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Mitford, Nancy

Mitford, Nancy, 1904–73, English novelist and biographer, b. London. She managed a London bookshop during World War II and moved to Paris in 1945. Mitford and her five celebrated and politically diverse sisters (Jessica, see below; Pamela, 1907–94; Diana, 1910–2003; Unity, 1914–48; and Deborah, 1920–2014) were born into the British aristocracy, a class she satirizes in her novels, notably In Pursuit of Love (1945) and Love in a Cold Climate (1949). Her writing is sophisticated, malicious, and captivating. Indeed, her boring, bigoted, illiterate lords and amoral, irresponsible ladies have taken on the qualities of myth. She also wrote biographies of Madame de Pompadour (1954) and Frederick the Great (1970).

See her letters (1993) and C. Mosley, ed., correspondence with E. Waugh (1997) and The Mitfords: Letters between Six Sisters (2007); memoir by H. Acton (1976); biography by S. Hastings (1986, repr. 2012).

Mitford's sister Jessica Mitford, 1917–96, b. Gloucestershire, England, also a writer, is known for her witty and irreverent polemics, and her brilliant investigative journalism. Her works include The American Way of Death (1963; rev. ed. 1998), a scathing exposé of the American funeral industry; Kind and Usual Punishment (1973), a critical study of the brutality of American prisons; and The American Way of Birth (1992), an indictment of the overuse of cesarean sections .

See P. Y. Sussman, ed., Decca: The Letters of Jessica Mitford (2006), her memoir of her early days as a Communist (1977), and her autobiography (1960, repr. 2004). See also J. Guinness, House of Mitford (1984), M. S. Lovell, The Sisters: The Saga of the Mitford Family (2002), and L. Thompson, The Six: The Lives of the Mitford Sisters (2016).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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