Home to Roost and Other Peckings.

By Deborah Devonshire

Printed: 2009

Publisher: John Murray. London

Edition: First edition

Dimensions 14 × 21 × 2 cm

Language: English

Size (cminches): 14 x 21 x 2

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In the original dustsheet. Navy cloth binding with gilt title on the spine.

  • F.B.A. provides an in-depth photographic presentation of this item to stimulate your feeling and touch. More traditional book descriptions are immediately available.

‘My father would not have wasted time reading – a trait I have inherited from him.’ The unmistakable voice of Deborah Devonshire, the youngest of the Mitford sisters, rings out of this second volume of her occasional writings. As broad and eclectic as her long and eventful life, the pieces range from a ringside view of John F. Kennedy’s inauguration and funeral, a valedictory for her local post office, the 1938 London season, Christmas at Chatsworth and the hazards of shopping for clothes when your eyesight is failing. Affectionate, shrewd and uproariously funny, her no-nonsense, bang-on-the-nail observations are as good as any antidepressant.


                                                    Deborah Mitford in 1938

Deborah Vivien Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire, DCVO (born Deborah Vivien Freeman-Mitford and latterly Deborah, Dowager Duchess of Devonshire; 31 March 1920 – 24 September 2014) was an English aristocrat, writer, memoirist, and socialite. She was the youngest and last-surviving of the six Mitford sisters, who were prominent members of British society in the 1930s and 1940s.

Nearly full-length group portrait of five well-dressed women standing in a field. Their ages range from roughly 20 to 30; their hair is cut short of the shoulders in elegant 1930s or 1940s styles; four of the five wear skirts down just below the knee, and one a longer coat. Two wear pearls.

Jessica, Nancy, Diana, Unity, and Pamela Mitford in 1935. Of the six sisters, the youngest, Deborah, is absent.

The Mitford Sisters – The sisters gained widespread attention for their stylish and controversial lives as young people, and for their public political divisions between communism and fascism. Nancy and Jessica became well-known writers: Nancy wrote The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate, and Jessica The American Way of Death (1963). Deborah managed Chatsworth, one of the most successful stately homes in England.

Jessica and Deborah married nephews of prime ministers Winston Churchill and Harold Macmillan, respectively. Deborah and Diana both married wealthy aristocrats. Unity and Diana were well known during the 1930s for being close to Adolf Hitler. Jessica turned her back on her inherited privileges and eloped with her cousin, Esmond Romilly, who was hoping to report on the Spanish Civil War for the News Chronicle, having briefly fought with the International Brigade. Jessica’s memoir, Hons and Rebels, describes their upbringing, and Nancy drew upon her family members for characters in her novels. In 1981, Deborah became politically active when she and her husband Andrew Cavendish, 11th Duke of Devonshire, joined the new Social Democratic Party.

The sisters and their brother Thomas were the children of David Freeman-Mitford, 2nd Baron Redesdale, and his wife Sydney, , the daughter of Thomas Bowles. To their children, they were known as “Farve” and “Muv”, respectively. David and Sydney married in 1904. The family homes changed from Batsford House to Asthall Manor beside the River Windrush in Oxfordshire, and then Swinbrook Cottage nearby, with a house at Rutland Gate in London. They also lived in a cottage in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, which they used as a summer residence. The siblings grew up in an aristocratic country house with emotionally distant parents and a large household with numerous servants; this family dynamic was not unusual for upper-class families of the time. The parents disregarded formal education of women of the family, and they were expected to marry at a young age to a financially well-off husband. The children had a private language called “Boudledidge”, and each had a different nickname for the others.

On the outbreak of the Second World War, their political views came into sharper relief. “Farve” remained a conservative who had long favoured Neville Chamberlain’s approach of appeasing Germany, but once Britain declared war on Germany, he returned to being an anti-German British patriot, while “Muv” continued her fascist sympathies and usually supported her fascist children. The couple separated in 1943 as a result of this conflict. Nancy, a moderate socialist, worked in London during the Blitz and informed on her fascist siblings to the British authorities. Pamela remained seemingly non-political, although according to her sister Nancy, Pamela and Derek Jackson were virulent anti-Semites verbally during World War II who had called for all Jews in England to be killed, and also wanted an early end to the war with Germany before England lost any more money. Tom, a fascist, refused to fight Germany but volunteered to fight against Imperial Japan; he was killed in action in Burma in 1945. Diana, also a fascist, married to Sir Oswald Mosley, leader of the British Union of Fascists, was imprisoned in London from May 1940 until November 1943 under Defence Regulation 18B. Unity, fanatically devoted to Hitler and Nazism, was distraught over Britain’s war declaration against Germany on 3 September 1939, and tried to commit suicide later that day by shooting herself in the head. She failed in the suicide attempt, but suffered brain damage that eventually led to her early death in 1948. Jessica, a communist, had moved to the US, but her husband Esmond Romilly, a Republican veteran from the Spanish Civil War who volunteered for the Royal Canadian Air Force in World War II, died in 1941 when his bomber developed mechanical problems over the North Sea and went down. In numerous letters Jessica said that her daughter Constancia received a pension from the Canadian government after Esmond’s death until she turned 18. The strong political rift between Jessica and Diana left them estranged from 1936 until their deaths, although they did speak to each other in 1973, as their eldest sister Nancy was on her deathbed. Aside from Jessica and Diana’s estrangement, the sisters kept in frequent contact with each other in the decades after World War II. The sisters were prolific letter-writers, and a substantial body of correspondence still exists, principally letters between them.

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