DON'T TELL ALFRED
Fanny and Alfred (of Love in a Cold Climate -- 1949) shake off their Oxford seclusion when Alfred is called from his chair of Pastoral Theology to become, as Sir Wincham, the British Ambassador in Paris. That they follow the eccentric, glittering Sir Louis and Lady Leone starts them off on a very left foot, but, throughout a complex of ill-guided incidents and actions, they do accomplish their mission for key-noting sobriety and security. Their grown sons, Basil and David, create unexpected situations, the reporter Amyas Mockbar gives them the full blacklist treatment, Fanny's young and devastating secretary Northey swims in and out of international entanglements while Fanny's flighty relations -- Uncles Davey and Matthew- help to salvage almost irretrievable errors. Crises of French governments falling, the issue of Les Isles Miniquiers, the erratic escapades of Fanny's younger sons which end in a mobbing of the Embassy (for a teen-age singer but which is thought to be a demonstration for Alfred) keep this on a farcical plane which lacks the bite that would make it noteworthy. Miss Mitford does however observe, turns a noticeable phrase, limns a fast character sketch, and has an eye for delicate diplomacy and social elegance -- all of which could be used to better advantage. Still pretty good caviar.