A Talent to Annoy

A Talent to Annoy : Essays, Articles and Reviews, 1929-68

3.9 (96 ratings by Goodreads)
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This collection spans Nancy Mitford's career as a journalist, from its beginnings to shortly before her death and includes pieces from "Vogue", "The Sunday Times", "Atlantic Monthly" and "The Spectator" among other periodicals. The book includes "The English aristocracy", "The secret history of a London wedding" and "A queen of France" and many other pieces on fashion and fashionable life, both contemporary and historical, in several countries. Most of the essays begin with excerpts of correspondence between Mitford and her friends, including Evelyn Waugh.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 228 pages
  • 126 x 194 x 18mm | 181.44g
  • Oxford University Press
  • Oxford Paperbacks
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • New edition
  • New edition
  • 0192820931
  • 9780192820938

Table of contents

Inroduction. "The secret history of a London wedding"; "The shooting party"; "At a point-to-point"; "In Covent Garden now"; "Faringdon House"; "Paris column"; "Britain revisited"; "Chic - English, French and American"; "Rome is only a village"; "The mystery of the missing arsenic"; "Wicked thoughts in Greece"; "A queen of France"; "Channel-crossing"; "A heart of stone"; "In defence of Louis XV"; "Portrait of a French country house"; "Reading for pleasure"; "Blor"; "The other island"; "A bad time"; "The last to be broken on the wheel"; "The Sun King"; "Paris diary"; "My friend Evelyn Waugh"; "Garden of delights"; "Tam & Fritz - Carlyle and Frederick the Great"; "Views"; "France, May 1968 - a revolution diary parts I & II";show more

Review Text

The supersnob Brit for the ages in some sparkling journalism, most of which has already appeared in other books long out of print. The poor title, a play on Noel Coward's self-praising "talent to amuse," does Mitford an injustice. At her best, she was champagne-funny and infectious in her enthusiasms. Her pop bios of royalty were stunningly inaccurate, yet irresistibly zestful. Her articles on France, here reprinted from the London Times, make Janet Flanner's far more celebrated accounts seem positively dull. Her acid wit on analyzing upper- and non-upper-class behavior remains very amusing, as are comments like "The shrieks of eight tiny children who play in my courtyard reached such a pitch that I began to long for the days when germ warfare will be within the reach of us all." Unfortunately, Mitford's bitchily anti-Semitic jokes exchanged with friends like Evelyn Waugh are not in any way addressed by the editor; this is an important point, as Mitford's anti-Semitism was very real, differing only in degree from the open adoration of Hitler and the Nazis displayed by her sisters Unity and Diana. This major flaw apart, the pieces themselves retain their sparkle. A fine appreciation of E.F. Benson's Lucia novels is joined by a diary of a Paris "Revolution" as stuffy as anything Marie Antoinette might have imagined. Still, at her best, which she is in some of these essays, Mitford is amusing indeed. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

Rating details

96 ratings
3.9 out of 5 stars
5 22% (21)
4 48% (46)
3 29% (28)
2 1% (1)
1 0% (0)
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