An Oversight

Just when you might have thought my Mitford sister obsession was beginning to wane I ran across these.

This is the unsettling thing about going through the vintage magazines, pulling what I like and pitching the rest.

I had a small stack that I had not recycled and while flipping through them one more time I realized that I had missed this layout on Chatsworth which was at the time the home of the eleventh Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. 
 The Duchess, the Hon. Deborah Mitford, is the youngest, and from all accounts the most conventional, of the sisters.

Chatsworth was the Duke’s family home and it fell to Andrew and “Debo” in 1950 when they were thirty.  Wise beyond their years they allowed the house to guide them through the much-needed renovations.
According to the Duchess,”To have tampered with the library, for instance, would have been criminal.”  Agreed.  

While she did not use a decorator or a gardener, “It seems pointless to employ someone to do something I can do myself,” the home did have a full-time indoor staff of forty-two.

With the Duke’s death in 2004, the Duchess moved into a cottage on the estate.  You can see images of her new home, and the re-purposing of some of these furnishings, in a post that Jennifer Dwyer of the Peak of Chic did last year.

Images, Architectural Digest, December, 1979; photography by Derry Moore.  
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26 thoughts on “An Oversight

  1. Chatsworth is a truly stunning house, and I think the (now) dowager duchess was wise not to tamper with its interiors. It became and probably still is one of the biggest draws of the country houses open for public viewing, and she made some very effective marketing suggestions for the “tat” that is sold in their shop.

    There’s also a very good recent book of the letters between her and her friend Patrick Leigh Fermor, “In tearing haste”:

    which you might enjoy, peppered as it is to references of people of their day, including “Cake”, (Queen Elizabeth).

  2. As an anglophile, and someone who has visited Chatsworth several times, I thoroughly enjoyed this post! I am off to revisit Jennifer’s post from last year.

  3. Currently absorbed in "The Mitfords: Letters Between Six Sisters".
    "The Saga of The Mitford Family" on deck with "Five Sisters: The Langhornes of Virginia" in the hole.
    FABULOUS books.

    An otherworldly point in time it was – the political and cultural influence wielded is fascinating.
    Not to mention the grace, unstudied (relative to today's standards) & pure loveliness of houses, life, gardens, etc……
    Everything looked so right as is – WHAT is was, WHERE it was, WHY it was……not masquerading as something it was not.
    Beautiful time.

  4. Love these pics! Am also somewhat of a Mitford fan(atic)! Have several signed books by Deborah in my library and am counting the day till I can visit Chatsworth in person! Love your blog and the entire premise re: the movie! Liz, New York.

  5. The book, An Englishwoman’s House, which I wrote about here, and which was photographed by Derry Moore, has a chapter by Deborah, which she wrote. I’ll try and remember to scan it and e-mail it to you.

    As a funny inter-connection, I just wrote about James Lees-Milne who was instrumental in the early days of the National Trust, and whose wife wrote “The Englishwoman’s House”.

  6. Anon – I was trying to explain to a friend the compelling nature of their stories and am sure I did not do it justice. You have done a much nicer job here.

  7. Aesthete – Just finished Diana’s biography which notes that she was a fine writer as well. Thanks for the heads-up.

    p.s. The Nazi thing still does trip me up.

  8. Meg – Thanks so much for the willingness to scan; I’ll keep my eye out for the book as well. Funny how a thread seems to run throughout.

  9. How absolutely gorgeous!….That canopied bed is so beautiful! I want one just like it! Great Post, Mrs. B!!

    Happy New Year!

  10. One of the loveliest things at Chatsworth is that velvet-draped table below the great Sargent painting of the three sisters. In every photograph I’ve seen of it, it always is filled with potted plants, flowering and otherwise. Which really brings a note of domesticity and charm to the space.

  11. Karena – I started with Hons and Rebels by Jessica which is an engaging account of her young life. I’ve also read Decca which is a compilation of her letters. The Sisters is a good overview of the family. Diana Mosley by Anne de Courcy was a great read. Nancy’s fiction The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate are highly entertaining. Waugh’s Vile Bodies which is a satire of the time and this crew did not hold up as well for me, but is surely considered a classic of the genre. Each woman is so interesting it is hard to go wrong.

  12. Aesthete – agreed. The Sargent is amazing and it’s almost difficult to grasp its size from the image; I keep looking at the chair to gain perspective. I was wondering if the books on the coffee table are the scrapbooks that caused such a dust up among the sisters at one point.

  13. yes to what harvey said – the last book she wrote about her home is wonderful – I was studying it from the pictures of the roof – it is an amazing house to say the least.

  14. Shoshana – I was handed a large selection by a woman cleaning out her stuff. Fate. Do troll antique malls – especially the junky ones – and garage sales where you can usually find them cheap. I know there are on-line sources as well, but I have not used any. Good luck!

  15. Now that is a proper library. I bet even the dust is better situated than is mine…

    I’ve got ahold of “The Water Beetle” and am anxious to start it in view of my resolution to read a lot more, once again. You’ve really peaked my interest in this clan. (And I wasn’t much on “Vile Bodies” either…)

    Delightful pictures and a lucky coincidence.

    Looking forward to another delightful year in your virtual company.

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