A Life of Contrasts: An Autobiography

A Life of Contrasts: An Autobiography

by Diana Mitford Mosley

At the outbreak of WWII, Diana Mosley, the Mitford sister who grew up with the Churchills, was imprisoned after her husband, the British Fascist Leader, Sir Oswald Mosley, was arrested under the orders of Winston Churchill. In this work, she tells in her own words what motivated her life & under what exceptional circumstances it took place, having known the two most powerful politicians of 20th-century Europe & living with one of the most controversial British politicians in recent history.1 Grandfathers & Grandmother (1) 2 "...She Can't Live Long" (6) 3 Batsford (12) 4 Asthall (22) 5 Paris (44) 6 Swinbrook (55) 7 Bailiffscourt (61) 8 Buckingham Street (70) 9 Cheyne Walk (86) 10 Mosley (94) 11 Munich & Rome (106) 12 Hitler (116) 13 Accident (129) 14 Wooton (136) 15 Berlin (147) 16 War (157) 17 Prison (169) 18 Crux Easton (199) 19 Crowood (210) 20 ALIANORA (218) 21 Le Temple de la Gloire (230) 22 Clonfert (235) 23 Venice & Paris (244) 24 Inch Kenneth & London (254) 25 The Windsors (264) 26 The Antagonists (268) 27 A Vale of Tears (273) 28 Laughter & the Love of Friends (282) Index (289)

  • Language: English
  • Category: Biography
  • Rating: 3.42
  • Pages: 304
  • Publish Date: March 1st 1977 by Times Books (NYC)
  • Isbn10: 0812907582
  • Isbn13: 9780812907582

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I don't mind name-dropping but there is no explanation behind most of these names, the fact that she assumes you should know who they all are only makes her more of a snob. I didn't come away from reading this book knowing any more interesting facts of stories about the Mitford's or the Mosley's than I had learnt in other, far more entertaining books.

In England the situation was less opaque, and those in sympathy with not Germany as such but far more specifically the then nazi regime of Germany, called themselves fascists - and the chairman and more, its establishing member and its spirit, was Oswald Mosley, and upper caste member of the aristocracy of Great Britain, who was son in law of the ex Viceroy of India Lord Curzon. When one is not a fascist, nor tolerant of the ideology therein or any form of totalitarian dictatorship, and if one is aware of the era when fascism almost destroyed human civilisation and all achievements thereof via an avowed aim of conquest of the world and enslavement of all people of not one particular race - when one is aware of the important events and persona of the first half of the twentieth century, in short, one is in quandary about this book. One does not wish to have discrimination based on a prejudice even if it is about a figure that belongs more on the society pages among shenanigans of the upper castes of the world that frolic unscathed by poverty or even any of slightest limitations to their fun by economy, and only connected to one of the worst known fascists of Great Britain via an affair, one that culminated in marriage only via her divorce from the young upper caste father of her two sons and death of her paramour's wife - mother of his very young brood of more than two - due chiefly to heartbreak. When not doing this defence of fascism and fascists of the era, and attacking all others, the woman brought up privileged and never brought out of blinkers of entitlement gives endless descriptions of places, food and personages she encountered across the continent and in the isles - it gets repetitive and bores one after a while, and one is anxious to finish the book only because when something is so repulsive, one wishes to be fair and see if there is a saving grace.

In A Life of Contrasts, Diana finally tells us her side of the story that captured headlines and made her one of the most memorable to those very notable Mitford sisters. Frank Pakenham, the 7th Earl of Longford, had said of Diana in a review of her memoirs that she "lacked a dimension." I can think of no more perfect an insult than this for a woman who in her own writing comes across as a shallow, unfocused, self-centered, self-impressed, socialite. Lovell's book The Sisters, I was willing to give Diana the benefit of doubt. Diana's shallowness is evident in every line she writes in this book. Name drop all you want, all it shows is your own flaws in being needed to be validated by those around you because you had no inner life to sustain yourself. The fact that her sisters have written in more depth on her life shows that Diana has absolutely nothing to offer us. She was too shallow to have any true beliefs of her own so when she latched onto her idol Mosley, well, she took him all, even his opinions. Diana has taken a lot of flack over the years for being unwilling to change her view of Hitler after the outbreak of war and his true desires and ambitions were revealed. While she never really outright states that she hates those who are Jewish or Black, the fact that she wants everyone to go back to where they came from shows a severe xenophobia that appears to be the sole aspect of her personality that isn't about her appearance. So by all means, if you want to read about a narcissist who will occasionally expound vitriolically on Jewry, well, Diana Mitford Mosley is the Mitford for you.

But her manipulative, disingenuous account of Mosley's career soon changed my mind. Speaking of untold riches, once released from prison, with the war over, she and Mosley wasted no time buying a couple of stately homes and a yacht and resuming their former lives. She actually complains that two of their fellow prisoners, who had been living with her and Mosley in a house in the grounds of Holloway (rather than in dank cells like lesser prisoners), were released "penniless and with nowhere to go." They must have been desperately worried, she says, but there's no mention that she used any of her own wealth to help them, or indeed any of the other much poorer followers of Mosley who were her "friends" in jail and must have been destitute when released. Thereafter the book is increasingly dull as the Mosleys flit about Europe with their similarly minded friends.

I have a morbid fascination with Diana Mitford Mosley. I suppose that is what got hold of me: she was a celebrated beauty who married into great wealth, and then when her children were very young, she left everything for Oswald Mosley, who started the Britain Union of Fascists (BUF). She was married in Germany at the home of Dr. Goebbles with Hitler present.

One could explain that with her being of the top echelons of the society (- she claims they were brought up poor, but they do seem to move from one large country home to another, have seasons in London and holidays in France and Italy, while her father went on buying house after house; her first husband was a Guinness, and she says she did not know they were rich until she wanted a diamond tiara and he casually told her she has one somewhere around; she married another aristocrat, having divorced Guinness somewhere shortly before or after his father was Lord Moyne; and one of her sisters was married to Andrew Cavendish, who inherited Duchy of Devonshire due to the death of his elder brother in the war after his wedding to Cathleen "Kick" Kennedy, sister of John F. In England the situation was less opaque, and those in sympathy with not Germany as such but far more specifically the then nazi regime of Germany, called themselves fascists - and the chairman and more, its establishing member and its spirit, was Oswald Mosley, and upper caste member of the aristocracy of Great Britain, who was son in law of the ex Viceroy of India Lord Curzon. Along this argument, she not only disparages the British government and her "Cousin Winston" in particular, but equates him in a separate chapter with his opponent, comparing point by point, and goes to the length of disparaging the men who fought for the allies - although not a word about the men who went to war to conquer the world for their leader of Germans, attacking nation after nation and massacring chiefly civilians in an effort to wipe Europe clean of all others so that Germans could have "living room". She is scathing about suspension of her freedom of speech, and being sent to prison during war for being not only an outspoken fascist but a personal friend of Hitler amongst others in her family - her sisters, Mosley - and more, but is completely obliterating in her own mind or is being hypocritical about such rights being suspended in Germany even during the years she was visiting the country and its top echelon leaders personally. When not doing this defence of fascism and fascists of the era, and attacking all others, the woman brought up privileged and never brought out of blinkers of entitlement gives endless descriptions of places, food and personages she encountered across the continent and in the isles - it gets repetitive and bores one after a while, and one is anxious to finish the book only because when something is so repulsive, one wishes to be fair and see if there is a saving grace. - more than about twice, and one wonders, was she unaware her husband's and his children's upkeep was only due to Curzon wealth, including the share of the eldest daughter who took care of the children, or does this Lady Mosley take it for granted she deserved it just as she takes it for granted Poland should not have been gone to war for by the British and the French? And necessarily thereby one is reminded of Galsworthy's portrayal of the British and their upper caste, and their creed of noblesse oblige, of an obligation to give life to public service for the country and even humanity, since they have had their livelihoods provided for unlike most of the rest.One reads his beautiful portrayals of England's landscape and seasons, and the creeds and thinking people live by. And then one reads about this life, from this woman, and one wonders, just how many of the said upper caste are in fact brought up to live with this creed of noblesse oblige, of devoting the privileged life to public service, rather than not only living a circuit of party - holiday - townhouse season - country house summer - riviera and so on, but espousing it at the expense of the poor, the whole world?

Having read many books by and about the Mitfords, this is the first one where Tom is included in a significant capacity.

It was an interesting read - she was a very witty writer and obviously had a fascinating life, but I found it difficult to read in parts as she was always totally unrepentant about her fascism.