being alive whilst having their letters published. I imagine they are writing some amusing letters to each other about it already.
What makes this new book even more exciting is that Charlotte Mosley is editing it – how she found the time after The Mitfords is beyond me, but I’m very glad she did. With so much material, especially for that previous volume, the task of the editor is (I should imagine) incredibly difficult and incredibly skilled. I even wrote to Charlotte Mosley to say how much I enjoyed (nay, loved) her work on The Mitfords, and got a nice note back.
I have only just bought it – rather quailed at the price (£25, down to £20 at Blackwells and probably discounted in a lot of places) but an online friend, Sherry, and I made a cunning plan. We both have November birthdays, so we’re buying In Tearing Haste for each other – but since I live in England and she lives in the US, we’ll collect our presents from the local bookshop. Plus, I have Blackwells vouchers from Magdalen… down to my last £10 there, actually – expect a full run-through of how I spent Magdalen’s money soon. And this book will be very useful for my writing on the middlebrow, I daresay, and thus qualifies as an ‘academic text’ (on which the vouchers had to be spent). One of the great things about studying 20th Century Lit is that fun books are also work books!
I’ve not read anything by Patrick Leigh Fermor before, but apparently his style is the opposite of Debo’s avowedly philistine writing. Will just share the opening to the first letter from the book, and you’ll understand why I love her:
Dear Paddy Leigh Fermor,
I’m beginning like that chiefly because Nancy [Mitford] says one mustn’t, but as she says I’m mental age of 9 it doesn’t signify how one begins. I’m ever so excited about you coming to Ireland. Do really come & don’t just say you are.
The Mitfords, in some circles, had become bywords for the affluent and senseless – hopefully the recent succession of published letters, and Debo’s unavoidable charm, will lead the next generation of the Mitford-curious to a different conclusion.