Maud Russell Diaries in Telegraph

Excerpts from the wartime diaries of Maud Russell have been published in the Daily Telegraph. In a previous post it was explained how she commissioned Rex Whistler to paint murals in her country house at Mottisfont in Hampshire where there is currently an exhibit of Whistler’s works. The excerpts relate mostly to her relationship with novelist Ian Fleming. According to the Telegraph’s introduction:

They met in 1931 when Russell was 40 and Fleming just 23. There was a strong mutual attraction, and Fleming quickly became a regular guest at Mottisfont, Russell’s 2,000-acre estate in Hampshire, and at the glamorous parties she threw in her Knightsbridge home, attended by Cecil Beaton, Lady Diana Cooper, Clementine Churchill, Margot Asquith and members of the Bloomsbury Group. To Fleming, Russell was a sophisticated and impeccably connected mentor who found him first a job in banking, introduced him to members of the Intelligence Corps and, later, paid for his Jamaican retreat, Goldeneye, where his 007 novels were written. To Russell, Fleming (named ‘I.’ in her diaries) was the dashing, charismatic young spy who became her close friend, her confidante – and her lover. These entries from Russell’s private diary take place towards the end of the Second World War, when Fleming worked in naval intelligence and Russell, then 52, was recently widowed; it was a time when, despite the food shortages and air raids, the tide of the war was gradually turning in the Allies’ favour – and, despite his other liaisons, the couple spoke of marriage.

Waugh is not mentioned in these excerpts but many of his friends are, including his correspondent Ann Fleming, who married Ian Fleming in 1952, ending his affair with Russell. At the end of the article, Waugh does get a brief mention. This is in a list of record prices for first editions. Top price was for The Great Gatsby (£246,636), with Ian Fleming’s first James Bond novel Casino Royale at #4 (£29,180) and Waugh’s Decline and Fall at #10 (£9,364; this is ranked as #9 on the Telegraph’s list but this is due to a typo). No source or date for these sales is cited. The Telegraph’s article concludes:

Russell and Fleming remained close until his marriage to Ann Charteris in 1952. In 1946 she gave him £5,000 to buy Goldeneye in Jamaica. She had a long-term affair with [Russian artist] Boris Anrep but never remarried. In 1957, she donated Mottisfont to the National Trust and died in London in 1982, aged 91. Her ashes were placed in the same urn as [her husband] Gilbert’s.

Maud Russell’s wartime diaries are published as A Constant Heart.

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