See her letters (1993); C. Mosley, ed., The Mitfords: Letters between Six Sisters (2007) and correspondence with E. Waugh (1997); memoir by H. Acton (1976); biography by S. Hastings (1986).
Mitford's sister Jessica Mitford, 1917-96, b. Gloucestershire, England, also a writer, is known for her witty and irreverent polemics. Her works include The American Way of Death (1963; rev. ed. 1998), a scathing exposé of American funeral homes; Kind and Usual Punishment (1973), a critical study of the brutality of American prisons; and The American Way of Birth (1992), an indictment of the overuse of cesarean sections.
See her autobiography (1960, repr. 1981, 2004) and her memoirs of her early days as a Communist (1977); P. Y. Sussman, ed., Decca: The Letters of Jessica Mitford (2006); see also J. Guinness, House of Mitford (1984), and M. S. Lovell, The Sisters: The Saga of the Mitford Family (2002).
(born Nov. 28, 1904, London, Eng.—died June 30, 1973, Versailles, France) British writer. Born into an eccentric, aristocratic family, she became known for her witty satiric novels of upper-class life, including the quasi-autobiographical The Pursuit of Love (1945), Love in a Cold Climate (1949), The Blessing (1951), and Don't Tell Alfred (1960). A volume of essays she coedited, Noblesse Oblige (1956), popularized the distinction between linguistic usages that are “U” (upper-class) and “non-U.” Her sister Jessica (1917–96) was a noted writer on U.S. society whose best-known book was The American Way of Death (1963).
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The couple had one son and six daughters, who all used the surname Mitford rather than Freeman-Mitford; the girls were known collectively as the Mitford sisters:
Redesdale appears as Uncle Matthew in Nancy's novel The Pursuit of Love (1945), and in Jessica's memoir Hons and Rebels (1960). In a typical passage from the former: "As soon as breakfast was over, he would begin striding about the hall, bellowing at the dogs 'Come here, blast you! Get off that coat!' Kick. 'Stop that noise, blast you!' - shouting for his loader [gun], damning and blasting anyone rash enough to cross his path. Nevertheless, both daughters' accounts make it clear that between rages Redesdale was an indulgent father who loved riding and hunting with his children.
Although Redesdale was now a large landowner, he was not a wealthy man: the estates were poorly developed and rents were low. With seven children to feed and five servants to pay, he could not maintain the expense of his large home at Batsford in the Cotswolds. He bought and extended Asthall Manor and then moved to nearby Swinbrook. Here he indulged his passion for building by building a new large house, named after the village, which appears as the family home in the books of his daughters Nancy and Jessica. The expense of these moves nearly ruined Redesdale, who was a poor manager of money. This, plus his increasing disappointment that all his later children were girls, led to the deterioration of his temperament which became legendary through his daughters' portrayals of his frequent and terrible rages.
Redesdale was an instinctive xenophobe: he came back from World War I with a dislike of the French and a deep hatred of the Germans. As Uncle Mathew put it in The Pursuit of Love: "Frogs are slightly better than Huns or Wops, but abroad is unutterably bloody and foreigners are fiends. Thus he was initially scornful of the enthusiasm shown by his daughters Diana and Unity for Nazi Germany and Adolf Hitler: Hitler was, after all, a Hun. In November 1938, however, the Redesdales accompanied their daughters to Germany, where they attended the Nuremberg Rally and met Hitler, with whom Unity and Diana were already acquainted. Both the Redesdales were immediately won over by Hitler's apparent charm and his declarations of Anglophilia. Redesdale later spoke in the House of Lords in favour or returning Germany's colonies, and became a strong supporter of Neville Chamberlain's policy of appeasement towards Germany. Lady Redesdale went further, writing articles in praise of Hitler and in support of National Socialism.
The outbreak of World War II in 1939 precipitated a series of crises in the Mitford family. Redesdale was above all a patriot, and as soon as war was declared be recanted his support for Hitler and once again became violently anti-German. Lady Redesdale stuck to her Nazi sympathies, and as a result the pair became estranged, and separated in 1943. Unity, who was in love with Hitler, attempted suicide in Munich on the day war was declared and suffered severe brain damage. She was brought home an invalid and Lady Redesdale cared for her until her death in 1948. Diana and Oswald Mosley were interned in 1940 as security risks and spent three years in prison. Jessica's husband Esmond Romilly, was killed in action in 1941, deepening her bitterness towards the "fascist branch" of the family - she never spoke to her father again, nor to Diana until 1973, although she was reconciled with her mother in the 1950s.