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Thursday, 15 July 2010

Charles and Elizabeth - the "New" Harold and Lady Antonia

Hello my lovelies!

I feel the need to share with you my latest literary romance memoir. Ever since reading Lady Antonia's account of her life with Harold Pinter, "Must You Go?" (good on parties and poems, disappointing on mince beef recipes and shirt ironing), I have been hoping to find something similar. I have just stumbled across "Love's Civil War", a collection of the letters of Elizabeth Bowen and the diary entries of Charlies Ritchie "from the love affair of a lifetime", edited by Victoria Glendinning.

The Anglo-Irish writer Elizabeth Bowen and the Canadian diplomat Ritchie carried on an affair for about 32 years. They met when she was 41, living in Oxford and married to Alan Cameron, a civil servant. During their affair Ritchie married, and remained married to, Sylvia Smellie (no sniggering please, oh, sorry that's me).

This is what he looked like. Not exactly Cary Grant but apparently women loved him. (I always think photos don't tell the whole story, so much depends on other attributes like voice, manner, gestures, humour, animation, the careful use of cellotape and concealer). Ritchie was repeatedly unfaithful to Bowen as well as to his wife; he was reputed to be the most amusing man you could meet.

This is Elizabeth. I think she has a very beautiful, interesting, intelligent face, and real style.

In an early diary entry Ritchie writes about her, "In the first place how can a woman of forty with gold bangles* and the face of a woman of forty and the air of a don's wife, how can such a woman have such a body - like Donatello's David** I first told her when I first saw what it was like. Those small firm breasts, that modelled neck set with such beauty on her shoulders, that magnificent back....Would I ever had fallen for her if it hadn't been for her books***?"

*I have gold bangles, we are practically twins, we are living the same life! Except for the lover, novels, circle of literary friends (she knew Virginia Woolf), house overlooking Regents Park, mansion in Ireland...
**surely not exactly like
*** er, the books, right

I just know I am going to enjoy this!


  1. Oh my! Sounds interesting. A man from the colonies, who would have thought? Maybe you are a distant relative of the lady because you share so many similarities. Happy reading!

  2. Elizabeth & particularly Charles must have had excellent time management skills.
    Happy reading Blighty.

  3. Dear Anne-Marie - I so agree, so impressed how they found the time for all that activity and writing it up in diary afterwards! I suspect they had cooks and housekeepers etc and never had to go to the supermarket or clean the bath, bliss! Bx

  4. It amazes me how these letters and diaries are kept and then found and then published. If I knew I was on the out, I would have destroyed them I think.... wouldn't want the grandkids knowing the sordid details. Sounds like a fascinating read! A-M xx

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