Every, Every Time

Nancy Mitford had a terribly raw deal with men, which is unfair and depressing because she was so clever and funny and chic, and her book The Pursuit of Love is my absolute favourite. While it’s usually a sidenote in bios/memoirs, I’ve always been fascinated by the period in her life when she was wildly in love with the frivolous Hamish St-Claire Erskine.   From when she was about 25-30, they were very close, sometimes engaged, but it never came to anything.

Her letters to friends at this time are such a reminder of how love messes everything up is a pretty universal experience:

1929: “Hamish has been an angel lately, not drinking a thing. I really think that bar all the good old jokes which no one enjoys more than I do, that he has literally the nicest nature of anyone I know.  He gets nicer every day too.”



1930:“…if I had been married to Hamish for five painful years and borne him six male children I couldn’t know him better and the curious thing is that I’m quite certain that I shall never never be so fond of anyone again.”

1931: “I’m in the state in which I can’t be alone but the moment I’m with other people I want to get away from them… How can I possibly write a funny book in the next six months when my publisher says I must do.  How can I when I’ve got practically a pain from being miserable and cry in buses quite continually?”

* * * * * *

After years and years of those ups and downs, Nancy suddenly married one Peter Rodd (“Prod”) on the rebound. He turned out to be drunk, wasteful, philandering, and worst of all boring.  Then she moved to France and fell in love with Gaston Palewski – who I always think of as a Magnificent Bastard by nature – who enjoyed her company well enough but could never really love her the way she loved him, and eventually married someone else.  That was as good as it ever got.

The Pursuit Of Love

The Pursuit Of Love

There’s an addendum, though, to the Hamish story.  Some days it makes me grin in female solidarity, some days it makes me sad (because everyone, everything ends) and some days it gives me gritty hope for that same reason.

1972: “I had Hamish [to stay] for two nights.  He said, “we would have been married now for thirty years.”  Help!! He is very dull and might have been more difficult to get rid of than poor Prod was.”


April 29, 2009. Tags: , , , , . boys, history, life is strange, writing.

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