The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford

published 1945      chapter 14

Feeling provincial, up in London for the day and determined to see a little life, I made Davey give me luncheon at the Ritz. This has a still further depressing effect on my spirits. 

My clothes, so nice and suitable for the George, so much admired by the other dons’ wives (‘My dear, where did you get that lovely tweed?’) were, I now realized, almost bizarre in their dowdiness… I thought of those dear little black children, three of them now, in their nursery at home, and of dear Alfred in his study, but just for the moment this thought was no consolation. I passionately longed to have a tiny fur hat, or a tiny ostrich hat, like the two ladies at the next table. I longed for a neat black dress, diamond clips and a dark mink coat, shoes like surgical boots, long crinkly black suede gloves, and smoothly polished hair. When I tried to explain all this to Davey, he remarked, absent-mindedly:

‘Oh but it doesn’t matter a bit for you, Fanny, and, after all, how can you have time for les petits soins de la personne with so many other, more important things to think of.’

I suppose he thought this would cheer me up.

observations: How do we count the ways we love this book? Poor Fanny, don’t we all empathize with her, that terrible feeling when your clothes aren’t right. Nancy Mitford seems like someone whose clothes were always right, but she certainly understood the situation. Crinkly suede – you would be hard put to explain exactly what this is, but at the same time we know exactly, it’s the perfect description.

Late in the book there is a sly reference to Brideshead Revisited, published about the same time by Mitford's great  friend Evelyn Waugh.

Fanny’s mother, The Bolter is a quite splendid character, and the reader longs for more of her - Mitford is unusually restrained in her use of her. (Incidentally, a recent book about the alleged original of The Bolter makes repeated mistakes about The Pursuit of Love: the author seems not to have read it, or at least not recently). 

‘Black children’ is meant to indicate that the children have dark hair – this rather curious construction is used twice in the book. Another curiosity is Linda’s child Moira (a name of interest to us at Clothes in Books) – she is abandoned to the estranged husband, fine, but it seems odd that Mitford writes more books about the family, following up – at least in passing – on everyone’s future and offspring, but Moira is never mentioned again. Surely the Radletts would have kept track of their granddaughter? It seems quite possible that Mitford herself forgot all about her.

Links on the blog: Endless more Nancy Mitfords – click on the label below. This woman:

looks much as the ones Fanny describes – the picture is from the blog entry for Anne Scott-James’s In the Mink, also about fashionable London ladies of the 1930s.

The top picture is a portrait of Helen Wallace from the US National Archives, the lower one from Wikimedia Commons.


  1. Helen Wallace photo. A smouldering beauty if ever I saw one.

    Now. The photo of lady with cigarette holder: if THAT had made you think of me...

  2. It does Dee it does, I promise you...

  3. Oh, those 'photos are wonderful, Moira! And I know exactly what you mean about not feeling one's clothes are right. And Davey's reaction? Priceless! Thanks for sharing.

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