A Life of Contrasts by Diana Mitford

By Diana Mitford

‘Beautifully written.’ Valerie Grove, the days ‘Martini-dry wit.’ Irish occasions ‘Often natural Wodehouse.’ monetary occasions ‘Uncompromising.’ A.N. Wilson, Sunday Telegraph ‘It has all her charm.’ Laura Thompson, an outstanding learn, BBC Radio four ‘Brilliant.’ night typical ‘A lifetime of Contrasts is a candid, page-turning memoir, written by means of a lady who will—without any doubt—be seen by means of heritage as the most attention-grabbing personalities of the 20 th Century.’ Mary S. Lovell ‘Lady Mosley writes super well… Her e-book reads like very good speak; her characters stay and die in one phrase… An autobiography of actual distinction.' Jonathan Raban, Sunday instances ‘I envy any reader coming for the 1st time to a lifetime of Contrasts, Diana Mosley’s account of her personal eventful prior, for he has a unprecedented deal with in entrance of him.’ Selina Hastings ‘Sharp, a laugh and well-written’ Hugh Thomas, New Statesman ‘Wholly if grittily, a Mitford book… the reader might be flung among satisfaction and dismay as he reads on… To all these no longer averse to a bit powdered glass of their Bombe shock: enjoy.’ the days ‘Other contributors of the Mitford relatives should not have the monopoly of remarkable and a laugh writing.’ The Tatler ‘She emerges between all else as feminine…’ Mary Warnock, The Listener ‘Animated and revealing.’ Hibernia ‘Witty and amusing.’ Catholic usher in ‘She was once essentially a star.’ Anne de Courcy within the Viceroy’s Daughters The hilarious autobiography of the main glamorous of the intense younger issues. Diana Mitford describes within the inimitable Mitford approach the way it happened that either Winston Churchill and Adolf Hitler cherished her, and Evelyn Waugh and Oswald Mosley fell in love with her.

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A distant cousin, Thomas Knight of Kent, the benefactor who owned the living, or parish, of Steventon which George Austen held, married Catherine Knatchbull in May 1779. On their wedding journey, calling to the Rectory at Steventon to introduce the bride to the groom’s cousins, they met and were so taken with the young Edward, who was then twelve, that they brought him with them on the rest of their journey and, when the family had almost forgotten the incident, surprisingly proposed to make him their heir.

A short walk from the Jane Austen House, at the former home of her brother Edward Knight, once Chawton Great House, now Chawton House Library, I was most kindly permitted to consult unique editions, and was shown the room where family legend has it that Jane Austen sat and looked out over the grounds. Having stood there, I do not doubt it. I thank the Librarian, Jacqui Grainger, for showing it to me, and for all her kind assistance. Thanks are also due to the staff of the Hampshire Record Office in Winchester, where so many of Marianne Knight’s letters, and the papers of Montagu Knight and James Edward Austen Leigh are kept.

24 James’s daughter Anna had, like her Godmersham cousins, many opportunities to observe her aunts and other relatives; she had been sent to Steventon at the age of two for an extended stay after the death of her mother in 1795, and maintained close contact thereafter. She thought Edward’s wife Elizabeth ‘a very lovely woman, highly educated, though not I imagine of much natural talent. 25 Where Cassandra and Jane were concerned, she believed that the former Elizabeth Bridges was not especially fond of Jane, distrusting her creativity, because ‘a little talent went a long way with the Goodnestone Bridgeses of that period, & much must have gone a long way too far’.

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