Mr and Mrs Chatterbox

Today’s Daily Express carries a story (reproduced in PressReader) about a woman named Doris Delevigne who was one of the few working-class members of the Bright Young People. Born in 1900, she pulled herself up from the lower classes with the help of, inter alia, Gertrude Lawrence and became a “courtesan” on the prowl at the Cavendish Hotel. According to the hotel’s owner Rosa Lewis, she should have published her memoirs under the title Around the World in 80 Beds.  

Lyndsy Spence, who has written Doris’s biography entitled The Mistress of Mayfair, describes her tempestuous affair and secret marriage to Valentine Browne, who is better known as Viscount Castlerosse. He was a friend of Lord Beaverbrook and celebrity gossip columnist for the Sunday Express who inspired Waugh’s character Mr Chatterbox in Vile Bodies, according to Spence. When Castlerosse’s mother discovered the marriage, she cut him off,  and Doris went back on the game. Among her conquests were Winston Churchill and his son Randolph, Tom Mitford (brother of Nancy), as well as Cecil Beaton.

She found a patroness in the person of a New York heiress named Margot Hoffman who set her up with a villa in Venice which was later acquired by another New York heiress, Peggy Guggenheim, and turned into a museum. According to Martin Stannard, Doris was among the “beautful women” who surrounded Waugh on visits to Venice in the 1930s (The Early Years, p. 291).  Doris eventually decamped to New York with Margot, and was ultimately divorced by Castlerosse. Things did not end well for Doris, however. She was dumped by Margot and left alone and without support in wartime New York. She returned to London during the war, on transport arranged by Winston Churchill, in the hope that she could patch things up with Castlerosse. When that goal proved unavailing, she took an overdose and died in 1942. Other members of her family have, nonetheless, prospered; according to the Express, one of them is Doris’s niece, Cara Delevigne, who is currently pursuing a successful career as a celebrity model in London. 

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