NANCY ASTOR by Maurice Collis


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A firmly partisan portrait of Virginia born Nancy Langhorne, who married the great-great-grandson of John Jacob Astor, is the story of an ""original"" who- in spite of her wealth and acquired title- was not so much a grande dame as a most uncommon woman- with a great wit and a great heart (virtues rarely ""seen in conjunction""). One of five girls, her upbringing was casual- her schooling sketchy- and her first marriage, (which ended in divorce) to an alcoholic was unhappy. She met Waldorf Astor, the English bred sportsman and liberal, aboard ship, and their marriage- there were four sons and a daughter- seems to have been eminently happy. There is little here however about her personal life; a little more about Cliveden, the great house, and the celebrities and notables who came there, particularly Shaw and Lawrence of Arabia who were her very good friends. Most of the book however deals with her public persona, her twenty-five years in the House of Commons, her unexpected, extemporaneous outbursts and her many verbal sallies. Collis explains quite simply, and convincingly, the ""fable"" of the Cliveden Set and the undeserved, abusive press of the war years; Nancy Astor, always a democratic Tory but never pro-Fascist, believed in trying to maintain a modus vivendi with Hitler (as did many) and avert war. Collis concludes his portrait with a personal postscript, based on many talks with Nancy Astor, now in her eightieth year. Certainly it has many reasons to attract a fairly wide readership -- beyond her exceptional position she has many extraordinary virtues, courage, energy, humor and a forthright forcefulness.

Pub Date: May 16th, 1960
Publisher: Dutton