Novelist Nicholas Mosley (1923-2017)

The death has been announced of novelist Nicholas Mosley at the age of 93. He wrote several novels which are variously described in his obituaries as “heavy going”, “densely written”, “adventurous”, and “not light reading.” So, these are not exactly written in the Waugh tradition. The best known is probably Hopeful Monsters (1990) which was the final volume of a series called “the Catastrophe Practice novels” after the first to be published in 1979. This received the Whitbread prize and was called by A N Wilson “the best novel in the English language to have been written since the Second World War.” Mosley’s 1965 novel Accident was made into a successful film in 1966, directed  by Joseph Losey with a screenplay by Harold Pinter.  

He was the son of British Fascist leader Oswald Mosley by his first wife (b. Cynthia Curzon) who died when he was a child. He did not get along with his father nor with his step-mother (b. Diana Mitford) and their son, his step-brother and racing car enthusiast, Max Mosley. In an attempted reconciliation, Oswald bequeathed his papers to Nicholas to be the basis for a biography. Nicholas wrote a two-volume biography (The Rules of the Game and Beyond the Pale) published in the early 1980s which was fairly balanced in the circumstances and critically well received; but not by his step-mother, Waugh’s friend Diana Mosley. She deemed it, according to Nicholas, the “degraded work of a very little man”, and she wrote in a letter to the media:

It’s all very well having an Oedipal complex at 19, a second-rate son hating a brilliant father, but it’s rather odd at 60. Nicholas wants to get his own back against his father for having had more fun that he’s had.

A tough bunch, those Mitfords, although one obituary in The Times newspaper reports a 2015 reconciliation by Nicholas and his step-brother Max. The foregoing was primarily based on the obituary by William Grimes appearing in the print edition of the New York Times on 5 March 2017.


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