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In Tearing Haste

Letters between Deborah Devonshire and Patrick Leigh Fermor

By , (Author), Charlotte Mosley (Editor)

Hardcover published by New York Review Books (New York Review Books)

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About This Book
In the spring of 1956, Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire, youngest of the six legendary Mitford sisters, invited the writer and war hero Patrick Leigh Fermor to visit Lismore Castle, the Devonshires’ house in Ireland. The halcyon visit sparked a deep friendship and a lifelong exchange of highly entertaining correspondence. When something caught their interest and they knew the other would be amused, they sent off a letter—there are glimpses of President Kennedy’s inauguration, weekends at Sandringham, filming with Errol Flynn, the wedding of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles, and, above all, life at Chatsworth, the great house that Debo spent much of her life restoring, and of Paddy in the house that he and his wife designed and built on the southernmost peninsula of Greece.

There rarely have been such contrasting styles: Debo—smart, idiosyncratic, and funny—darts from subject to subject, dashing off letters in her breezy, spontaneous style. Paddy, the polygot and widely read virtuoso, replies in the fluent polished manner that has earned him recognition as one of the finest writers in the English language.

As editor Charlotte Mosley writes, “Much of the charm of the letters lies in their authors’ particular outlook on life. Both are acutely observant and clear-sighted about human failings, but their lack of cynicism and gift for looking on the bright side bear out the maxim that the world tends to treat you as you find it. On the whole, the people they meet are good to them, the places they visit enchant them, and they succeed splendidly in all they set out to do. This lightheartedness—a trait that attracted many, often less sunny, people towards them—gives their letters an irresistible fizz and sparkle.”
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In the spring of 1956, Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire, youngest of the six legendary Mitford sisters, invited the writer and war hero Patrick Leigh Fermor to visit Lismore Castle, the Devonshires’ house in Ireland. The halcyon visit sparked a deep friendship and a lifelong exchange of highly entertaining correspondence. When something caught their interest and they knew the other would be amused, they sent off a letter—there are glimpses of President Kennedy’s inauguration, weekends at Sandringham, filming with Errol Flynn, the wedding of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles, and, above all, life at Chatsworth, the great house that Debo spent much of her life restoring, and of Paddy in the house that he and his wife designed and built on the southernmost peninsula of Greece.

There rarely have been such contrasting styles: Debo—smart, idiosyncratic, and funny—darts from subject to subject, dashing off letters in her breezy, spontaneous style. Paddy, the polygot and widely read virtuoso, replies in the fluent polished manner that has earned him recognition as one of the finest writers in the English language.

As editor Charlotte Mosley writes, “Much of the charm of the letters lies in their authors’ particular outlook on life. Both are acutely observant and clear-sighted about human failings, but their lack of cynicism and gift for looking on the bright side bear out the maxim that the world tends to treat you as you find it. On the whole, the people they meet are good to them, the places they visit enchant them, and they succeed splendidly in all they set out to do. This lightheartedness—a trait that attracted many, often less sunny, people towards them—gives their letters an irresistible fizz and sparkle.”
Product Details
Hardcover (416 pages)
Published: October 12, 2010
Publisher: New York Review Books
Imprint: New York Review Books
ISBN: 9781590173589
Other books byPatrick Leigh Fermor
  • The Broken Road

    The Broken Road
    From the Iron Gates to Mount Athos
    In the winter of 1933 eighteen-year-old Patrick (“Paddy”) Leigh Fermor set out to walk across Europe, starting in Holland and ending in Constantinople, a trip that took him the better part of a year. Decades later, when he was well over fifty, Leigh Fermor told the story of that life-changing journey in A Time of Gifts and Between the Woods and the Water, two works now celebrated as among the most vivid, absorbing, delightful, and beautifully-written travel books of all time. The Broken Road is the long and avidly awaited account of the final leg of his youthful adventure that Leigh Fermor promised but was unable to finish before his death in 2011. Assembled from Leigh Fermor’s manuscripts by his prize-winning biographer Artemis Cooper and the travel writer Colin Thubron, this is perhaps the most personal of all Leigh Fermor’s books, catching up with young Paddy in the fall of 1934 and following him through Bulgaria and Romania to the coast of the Black Sea. Days and nights on the road, spectacular landscapes and uncanny cities, friendships lost and found, leading the high life in Bucharest or camping out with fishermen and shepherds: in the The Broken Road such incidents and escapades are described with all the linguistic bravura, odd and astonishing learning, and overflowing exuberance that Leigh Fermor is famous for, but also with a melancholy awareness of the passage of time, especially when he meditates on the  scarred history of the Balkans or on his troubled relations with his father. The book ends, perfectly, with Paddy’s diary from the winter of 1934, when he had reached Greece, the country he would fall in love with and fight for. Across the space of three quarters of century we can still hear the ringing voice of an irrepressible young man embarking on a life of adventure.

    Words of Mercury

    Words of Mercury
    Tales from a Lifetime of Travel
    A career-spanning anthology from the greatest traveler—and travel writer—of the twentieth century. The adventures of Patrick “Paddy” Leigh Fermor, Britain’s most beloved traveler, began in 1933, when he embarked on a walk from Holland to Constantinople—the entire length of Europe—at the tender age of eighteen. Sleeping in barns, monasteries, and, on occasion, aristocratic country houses, the young adventurer made way his through the Old World just as everything was about to change. Words of Mercury collects pieces from every stage of Leigh Fermor’s life, from his journey through Eastern Europe just before the outbreak of the Second World War—described in gorgeous, meditative detail—to his encounter with voodoo in Haiti, to a monastic retreat to Normandy to try to write a book. Also included is the story of one of his most well-known exploits from the war—his planned and executed kidnap of a German general under British orders. Ever the student, “Paddy” also wrote extensively on his encounters with polymaths, linguists, and artists all over the world. Over the course of his illustrious lifetime, Leigh Fermor wrote several acclaimed travel books, countless essays, translations, and book reviews, many of which are compiled in this anthology. His unique experiences out in the world fed his insatiable curiosity and voracious appetite for scholarship. His tales, written in a singular, elegant style, have inspired generations of writers and continue to shape the language of travel.

    The Traveller's Tree

    The Traveller's Tree
    A Journey Through the Caribbean Islands
    In the late 1940s Patrick Leigh Fermor, now widely regarded as one of the twentieth century’s greatest travel writers, set out to explore the then relatively little-visited islands of the Caribbean. Rather than a comprehensive political or historical study of the region, The Traveller’s Tree, Leigh Fermor’s first book, gives us his own vivid, idiosyncratic impressions of Guadeloupe, Martinique, Dominica, Barbados, Trinidad, and Haiti, among other islands. Here we watch Leigh Fermor walk the dusty roads of the countryside and the broad avenues of former colonial capitals, equally at home among the peasant and the elite, the laborer and the artist. He listens to steel drum bands, delights in the Congo dancing that closes out Havana’s Carnival, and observes vodou and Rastafarian rites, all with the generous curiosity and easy erudition that readers will recognize from his subsequent classic accounts A Time of Gifts and Between the Woods and the Water.  

    A Time of Gifts

    A Time of Gifts
    On Foot to Constantinople: From the Hook of...
    At the age of eighteen, Patrick Leigh Fermor set off from the heart of London on an epic journey—to walk to Constantinople. A Time of Gifts is the rich account of his adventures as far as Hungary, after which Between the Woods and the Water continues the story to the Iron Gates that divide the Carpathian and Balkan mountains. Acclaimed for its sweep and intelligence, Leigh Fermor’s book explores a remarkable moment in time. Hitler has just come to power but war is still ahead, as he walks through a Europe soon to be forever changed—through the Lowlands to Mitteleuropa, to Teutonic and Slav heartlands, through the baroque remains of the Holy Roman Empire; up the Rhine, and down to the Danube. At once a memoir of coming-of-age, an account of a journey, and a dazzling exposition of the English language, A Time of Gifts is also a portrait of a continent already showing ominous signs of the holocaust to come.

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