Today’s papers report that a rare pre-publication copy of Brideshead Revisited belonging to the late Duchess of Devonshire (born Deborah Mitford) will be auctioned by Southeby’s. Here is the story from the Guardian:
The items include a true first edition of Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, one of 50 pre-publication copies distributed to an inner circle inviting revisions and suggestions. It is inscribed: “Debo & Andrew/ with love from/ Evelyn/ A very old fashioned story.”…Writing years later she reflected: “In spite of his uncertain ways, Evelyn remained a friend and a generous one.”
Another story in the Financial Times provides additional details:
… a pre-edition of Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh (£15,000-£20,000) exposes Debo as an early Waugh reader and occasional editor. “She did once recount saying something like, ‘In 1930 women wouldn’t have worn Cartier clips … ’ ” says [Southeby’s expert David] MacDonald, of her contribution to his oeuvre. “But, I don’t know if that’s Brideshead.”… In her memoirs, she described Evelyn Waugh as “a difficult guest and when he drank too much, impossible”
MacDonald may here be confusing Deborah with her sister Nancy who advised Waugh that he had made a mistaken reference in Brideshead Revisited to a piece of jewelry:
One dreadful error. Diamond clips were only invented about 1930, you wore a diamond arrow in your cloche.
Waugh corrected this in later editions. Letters of Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh, pp. 12-14. No mention is made of the even rarer (possibly unique) first edition of Waugh’s Life of Ronald Knox that he had sent to Deborah. When she opened it, she found the pages blank. Waugh explained that it was sent “in the certainty that not one word of this will offend your Protestant persuasion.” In Tearing Haste: Letters between Deborah Devonshire and Patrick Leigh Fermor, pp. 60-61. The auction is scheduled for 2 March at Southeby’s London galleries.