I couldn’t leave it just at the Mitford letters, now, could I?
Having fallen down before Deborah in a frenzy of adulation, I had to seek out Counting My Chickens… and other home thoughts by Debo, or the Duchess of Devonshire as such as I should call her. It’s a collection of all sorts of writings Deborah has published in newspapers and periodicals over the years (most notably the British Goat Society Yearbook 1972); lots of short articles and thoughts, something to dip in and out of.
Deborah isn’t a natural prose writer, not in the way Nancy was. She frequently claims not to be able to read, let alone write (though Charlotte Mosley notes in The Mitfords: Letters Between Six Sisters ‘Diana believed that unlike most people who pretend to have read books that they have not, Deborah pretended not to have read books that she had’.) Counting My Chickens, accordingly, is no sweeping grand narrative – but in the vignettesque pieces, Deborah demonstrates a gently witty and loveable nature. Who can fail to adore her when, asked to choose her ten books for a Trans Siberian Railway (!), she writes ‘My third book is Patrick Leigh Fermor’s Between the Woods and the Water. I am sorry to say I have not read it…’
Most of Counting My Chickens is little thoughts, connected to Chatsworth or the countryside – her opinions are sometimes applaudable, sometimes baffling (why doesn’t she like female weather forecasters?), but always entertaining or interesting. She has a habit of writing a statement, and simply putting ‘Good.’ as the next sentence. What a flood of ink could be saved if other authors used rhetoric so simple!
To be honest, Deborah Mitford could have written her views concerning the telephone directory, or a list of her favourite three digit numbers, and I’d have lapped it up. She is, after all, more or less like a sister to me now. A somewhat older sister, it must be said, but a sister nonetheless. I wonder what on earth she’d make of that – seeing as I am vegetarian, never milked a cow, and have been known to say ‘talking with’ when I mean ‘talking to’…
My next Mitford read will be Hons and Rebels by Jessica – a few of you rightly said that I should read more by or about Decca before judging her, so I shall give her the benefit of the doubt…!