The Honourable Rebel aka Decca Mitford Treuhaft


I've been something of a Mitford 'fan' for a good five years now. I can't remember actually when I actually became interested in them. At any rate, they were a fierce bunch., which included the one who tried to do herself in when Britain declared war on Germany, the communist firebrand who launched an inquisition against the racketeering funeral industry, the beauteous Diana whose destiny is forever linked to that of Oswald Mosley, the (Dowager) Duchess (of Devonshire) whose granddaughter is fashion model Stella Tennant, the quiet one who might have been a 'you know what bian' (Decca's words) and the brilliant but tough as nails authoress Nancy Mitford (Lady Redesdale famously once pointed out that Nancy’s letters “usually contain a skillfully hidden dagger pointed straight at one’s heart").

After reading the book about this sisterhood, I landed on a book by Peter Sussman who has been kind enough to edit the youngest Mitford's letters to such luminaries as Maya Angelou, Katherine Graham, numerous Presidents of the US and even Hilary Clinton, as well as to her family members.

With two of England's most notorious anti-Semites as her sisters as well as the highly acerbic Nancy (Love in a cold Climate), it goes without saying that one would have to be quite a wit to survive in such a household. And so Decca Mitford did... starting a 'going away' account very early on in life, developing her own secret language with her sister (Boudledidge), eloping with her cousin Esmond Romilly to war-torn Spain in the 1930s, and taking on a leading role in the civil rights and Communist movement in the US. The character of this larger-than-life red sheep of a family that was related to Winston Churchill shines through in several of her letters.

Needless to say, I'm enjoying all the Mitfordiana, and look forward to discovering the polyphony of all six of the sisters, in their letters edited by Charlotte Mosley.
In the meantime, I leave you this Decca quote, which sums up her personality to a tee:
"You may not be able to change the world, but at least you can embarrass the guilty."

2 messages:

Siegfried said...

Fascinating! I didn't know much about her. Interesting that Bridehead was inspired by her ancestral home and that JK Rowling saw her as a great heroine and inspiration.

Lula de Montes said...

Ah Brideshead... It permanently changed the life of a friend of mine, leading him (and eventually myself in his wake) down the path of the gay lifestyle...

Another iconic period film is Maurice, of course.

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