Evelyn and Kick (More)

Another review appears in today’s Irish Times of Paula Byrne’s new book about Kathleen (“Kick”) Kennedy. See earlier post. Also reviewed is a competing book about the same subject by Barbara Leaming, Kick Kennedy. The reviewer, Selina Guinness, summarizes Kennedy’s life and adds an anecdote about Evelyn Waugh that appears in Byrne’s book but was not mentioned in the previous review:

Evelyn Waugh unmasked a further charm when he asked at dinner about the size of her “dot”. According to Byrne, Kick retorted that her navel was probably much the same as any girl’s. Only later did she learn that Waugh had been asking what kind of dowry a financier’s daughter could command.

Guinness also provides a comparative assessment of the two books:

Paula Byrne, an experienced literary biographer, declares a personal investment in her subject as the Liverpudlian descendant of “Irish Kennedys”. She accounts it a personal triumph that Kick ended her days as Kathleen Cavendish, marchioness of Hartington, buried at Chatsworth in a simple grave.

Barbara Leaming provides by far the more perspicacious and politically astute of the two books. Extensive interviews with surviving members of the Devonshire circle richly supplement the Kennedy archive to present a complex portrait of how English Protestant power and privilege came to admit this American Catholic during the social upheaval of the second World War.

Be that as it may, I suspect that Byrne’s book will have more on offer for Waugh enthusiasts, given her previous writing on his life and works. 

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