NANCY ASTOR AND HER FRIENDS by Elizabeth Langhorne


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It seems to be Nancy Astor's fate or rather good fortune to have had only admiring biographers -- Maurice Collis (1960) and more recently Christopher Sykes, whose considerably more substantial biography (1972) still did not manage to make her seem as important today (in spite of her vanguard feminism -- ""women were as good if not gooder than men"") as she was once. Since Nancy Astor was nee Langhorne of that protected FFV family, one assumes that author Langhorne comes by her loyalties honestly. And no one can question that Nancy or Nanny was charming, generous on impulse, unpredictable and endowed with what the author calls a ""magic quality"" or ""electric-power factor."" That she was also capable of ""indiscriminate cruelty, a bully who knew that her great riches made it impossible for most others to hit back"" as often contended, would never be surmised from this book. Her charmed circle included the Marquis of Lothian (a lifetime devotee) and T. E. Lawrence and of course Shaw -- her more famous exchanges with G.B.S. are included and none will take you by surprise. Her great dedication to peace was unquestionably sincere but her long association with Chamberlain (ultimately a ""blackbird"" around her pretty neck) and her by no means ""pro-Nazi"" position (she only ""underestimated"" Hitler) are an extension of the parti pris from the beginning here. Even so, by the close, it does not seem to matter whether this difficult, dazzling woman was wrongheaded or simply misled -- what will mostly count is whether anyone is prepared for an encore scarcely two years after the more authoritative Sykes' Nancy.

Pub Date: March 8th, 1974
Publisher: Praeger