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Wigs on the Green: Where Nazism Is All Fun and Games



Nancy Mitford's Wigs on the Green was JUST republished in 2010 after being out of print for 35 years. Out of print despite the semi-enduring popularity of Mitford's novels. Why? Because it's pretty soft on Nazis. Oops.

That's how we deal with it, Nancy

The introduction to the reprint says "When Nancy's published begged her to be allowed to reissue the novel in 1951, she refused. 'Too much has happened for jokes about Nazis to be regarded as funny or as anything but the worst of taste,' she wrote to Evelyn Waugh, 'so that is out.'"


The word "Nazi" is such a thing of its own now, it took me learning some German to find out they were National Socialists, with National being pronounced "Nahtzional." And to be honest, I'm still pretty much 'looks at you uncomprehendingly' when people talk about fascism/socialism/otherism. I know fascism is strict rules and a dictator, but socialism...is too?


ANYWAY. The reason this was all sticky for Nancy Mitford is that TWO of her upperclass British sisters were huge fans of Hitler. To the point that one moved to Germany because of him and was photographed with him.


Ahhhh!
Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

And it's super-awkward, because Nancy Mitford seemed kind of like "eh" about it all. Granted this is with EXTREMELY LITTLE RESEARCH, so maybe she was a super-Nazi-hater, but with her family and her later reaction, I think she was more sorta like "I meeean, I get what the Nazis were going for, but I think they are silly." And it's weird, because this book is actually delightful. And she's basically making fun of Fascism, but is also trying to not have her sisters hate her, so she's like "Ha, it's not so bad!" One of her more cynical characters says:

"I prefer national Socialism to the other sort, it is so much more romantic. Besides, I am inclined to think that the Western civilization we know needs putting out of its agony as soon as possible. It is old and tired, the dark ages are practically upon us anyhow, and I should prefer that they march in with trumpet and flag than that they should creep upon us to the tap of the typewriter."

So there's a young man (think of Jack in The Importance of Being Earnest) who inherits some money and decides to marry an heiress so he will have MORE money and no longer have to work in his drudge of a job. He runs into his friend (think Algernon) who's all "Hey, there're some heiresses in this one little town," but then Algernon decides to go WITH Jack, and Jack is obviously not wanting this, because he is a stick in the mud, but together they go and they run into an heiress obsessed with Fascism and an heiress on the run from her wedding, and crazy Fascist-inspired shenanigans ensue.

The part that sticks out the most in my mind is that Eugenia (slightly insane teenage heiress obsessed with Fascism) is so fervent about people joining "the Union Jack Movement," but she's a member of the British aristocracy, so there's this villager/peer-of-the-realm relationship which is delightful:

The yokels stood first on one foot and then on the other. Finally one of them removed a straw from this mouth and remarked that they had all enjoyed Miss Eugenia's speech very much, he was sure, and how was His Lordship's hay-fever?
I'm usually not on board with 1920s/'30s types of books. Lord Peter Wimsey forever, but I've tried time and time again to get on board with Wodehouse, and I can't. It's all very "Ha-hah!" and "Mrs. Miggins" and "Bungo came down last week-end for some doubles" and ahhhhhhhhhh. But I found myself throughly enjoying it when done through the lens of Miss Mitford. To mitigate the weird Nazi sympathy, she creates an insane asylum for the British aristocracy, called  Peersmont, which is built to resemble Parliament.

"Lord Rousham...is on the sick-list again-no, nothing at all serious I am glad to say. He has just nipped up to the top of a big elm tree and is building himself a nest there. We don't stop him nowadays, one is never supposed to stop them doing harmless things of that sort. He won't catch a chill in this warm weather and the others like to watch how the nest is getting along. Rather fun for them really."

It was decidedly an odd first Mitford, but her writing really is the most fun. I have vague plans of reading all her books now. MORE MITFORD.

Hopefully with fewer Nazi sympathizers

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