The Parting of Ways: A Personal Account of the Thirties by Shiela Grant Duff - review by James Lees-Milne

James Lees-Milne

Elite Syncopation

The Parting of Ways: A Personal Account of the Thirties


Peter Owen 223pp £10.50 order from our bookshop

Shiela Grant Duff is a natural rebel. She was born an upper class girl just within the pre-1914 generation. Both her grandfathers had been Liberal MPs and distinguished public servants – Sir Mountstuart Grant Duff one time Governor of Madras, and Sir John Lubbock, later lst Lord Avebury. The last was an outstanding philanthropist and entomologist. Amongst other benefactions he introduced the Bank Holidays Act of 1871. For twelve years he kept a tame wasp whose death was recorded in the newspapers. One of Miss Grant Duff’s grandmothers was a Stanley of Alderley which may account for her provocative intelligence.

This gifted girl’s childhood was conditioned by tragedy. At her birth in 1913 her Grant Duff grandfather died. The following year war with Germany broke out. Her father was killed. Her mother’s two brothers were killed. Still her upbringing was cushioned by the comparative comforts and affluence of her class. The standards of her upbringing at home were those of the old-fashioned British élite. The first break with this exclusive tradition was education at St Paul’s Girls School (advanced), and matriculation in Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford in 1931. Here she broke away from the conventional ambit of her girl contemporaries, deb

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