Hugh Massingberd


Last Curtsey: The End of the English Debutante


Faber & Faber 281pp £17.99 order from our bookshop

In the 1960s, much against my inclinations, I found myself on the fringes of what still passed as ‘the debutante Season’ and formed a jaundiced view of the whole tawdry business. In my priggish way, I couldn’t fathom why my boss Peter Townend, a Northern card then editing Burke’s publications, elected to exercise his encyclopaedic knowledge gratifying the social aspirations of pushy debs’ mums and gormless debs’ delights instead of applying himself to serious genealogical scholarship. I remember shying away from his kind offer to put me on his ‘List’ of eligible escorts. Now, looking back from forty years on and having read Fiona MacCarthy’s perceptive, witty and stimulating social history of the deb Season, I realise that my narrow-minded prejudices and inverted snobbery may have cut me off from experiencing something of life’s rich pageant.

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