Tag Archives: In Tearing Haste

OPRIG GAGINONANUS

Here is something completely ridiculous, a challenge for you all that recalls Paddy’s late night walk through Shepherd Market, London in early October 1992.

In a letter to Debo Devonshire dated 6 November 1992 (see page 293 of In Tearing Haste), Paddy writes to tell her of a strange experience just before he left for a trip to Antibes to collect a French literary prize for A Time of Gifts. Paddy and Joan had dinner with Magouche Fielding (Xan’s second wife). Joan left early and Paddy decided to walk home … “through Shepherd Market – my old haunt when young * – and into Market Mews. I had only gone a few paces when, on a wide black surface on the left side, I saw a strange message in huge letters in White:

‘OPRIG’, it said,

And underneath,

‘GAGINONANUS’

What could it portend? It looked simultaneously insulting, enigmatic and vaguely improper, especially the message below.”

Paddy enclosed a sketch.

Paddy's first sketch - OPRIG

It was only when he stood four square in front that all was revealed – click here to see the picture.

The challenge therefore is for those of you who live in London, or who are visiting this month, to see if you can find GAGINONANUS. There are enough geographic clues, and to add to this Paddy further writes to Debo, “If on leaving your front door, passing the Curzon Cinema, and turning right into the Mews, you’ll [see it].”

Let’s hope that like for Paddy the concertina doors will be ajar so that you can see it just as Paddy did. Perhaps they have been painted over? Do they still exist?

If you find GAGINONANUS then send me a photograph (tsawford[at]btinternet.com) with a brief retelling of your search. Special merit if you can include a cat in the picture!

The prize? Well, the satisfaction of ‘being there and having done it’ and a first edition copy of Words of Mercury for the first person to send a picture.

I shall personally resist the temptation to find it until the end of August. If we have had no responses by then, I shall go on a search myself.

* Paddy had lived at 43 Market Street before he departed on his journey in 1934

Book review: In Tearing Haste: Letters between Deborah Devonshire and Patrick Leigh Fermor from The Scotsman

First published in The Scotsman 13 September 2008

by Roger Hutchinson

THE MARVELLOUS THING ABOUT yours [books],” wrote the Duchess of Devonshire to Patrick Leigh Fermor in May 1974, “is that they never appear.”

Deborah Devonshire professes a pathological dislike of reading. Somewhere in the unfathomable depths of that eccentricity may be discovered the contrary reason for her having been, for over half a century, the favourite correspondent of one of the greatest British authors of the 20th century.

Debo and Paddy had been swapping letters from various parts of the globe for 20 years when she congratulated him on the paucity of his output. When he received that letter he was in fact just finishing A Time of Gifts, the first volume of the travelogue through Europe in the 1930s which would cement his reputation. If we are to believe the Duchess, she has never read a word of it or any of his other works.

This does not mean that their collected letters, expertly compiled by Charlotte Mosley, is entirely non-literary – there are plenty of gems here for the student of the Leigh Fermor oeuvre. It means rather that their friendship was established on broader grounds.

The youngest Mitford sister, Debo Devonshire, clearly possesses oodles of her siblings’ trademark charm, without the family handicap of being mad as a meat-axe. Patrick Leigh Fermor saw and fell for her at an officers’ ball early in the Second World War. She did not so much as notice him until several years later. By the early 1950s Paddy Leigh Fermor was difficult not to notice. Handsome, polyglot, rakish, wildly itinerant and with a war record straight out of a John Buchan novel, he fell upon London society like a wolf on the fold.

He must have been able to pick off debutantes at a hundred paces. But Deborah Mitford was made of sterner stuff. She had set her sights on a duke. PLF would have to settle for best male friend. We should say, one of her best male friends. Her roster of masculine admirers is extraordinary. President John F Kennedy tops the chart, but it winds down through almost every eligible and ineligible man in the developed world. Debo’s good fortune – and now that this engaging anthology has been published, ours too – is that not a single one of them was half so good a writer as her faithful Paddy.

Naturally, most of the words in this collection were authored by PLF. But if Deborah Devonshire has been a foil, she was a perfect one. Chatty, witty, teasing, gossipy, relentlessly cheerful and with more than a hint of modest good sense, her short replies bounce off his beautiful essays like volleys of tennis balls off a cathedral. Continue reading

The Duke of Devonshire’s obituary from The Independent

Andrew Cavendish was the 11th Duke of Devonshire, Debo’s beloved husband and a close friend of Paddy for over half a century. Paddy and Andrew shared many long walks and expeditions together some of which are detailed in the book of letters ‘In Tearing Haste’ whilst the most comprehensive account of one of their shared journeys is ‘Three Letters from the Andes’ published in 1991 during which Paddy described his own responsibilities as ‘looking after the primus stove’. 

First published in The Independent Thursday, 6 May 2004 

 Rescuer of Chatsworth and reviver of the family tradition of patronage 

“I am a very rich duke, a most agreeable thing to be, even in these days,” said the hero in Nancy Mitford’s 1945 novel The Pursuit of Love. Her brother-in-law Andrew Cavendish, when he succeeded five years later as 11th Duke of Devonshire, had every reason to disagree. 

Andrew Robert Buxton Cavendish, landowner: born London 2 January 1920; MC 1944; styled 1944-50 Marquess of Hartington, succeeded 1950 as 11th Duke of Devonshire; Mayor of Buxton 1952-54; President, Royal Hospital and Home (formerly Royal Hospital and Home for Incurables), Putney 1954-91; President, Building Societies Association 1954-61; President, Lawn Tennis Association 1955-61; Chairman, Grand Council, British Empire Cancer Campaign 1956-81; Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations 1960-62; Minister of State, Commonwealth Relations Office 1962-64, and for Colonial Affairs 1963-64; PC 1964; Chancellor, Manchester University 1965-86; Steward, Jockey Club 1966-69; President, National Association for Deaf Children 1978-95; Chairman, Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association 1978-81; President, RNIB 1979-85; Patron in Chief, Polite Society 1991-2004; Vice-President, London Library 1993-2004; KG 1996; married 1941 The Hon Deborah Freeman-Mitford (one son, two daughters, and two sons and one daughter deceased); died Chatsworth, Derbyshire 3 May 2004.  

Born a second son on the second day of 1920, he grew up with no expectation of becoming a duke. His father’s premature death in 1950 left him with huge death duties to pay, and the extra liability of palatial Chatsworth, at a time when smaller houses were going down like ninepins. How he overcame all these difficulties, making Chatsworth habitable and a source of widespread enjoyment, discovering in the process new ways of helping all manner of people and institutions, as well as reviving the family tradition of enlightened patronage, is one of the success stories of our time. 

The Cavendish family roots were in Suffolk, but “Bess of Hardwick”, founder of the dynasty, was born in Derbyshire, in 1518. Successive marriages, the second to Sir William Cavendish, enabled her to expand her property. Quarrels with her fourth husband, the Earl of Shrewsbury, led her to leave the house she had built at Chatsworth, and build another, even larger, at Hardwick itself. Her sons built on this foundation, the second becoming father of the first Duke of Newcastle, the first buying back Chatsworth and created Earl of Devonshire in 1618 (the title came not from any territorial connection, but because it had just become vacant by the death without issue of the previous holder). 

They were royalists in the Civil War, when the family wealth was diminished – save in the library, watched over by Thomas Hobbes, the philosopher. The fourth Earl, of imperious disposition, fell out with the Stuarts and retreated to Chatsworth, which he rebuilt and enlarged. He supported William III, who elevated him to be the first Duke of Devonshire. His son, Steward of the Household to Queen Anne and later to George I, was the first great virtuoso of the family, and built up the collection of old master drawings at Chatsworth. He was the first, too, to succeed on the Turf, buying Flying Childers, “the fleetest horse that ever ran at Newmarket”. 

The second Duke’s son and grandson were both Lord-Lieutenants of Ireland, and between them remodelled the grounds at Chatsworth, the fourth Duke commissioning James Paine to build the new stables. By his marriage to the only daughter of the great Earl of Burlington, architect and connoisseur, more came to Chatsworth, from the Boyle Irish estates to the drawings of Inigo Jones. His son, husband of the famous Georgiana Spencer, was himself a notable figure. Their only son, the sixth Duke, the greatest collector of all, made Chatsworth what it is today. 

“He appears to be disposed to spend a great deal of money,” said the family auditor to his father. “So much the better,” was the memorable reply. “He will have a great deal of money to spend.” He did, enlarging and beautifying Chatsworth with the help of Jeffry Wyatville and Joseph Paxton. He bought wonderful books, marble and antiquities, including a fifth-century bronze head of Apollo, commissioned sculpture from Canova, and for him Paxton built the splendid conservatory at Chatsworth, forerunner of the Crystal Palace. 

But he remained the “Bachelor Duke”: dying childless in 1858, he was succeeded by a cousin who had fortunately inherited much himself, including the wealth and books of the scientist Henry Cavendish and the Compton family estates on the South Coast. He himself invested in industry, built up Eastbourne and gave Cambridge the Cavendish Laboratory. His son reverted to politics (he was the only person to refuse the premiership three times) and horse-racing. The ninth Duke became Governor-General of Canada during the First World War, when Chatsworth was inevitably neglected. All the plants in Paxton’s conservatory died and it had to be pulled down, but gradually life returned to normal. 

So Lord Andrew Cavendish grew up between the wars, when the hereditary peerage had not become a political plaything and leisure was a way of life, not a profession. Devonshire House in London had gone, pulled down to make way for a motor showroom, and so had Chiswick House (now in the care of English Heritage), but the family still owned four other great houses besides Chatsworth and Hardwick. The footmen still wore full livery (lemon coat, dark blue breeches and white stocking) if there were more than six to dinner. 

It was 1938 when his grandfather died, aged 69. Andrew’s father was Under-Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs and abroad, and Andrew was about to leave Eton for Trinity College, Cambridge. He had taken neither very seriously. His father worried about this, as about his occasional flutters on and off the Turf. But an old friend said to him, “Surely you wouldn’t like your son to get good reports?”, and Newmarket turned youthful diversion into an abiding passion. Neither overcame an earlier, deeper and even more long-lasting love of books and reading. A year later his elder brother William, now Marquess of Hartington, came of age, with a series of parties – the last at Chatsworth in August 1939. Then came the war and goodbye to all that. 

Both brothers went into the Coldstream Guards, to be “sorted out” like many others by drill, boots and sergeant-majors. Caterham was varied by escape to London, where Andrew would take Deborah Mitford, the youngest of the six daughters of Lord Redesdale, out to dinner; in April 1941 they married. Then came posting abroad, via North Africa to Italy, where he first saw action; unable to sleep the night before, he read Nigel Balchin’s The Small Back Room, just out, from cover to cover. In the fierce fighting north of Rome in July 1944, he was awarded the MC. His company captured a hill south of Strada, and held it despite being cut off on all sides. The citation records his “endless cheerfulness, energy and disregard of danger”; he himself said, “I got it for being cheerful”, a characteristic self-depreciation. 

That same spring his elder brother married Kathleen Kennedy, sister of the future President of the United States; only four months later he was killed in action in France. This was a crushing blow, still remembered with pain almost 60 years later. Used, by gentle warning from his father, to accept the minor, less demanding role of a younger son, he now found himself pitchforked into new responsibility. When he left the Army, he dutifully stood in the Conservative interest for the neighbouring seat of Chesterfield in 1945 and again in 1950. 

Adjusting to post-war austerity and high taxation was another problem. His father, well advised like his forebears by Currey & Co, made over the estate, the gift dependent on his living for five years. In November 1950, 14 weeks short of this term, he died, aged only 55. 

His estate was then valued at £5.9m, and at the current rate of 80 per cent death duties came out at £4.72m. It was clear that huge economies would have to be made; the question was how to make them without diminishing the sources of revenue needed to maintain what was left. The 11th Duke and his Duchess counted their assets: they were both 30, young, energetic and, untrammelled by conventions now out of date, were prepared to do something different. Time was on their side, and Chatsworth, hitherto more a place just to visit, proved to be the key to the future. Continue reading

But he went for a Burton instead …

I am still thoroughly enjoying ‘In Tearing Haste’ which is my ‘train’ book, read as I travel up and down to London. I am nearing the end but want to share some of my favourite bits. Here are a couple of impromptu PLF rhymes that he passed on to Debo in a letter dated 12 August 1958.

In early August 1958 Paddy and Joan, with Alan the Spy (is this Alan Pryce-Jones who had once been engaged to Joan?), and Roxanne Sedgewick climbed Mount Olympus in Greece. The climb was tough and Joan said that she was to be buried there if she fell down a crevasse. She did not want to be lugged down and placed on a train back to Athens. Paddy wrote her an epitaph:

Bury me here on Olympus
In the home of the lonely wall-creeper
But don’t take me back to Athens, please,
Stretched out on a second class sleeper …

Later that week upon their return the group grew to include Coote Lygon (Lady Dorothy (Coote) Lygon 1912-2001) who was in the WAAF during the war. As she smoked a cigar she told a story using all the regular RAF slang which inspired Paddy to write this:

‘What’s happened to Winko?’ asked Groupie.
The Mess Corporal wagged his old head:
‘He said that he’d fancy a Bass, sir,
But he went for a Burton instead …’

Ind Coope Burton Ale

A Review of In Tearing Haste: Letters between Deborah Devonshire and Patrick Leigh Fermor from the Spectator

by Anne Chisholm

First published in The Spectator Wednesday, 3rd September 2008

Deborah Devonshire and Patrick Leigh Fermor proof reading In Tearing Haste

Towards the end of this hugely enjoyable volume of letters, selected and edited by the skilful Charlotte Mosley from half a century of correspondence (1954-2007), Deborah Devonshire, by now in her mid-eighties, writes a postcard from Chatsworth to her friend, Patrick Leigh Fermor, aged 90, who lives in Greece. ‘Did you know’, she asks ‘That the Vikings called Constantinople Micklegarth? Well, they did. Much love, Debo.’ To which he replies: ‘I did know, and have written fruity paragraphs about it in that book called Mani. It’s really Micklegard’, going on to explain that grath, gard and grad all denote towns and that Harold Hardraada, the Viking hero, had visited the place many times before invading England, only to be killed by ‘our King Harold’ shortly before William the Conqueror arrived in 1066. ‘I’m still surprised’, Debo writes back ‘I can see you aren’t.’

This exchange contains much of what makes their letters so beguiling and so British. Both are more interested in facts, jokes and stories than in feelings; there is no soul-searching in this fat volume.

Both stay firmly in character: she the non-intellectual, resolutely unimpressed by foreign culture, he the erudite polymath, bursting with knowledge. Linked by deep affection and with many friends in common, they live different lives in different countries, have different tastes, use different language; what they have in common, and what these letters so wonderfully demonstrate, is an unfailing appetite for life.

Having first encountered each other during the war, when Paddy was a dashing soldier and Debo, the youngest of the spectacular Mitford sisters and newly married to Andrew Cavendish, the younger son of a duke, they met again in the mid-1950s. By this time she was 36 and Duchess of Devonshire, châtelaine of a castle in county Waterford and a palace in Derbyshire, helping her husband with his unexpected inheritance and beginning the revival and transformation of Chatsworth. He was 41 and a compulsive traveller, famous for pulling off one of the more dashing exploits of the war by kidnapping a German general in Crete. He was also beginning to be known as a writer, having published a novel and his first travel book. This time they fell for each other, and, one suspects, almost into a love affair; almost, but not quite, as Debo already loved Andrew and Chatsworth and Paddy loved Joan Eyres-Monsell and Greece. She was settled and he was a wanderer, and although they met as often as possible over the years on his visits to England it was on paper that their relationship really belonged. Continue reading

PLF’s car ‘blown sky high’!

“In Tearing Haste” is such a good read. As time passes Debo’s letters become better and better. She is so funny. Highly recommended. Is it heresy to say that she is starting to pip Paddy?

One learns so much in this book, which in effect is the closest to an autobiography we are likely to get for Paddy’s post war life. Got to p175 of my paperback version today when out of the blue I read this:

Mayday 1979                                                                                                                     Athens

Darling Debo,

Last Sunday night – Easter Sunday in the Orthodox Church – our car was blown sky high with an explosive charge and a length of fuse, with a red poster with hammers and sickles. I think they’d got the feast confused with Ascension Day. I think it’s all part of an attempt of ours to erect a modest bronze plaque to Fallen Comrades in Crete. It was to go up at a certain Abbey in the island. The Abbot and monks all consented, there was a feast to honour the decision, but a week later it was withdrawn: four men in cars had turned up, Communists from Heraklion, and frightened and threatened the monks. The same thing happened at another monastery, where our submarines used to surface on the same coast. Then a splendid village said they’d have it, and shoot anyone who tried to disturb it; and a few days later, BANG! At our doorstep. There is quite a powerful Comm. Party in Eastern Crete. The West is all OK: shows what a minority can do. The amount of telephone calls and telegrams from Cretan pals and Greeks in general – indignation, sympathy, etc, has made it almost worthwhile. But not QUITE, as insurance pays nought for Malicious Acts. Bugger them all.

Tons of fond love from

Paddy

This rivalry with the Communists goes all the way back to the time of wartime operations on Crete. See “Ill Met by Moonlight” and the threats and betrayals by the Communist Andartes. Is there a seamless link on to the 8 June 2000 assasination of Brigadier Stephen Saunders, 53, the British military attaché in Athens?

A biography of Paddy by Artemis Cooper?

There are some tough jobs around, but few could be tougher than writing a biography of Patrick Leigh Fermor. However, according to the acknowledgements section of “In Tearing Haste” by Charlotte Mosley, Artemis Cooper is apparently doing so; ‘… to Artemis Cooper, who is preparing a biography of Paddy’. Artemis of course edited “Words of Mercury” (2003).

Given that we have been waiting twenty four years for “Vol 3” what are the chances of Artemis’ biography being published before that volume? Not great I would have thought. But what a challenge to write about the life of one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century. I wish her the best of luck!