NANCY ASTOR by Anthony Masters


Email this review


As a biography of the newly ubiquitous Nancy Astor, Britain's first, outspoken woman M.P., this is inferior to John Grigg's briefer life, reviewed above; to Christopher Sykes' 1972 Nancy, previously cited; and even to Elizabeth Langhorne's somewhat-too-indulgent Nancy Astor and Her Friends (1974). On page one, Masters introduces an aging, unsteady Lady Astor who is denouncing drink--a lifelong bête noir--while clutching a glass of Dubonnet; that's characteristic, supposedly, of her ""inconsistency."" On page two, he identifies Mary Baker Eddy, prophet of of the faith that Nancy Astor embraced, as Mrs. Nelson Eddy (Mr. E., for the record, was named Asa). And while Mary Baker Eddy is correctly cited later in the text, she is not, as it happens, indexed. The book, in sum, is neither discriminating in its treatment of the subject nor careful in its execution. Chiefly, it takes the welt-established sequence of events--Nancy's Virginia childhood, her unhappy first marriage, her conquest of multimillionaire Waldorf Astor, her election to Parliament (in his place), her political discomfiture as grande-dame of the putative ""Cliveden Set,"" her embittered retirement--and cloaks them in crudities. She was known not to care particularly for sex; hence she was ""sexually repressed."" She was jealous of one suitor's mistress and suspicious of husband-to-be Waldorf's friendship with a lady; these are her ""two main neuroses."" During the war, she made some particularly outrageous statements: ""Nancy Astor was now losing her grip and becoming a public embarrassment."" Indicatively, much is drawn from the memoirs of Lady Astor's maid--who, though not hostile, did dwell on domestic discord. The result is not quite gossip, but it's little more than end-to-end incident. And, fortunately, it's unnecessary.

Pub Date: April 12th, 1981
Publisher: McGraw-Hill