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Nancy Mitford Biography

(1904–73), The Pursuit of Love, Love in a Cold Climate, Don't Tell Alfred

British novelistand biographer, the eldest of the seven children (six daughters and a son) of the second Lord Redesdale. In The Pursuit of Love (1945), the novel which made her name, she gives an almost detached view of her extraordinary family with her father appearing as ‘Uncle Matthew’. Of her sisters, Jessica Mitford became a communist, Diana married the British fascist Oswald Mosley, and Unity became an admirer of Hitler. English aristocratic family circles, their eccentricities and amatory escapades, are at the centre of her next novel, Love in a Cold Climate (1949). After the war she settled in France, about which she wrote in Don't Tell Alfred (1960), a roman-à-clef about the British Embassy in Paris. Her biographies include Madame de Pompadour (1954; revised edition, 1968), Voltaire in Love (1957), and Frederick the Great (1970). She edited the comically snobbish Noblesse Oblige: An Enquiry into the Identifiable Characteristics of the English Aristocracy (1956) in which she gives currency to the expressions ‘U’ (upper-class) and ‘non-U’ to describe traits in speech and comportment of the upper classes and their counterparts. Her amusing light satires, with their acute observations of social nuances and caricatures of bohemian aristocrats, were highly popular in their day but in later years became dated.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: McTeague to Nancy [Freeman] Mitford Biography