Nancy Mitford

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Nancy Freeman-Mitford, CBE (28 November 1904, London – 30 June 1973, Versailles), styled The Hon. Nancy Mitford before her marriage and The Hon. Mrs Rodd thereafter, was an English novelist and biographer, one of the Bright Young People on the London social scene in the inter-war years. She was born at 1 Graham Street (now Graham Place) in Belgravia, London, the eldest daughter of Lord Redesdale and was brought up at Asthall Manor in Oxfordshire.



Novelist and biographer

She is best remembered for her series of novels about upper-class life in England and France, particularly the four published after 1945; but she also wrote four well-received, well-researched popular biographies (of Louis XIV, Madame de Pompadour, Voltaire, and Frederick the Great). She was one of the noted Mitford sisters and the first to publicise the extraordinary family life of her very English and very eccentric family, giving rise to a "Mitford industry" which continues.

U and non-U

She was an essayist in Noblesse Oblige (1956), which helped to popularise the "U", or upper-class, and "non-U" classification of linguistic usage and behaviour (see U and non-U English) — although this is something she saw as a tease and she certainly never took seriously. However, the media have frequently portrayed her as the snobbish inventor and main preserver of this usage. She is credited as editor of the book but in fact the project was organised by the publishers. One of her novels, The Pursuit of Love, had been used by Professor Alan Ross, the actual inventor of the phrase, as an example of upper-class linguistic usage.

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