Love’s Civil War: Elizabeth Bowen & Charles Ritchie – Letters & Diaries 1941–1973 by Victoria Glendinning with Judith Robertson (ed) - review by Selina Hastings

Selina Hastings

Love and Friendship

Love’s Civil War: Elizabeth Bowen & Charles Ritchie – Letters & Diaries 1941–1973


Simon & Schuster 489pp £14.99

It was during the war that Charles Ritchie and Elizabeth Bowen first met. The occasion was a christening at a country church in Oxfordshire, and soon afterwards their consuming love affair began. In Love’s Civil War, impeccably edited by Bowen’s biographer, Victoria Glendinning, its progress is charted in the couple’s letters and journals. At that first encounter in February 1941, Ritchie, thirty-four and a bachelor, was a mere Second Secretary at the Canadian High Commission while Bowen was forty-one, married, and a highly regarded novelist. Three years earlier Ritchie, who adored women and had had many affairs, noted in his diary that what he was looking for was a woman ‘who will amuse me and listen to me and not flood me with love’. Yet Bowen flooded him with love for over thirty years; he was the great love of her life, and she of his, despite his eventual happy marriage and numerous affairs.

Born in 1906, Ritchie was to become a distinguished diplomat, serving as Canadian Ambassador in Bonn and Washington, at the United Nations in New York, and as High Commissioner in London. More importantly he was one of the great diarists of the twentieth century. Four volumes of his

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