The Mitfords: Letters Between Six Sisters by Charlotte Mosley (ed) - review by Alexander Waugh

Alexander Waugh

‘A Leetle Beet Mad’

The Mitfords: Letters Between Six Sisters


Fourth Estate 834pp £25

Remembering who is who among the six Mitford sisters is not an easy task. Charlotte Mosley, meticulous editor of the present volume, whose mother-in-law was Diana (the Blackshirt Fascist ‘Cord’, ‘Bodley’, ‘Honks’, or ‘Nardy’), makes a valiant effort to clear up the confusion with an index of nicknames and a couple of pages of biographical notes. Here we learn that Jessica (the Communist) was variously known to her sisters as ‘Hen’, ‘Henderson’, ‘Boud’, ‘Susan’, ‘Soo’, ‘Steake’ and ‘Squalor’, and that three of these names were also applied to other Mitford sisters. Thus Unity (the Brownshirt Fascist) is also called ‘Boud’, as well as ‘Bobo’ and ‘Birdie’; Nancy (the Francophile) shares the nickname ‘Susan’ and ‘Soo’ with Jessica; and Deborah (the Duchess) shares ‘Hen’ and ‘Henderson’ with her too. Pamela (the poultry enthusiast) is known as ‘Woman’, ‘Woo’, ‘Wooms’, ‘Woomling’ and, very occasionally, ‘Pam’.

To make things easier the editor has attempted to standardise these names, but if the reader is half as forgetful as I am he will still find himself shuffling back to the Index to make regular checks.

About six hundred letters are printed here, drawn, we are told, from a total

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