In Search of Nancy: A first trip to the Evelyn Waugh Archive

A new blog, Waugh and Words, created by Complete Works of Evelyn Waugh project at the University of Leicester, features an essay by research associate Barbara Cooke in which she describes her first visit to Alexander Waugh’s home and reflects on the relationship between Evelyn Waugh and Nancy Mitford.

Nancy was special. Evelyn did not idolise her, but loved her deeply and respected her as a fellow writer. They corresponded for more than thirty years, right up until Evelyn’s death on Easter Sunday, 1966. The bulk of their surviving letters dates from 1944, just before the publication of Brideshead Revisited. As their fame grew Nancy and Evelyn critiqued one another’s novels, failed to take one another’s advice, and retracted criticisms once presented by the other with the finished goods. Like Lady Diana, Nancy had her own ‘shining row’ of special editions. Evelyn also dedicated The Loved One to her, in typically tongue-in-cheek fashion. This acerbic tale about the American funeral trade was published with illustrations by Stuart Boyle, and an urn appears on the frontispiece bearing the legend ‘TO NANCY MITFORD’.

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