John Murray £10 from the Independent Bookshop : 0870 079 8897; Gibson Square £8.99 from the Independent Bookshop : 0870 079 8897

Home to Roost and Other Peckings, By Deborah Devonshire
The Pursuit of Laughter: Essays, Reviews and Diary, By Diana Mosley

More 'Mitford-alia' to delight the gossips

If the 1930s were the Mitfords' heyday, the Noughties have been the equivalent for their devotees. Biographies, letters, anthologies: the past few years have brought masses of new material, coming to a head with last year's excellent collected letters between the six sisters. But if the war brought a decisive end to the gaiety of Nancy, Diana et al, there seems to be no end in sight to the Mitford-alia publishers can find, even if the material is beginning to run a bit thin.

This month brings two new volumes, both anthologies of articles and essays, one by Diana, the other by Deborah ("Debo") – or, in Mitford short-hand, by the Nazi and the Duchess. New is perhaps not quite the right word, as almost all of the material has been published somewhere before, in the case of The Pursuit of Laughter, only a few months ago in hardback. But the paperback is a vast improvement, thanks to the addition of two portraits, one of Lord Berners, the painter and composer, the other of Oswald Mosley (her husband); and the inclusion of a brilliant interview with Diana by Duncan Fallowell.

Fallowell visited Diana on several occasions in Paris, just before her death in 2003, and despite his being gay and her being a supporter of Hitler, the two hit it off famously. She was quite deaf by then, leading to some occasional confusion. "'Did you ever have a black shirt?', 'Did I ever have a black child?' 'Shirt!' Gales of laughter."

Actually, Diana had lots of gay friends before the war, including Lytton Strachey and Gerald Berners, about both of whom she writes in illuminating detail, but for some reason she could never equate Hitler with the concentration camps, as she reveals when probed by Fallowell: "I had a complete revulsion against the people who did it but I could never efface from my memory ' the man I had actually experienced before the war. A very complicated feeling. I can't really relate those things to each other."

In the end, her association with Hitler pretty much ruined her life, and even now the Mosleys are suffering. She spent much of the war in prison, where upper-class resolve came in useful: "[We] made a marvellous garden and grew fraises du bois which do very well in soot".

Gardening is one of Debo's themes, although, like Diana, she is best when writing about people. Even for those who don't fall for the clipped Mitford humour, nobody with an interest in the past century could fail to be interested in the gossip, which extends to just about everyone of interest. Debo even had a ringside seat at JF Kennedy's inauguration – she danced with him in London before the war when his father was US ambassador, although she'd been reluctant to go, as it meant missing the last shoot of the season. When the new president caught sight of her in the crowd he climbed over seven rows of seats to say goodbye, "to the utter astonishment of people sitting either side of us". Poignantly she would be back two years later for Kennedy's funeral, which generates one of the better anecdotes in the book. Flying back late at night with Alec Douglas-Home, the then-prime minister, their plane was diverted to Manchester, so she invited the party to stay the night at Chatsworth. "Sir Alec said if he crept into bed and lay very still we would not have to change the sheets for Princess Margaret who was coming the next day."

Debo is frequently underwhelmed by her grand acquaintances. When reminiscing about visits to Ditchley Park, a neighbouring house to her family home in Oxfordshire, she writes: "When Winston Churchill used the house for weekends away from the bombing in London, I was delighted by [the racehorse trainer] Jeremy Tree's yawns and sighs and evident longing to go to bed when the PM started – and went on – talking till the early hours. (My own children did just the same years later when Harold Macmillan came to Chatsworth and talked till the cows came home)."

For those unfamiliar with the Mitfords, neither of these books is necessarily the best place to start, but there is plenty of worthwhile material for those who already know the old jokes.

Arts and Entertainment
Cold case: Aaron McCusker and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tv Review: Sky Atlantic's ambitious new series began tonight with a feature-length special
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
Arts and Entertainment
Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is heading to Norwich for Radio 1's Big Weekend

music
Arts and Entertainment
Beer as folk: Vincent Franklin and Cyril Nri (centre) in ‘Cucumber’
tvReview: This slice of gay life in Manchester has universal appeal
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
‘A Day at the Races’ still stands up well today
film
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tvAnd its producers have already announced a second season...
Arts and Entertainment
Kraftwerk performing at the Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) museum in Berlin earlier this month
musicWhy a bunch of academics consider German electropoppers Kraftwerk worthy of their own symposium
Arts and Entertainment
Icelandic singer Bjork has been forced to release her album early after an online leak

music
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth as Harry Hart in Kingsman: The Secret Service

film
Arts and Entertainment
Brian Blessed as King Lear in the Guildford Shakespeare Company's performance of the play

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

    Isis hostage crisis

    The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
    Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

    The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

    Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
    Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

    Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

    This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
    Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

    Cabbage is king again

    Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
    11 best winter skin treats

    Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

    Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
    Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

    Paul Scholes column

    The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
    Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee