Monday, 20 January 2014

Lytton Strachey and Carrington by Diana Mosley

From the collection Loved Ones

published 1985



[Mosley is describing the artist Carrington]

Yes, she was fascinating. To me, she looked like a little Beatrix Potter character in her unfashionable print cotton dresses, but Lady Ottoline Morrell describes her as a moorland pony. She had brown hair, cut straight and short with a fringe, as though she hoped to hide as much of her face as possible. It was no longer the ‘golden bell’ described by Aldous Huxley. Her deep-set eyes were blue, her hands worn with toil – gardening, cooking, working for her beloved Lytton. All summer she had bare legs, sunburnt, sandals and white socks. When she walked she turned her toes in, and her every gesture was that of a desperately shy and self-deprecating person. She was clever and perceptive and original; she had learnt a great deal from Lytton over the years. Gossip amused her, but she did not confide much to me.


observations: There are many extraordinary aspects to Diana Mosley, nee Mitford: one of them is that for someone who, to put it politely, was deluded about many things, she was also (like Carrington above) clever, perceptive and original. She has an enormous ability to create what she calls in this book pen portraits – she writes with great clarity and wit, and has a sure eye for picking out the right details. Her descriptions of people are, really, wonderful. This talent has already featured on the blog: her book on the Duchess of Windsor is illuminating, and like all her writing (when she’s not droning on about her suspect political views) very funny.

When she was very young, and first married to Bryan Guinness, she was friendly with the writer Lytton Strachey (famous for Eminent Victorians, on the blog writing about Queen Elizabeth I) and his companion Carrington – an artist, who appears in this blog entry wearing odd shoes. The Guinness marriage broke down around the same time that Strachey died: Carrington subsequently committed suicide with a gun borrowed from Bryan Guinness. Mosley’s piece about them is thoughtful and convincing: she is looking back at her young self too, and explaining that there were things that she didn’t then understand about the strange relationship between Strachey and Carrington. Just before the extract above, she explains that for many years people would ask her mostly about Strachey, but as time has gone on they are more likely to be intrigued by Carrington.

There is a marvellous film about Carrington’s life, although it does not feature Guinness or Mosley.

10 comments:

  1. Moira - Oh, my, Mosley is brilliant at creating portraits of people with words. SO well done in my opinion. And it's interesting how some people (fictional characters too) can have such perceptiveness even if they are, as you put it, deluded. I ought to do a blog post about that; there are plenty of people like that in crime fiction. Hmmm...... as always you inspire me.

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    1. I would love to read a post on that topic. People drawing conclusions about others is so fascinating, from Sherlock looking at the tiny details of people's appearances onwards. And Mosley was good at it.

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  2. Not for me I'm afraid.
    (I half tuned in, more in hope than expectation really, that you had been so enamoured with Deighton you devoured the second installment overnight!) Alas....

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    1. I can only apologize - wasting my time on arts, politics and people's feelings. What was I thinking of? Until you suggested it I hadn't thought of reading the next one, I haven't got sufficient series-awareness. Not like people who buy them all before they've read one. But that is a good idea, I should look it up.

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    2. Oooh........my male intuition is kicking in......."Not like people who buy them all before they've read one"...... is someone having a pop? Good job I'm thick-skinned, or just thick maybe. You presume to talk about people's feelings then trample all over mine.............I'm off to buy another set of books I know nothing about (it's the only way I have of coping!)

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    3. Lol - glad to see .you getting in touch with your feminine side...

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  3. That is interesting writing, about interesting people.

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    1. Yes - she seems to have known everyone, and to have had something interesting to say about all of them.

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  4. Moira: Mosley's fascist philosophy is bound to influence readers of her writing. I try with a new writer not to know much, preferably nothing, until after I have read them. I can distract myself from just evaluating the writing if I have information about the author.

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    1. I know, it's a good question isn't it - how much do we need to know about the person who wrote this? Is it relevant or not? No easy answers.

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