Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Dowager Duchess and a Morgan's Monday in New York

Taking in the seals from just outside the Central Park Zoo. Saturday, 11:30 AM. Photo: JH.
Tuesday, November 9, 2010. Windy and cold, yesterday in New York. I wore an overcoat for the first time this year. Walking by the Peter Elliot shop on 72nd and Lexington in the late afternoon, I noticed they’d begun putting up their Christmas decorations.

At noontime down at the Morgan Library, Deborah, the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire was the guest of honor at a luncheon. She has just published a memoir “Wait for Me!” Deborah Mitford; Duchess of Devonshire (Farrar Straus Giroux). Meanwhile, the New York Review of Books has published a companion book In Tearing Haste; Letters Between Deborah Devonshire and Patrick Leigh Fermor, first published in the UK in 2008, and edited by Charlotte Mosley, who is a daughter-in-law of the duchess’ sister Diana Mosley.
In Tearing Haste; Letters Between Deborah Devonshire and Patrick Leigh Fermor.
Click to order.
“Wait for Me!” Deborah Mitford; Duchess of Devonshire. Click to order.
The Dowager Duchess now in residence at her Dower House at Chatsworth.
Her living room.
The duchess, now 90, is the youngest of the six Mitford sisters, famous in their time as the daughters of the 2nd Baron Redesdale, but mainly because of their writing and the company they kept.

Eldest sister Nancy wrote many famous books and had famous love affairs.

was in love (in vain) with Adolf Hitler and attempted suicide allegedly over him. Jessica became a communist, and wrote a best-seller in this country called The American Way of Death about the funeral business.
Deborah Mitford (the youngest child) with her sisters, brother, and mother and father in the early 1920s.
Diana first married a Guinness (her granddaughter Daphne Guinness is a familiar face to NYSD readers) and then ran off with Tom (Sir Oswald) Mosley, a famous British fascist leader whom she married in the presence of Hitler at the home of his chief propagandist Goebbels.

Sister Pamela was the least controversial but her life was rich and active also. The sisters had one brother, Tom, who was killed in the Second World War.

Mitford sisters: Jessica, Nancy, Diana, Unity, and Pamela, 1935.
Evidently all of the sisters remained in close contact (and wrote copious letters to each other) all their lives. Diana and her husband were exiled from Britain after the War (they were imprisoned during the War) and lived in Paris, as did Nancy much of the time. Jessica lived in San Francisco.

When the duchess, always known to friends and family as Debo, married Andrew Cavendish, he was the second son of the Duke of Devonshire, whose heir, William, the Marquess of Hartington, married Kathleen “Kick” Kennedy, against the expressed wishes of her parents Rose and Joseph P. Kennedy. Billy Hartington, however, was killed in the War only a few months after the marriage. Had he lived, President Kennedy would have had a sister who was the Duchess of Devonshire. However, Andrew succeeded his father and Debo became his duchess.

Although she seems to not have thought much of her talent for writing, possibly comparing herself to her best-selling author-sisters — especially the eldest — Nancy, the duchess has nevertheless written several books, mainly about Chatsworth, the Devonshire family seat in Oxfordshire, which has been in the family for centuries (Marie Antoinette’s close friend Georgiana, then duchess, immortalized by Amanda Foreman’s biography, lived there in the 18th century). Debo and her husband the duke, spent the better part of their life restoring and maintaining the house and property.
Billy Cavendish, the Marquess of Hartington, with his bride Kathleen "Kick" Kennedy, and with brother Joe behind her at their wedding on May 6, 1944 at Chelsea Town Hall.
The duchess is a very popular figure not only with her friends and acquaintances but with her thousands and thousands of readers who are charmed by her books on Chatsworth, her family, her ruminations on cooking, gardening and animals. I do not know her, have never met her, but just from her prose, it is easy to discern a natural predisposition to a charmed life.

The duchess will be making two more public appearances in New York this week: one at the English Speaking Union at 6 tonight, and the second tomorrow night at 6 at the Frick.
The duchess with her chicks.
Yesterday was a busy day for the Morgan Library. Last night the American Friends of Blerancourt held their annual dinner to honor Anne Morgan, the youngest daughter of J. Pierpont Morgan who acquired a 17th century chateau in the French province of Picardy, after the First World War.

Miss Morgan, a very active volunteer in repairing the war-torn region, was assigned the spot by Marshal Petain in 1917. After the war, she bought the rundown chateau, restored it, and founded a museum there dedicated to French participation in the American Revolution. In 1931, she gave the chateau and its collections to the French government.

Anne Morgan
Anne Morgan, according to Pierpont Morgan’s biographer Jean Strouse, traveled frequently with her art collecting, yachtsman father on his trips to Europe and beyond from the 1890s until the middle of the first decade of the 20th century. Her presence in what was always a party of guests traveling served as a “beard” for her father’s romances, namely his mistresses who also traveled (with husbands in tow) in the party. This arrangement, however the daughter felt about it, came to an eventual end in 1906 when she allied herself with Elizabeth (Bessie) Marbury and her companion Elsie de Wolfe (later Lady Mendl).

Marbury, who was a powerful international literary agent, and de Wolfe took the young woman under their wing, so to speak, much to the disappointment (and probably disapproval) of her father. It was also an “inconvenience” for him since her mother was always left at home while father did his international gallivanting (and business) with “friends.”

With Marbury and de Wolfe and Ann Vanderbilt (the second wife of Willie K. Vanderbilt after Alva), Anne Morgan started the first woman’s club in New York – the Colony Club. The move was revolutionary at the time – there were no clubs for women, and men’s clubs only admitted women (when they did) under special circumstances and for special occasions.
Bessie Marbury and Elsie De Wolfe. Morgan and Dr. Ann Dike.
These same women, including Morgan, later developed the block on York Avenue between 57th and 58th Street and what became known as Sutton Place. Their townhouses were all side by side with Morgan’s adjacent Mrs. Vanderbilt’s. There were always rumors that there was an underground passage which linked all of them and insured their privacy. The Morgan house is now the official residence of the Secretary General of the UN.

In 1903 Miss Morgan had also become a co-owner of the Villa Trianon near Versailles, which was later famous as the site of Lady Mendl’s international parties, and the threesome were known as the “Versailles Triumvirate.” In 1919, the three women, under the aegis of Miss Marbury also financed Cole Porter’s first Broadway musical “See America First,” which was produced by Marbury who was one of the most important literary agents in the world.
The houses they built on Sutton Place. The second house from the right was Anne Morgan's, now the official residence of hte Secretary General of the United Nations.
In 1914 when Germany invaded Belgium and Luxembourg, after visiting the Marne battlefields, Morgan and De Wolfe decided to dedicate themselves to the Allied cause. The following year Morgan established with Isabel Lathrop the American Fund for French Wounded to provide medical supplies to French hospitals and parcels to wounded soliders. She and De Wolfe also converted Villa Trianon into a convalescent home for soldiers.

Anne Morgan ran The American Friends of France out of Blerancourt, employing several hundred people with volunteers from America and France helping civilians caught in the war as well as organizing health service for the people, a holiday camp for children and a library. After the war, she and an American doctor, Anne Murray Dike, established an organization to assist families in the front-line areas. They distributed food, clothing, medicine and utensils as well as agricultural equipment and animals and began to train adults and children for the future.
The chateau at the time of the First World War.
An ambulance from that time.
Anne Morgan in 1947 being honored for her war work for France. Villa Trianon, which she owned with Marbury and De Wolfe.
She had her father’s temperament, which must have come as something of a challenge to the old man. She was an organizer by nature and a natural philanthropist. She died at 79 from a heart attack in Mount Kisco, New York in 1952.

The Honorary Chairman of last night’s dinner was His Excellency, Pierre Vimont, Ambassador of France to the United States. Co-chairmen were Mrs. Gerald B. Gehman and Miles Morgan (a grandson of JP Morgan Jr.)
Blerancourt, today.
Also last night in New York: The New York Times hosted a party for Harold Holzer and Craig Symonds who have co-edited The New York Times Complete Civil War-1861-1865.

Hefty and handsome, this book is an anthology of coverage of the Civil War by the newspaper of record.

The party was held on the 15th floor of the Times building on West 41st Street. The highlight of the evening was when actor André De Shields read the famous battle-field correspondence by New York Times' correspondent, Samuel Wilkeson.
Bob Fribourg, Nadine Kalachnikoff, Effie Fribourg, Lars Bolander
Craig Symonds and Harold Holzer.
Wilkeson covered the war's greatest battle, Gettysburg, for the paper knowing that his own son was serving in the ranks of the Union's forces engaging the Confederate enemy. Once the fighting subsided, he went searching for the boy, only to find him dead. While sitting at his son's grave, Wilkeson wrote the following justly famous lines:

“Oh, you dead, who are at Gettysburg have baptized with your blood the second birth of Freedom in America, how you are to be envied! I rise from a grave whose wet clay I have passionately kissed, and I look up and see Christ spanning this battle-field with his feet and reaching fraternal and lovingly up to heaven. His right hand opens the gates of Paradise-with his left he beckons these mutilated, bloody, swollen forms to ascend.”

The conceit of this collection is to allow modern readers to follow the full story of the Civil war era much the same way as the readers of the Times did from 1861 to 1865.

Jill Krementz
Associate Editor, NY Social Diary
Bob Fribourg, Nadine Kalachnikoff, Effie Fribourg, Lars Bolander Bob Fribourg, Nadine Kalachnikoff, Effie Fribourg, Lars Bolander
Harold Holzer is a scholar on Abramham Lincoln and the political culture of the American Civil War Era. He serves as co-chairman of the United States Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commision. Holzer has authored, co-authored, and edited 35 books, most recently In Lincoln's Hand and Lincoln at Cooper Union, which won the 2005 Lincoln Prize. His day job is at the Met Museum where he is the Senior Vice President for External Affairs. Craig Symonds is the distinguished historian of the American Civil War and a retired professor and chairman of the history department at the United States Naval Academy. He is the author of 11 books including Lincoln and His Admirals, which won the 2009 Lincoln Prize.
Bob Fribourg, Nadine Kalachnikoff, Effie Fribourg, Lars Bolander
Bob Fribourg, Nadine Kalachnikoff, Effie Fribourg, Lars Bolander
Charlie Kirsch, the 3-year-old grandson of Harold Holzer. Crooner Tony Bennett is a long time friend of Harold Holzer. He was rushing to the elevator as I arrived.
Bob Fribourg, Nadine Kalachnikoff, Effie Fribourg, Lars Bolander
Leland Chamlin and his father, Marc Chamlin. The younger Mr. Chamlin, who is 17, worked last summer as a research assistant for Mr. Holzer. His father is an entertainment attorney for Loeb and Loeb. Both of them are members of a Lincoln Group of scholars.
Bob Fribourg, Nadine Kalachnikoff, Effie Fribourg, Lars Bolander
Bob Fribourg, Nadine Kalachnikoff, Effie Fribourg, Lars Bolander
Times reporter James Barron. Mitchel Levitas, Times veteran, who worked on the book.
Bob Fribourg, Nadine Kalachnikoff, Effie Fribourg, Lars Bolander
Still signing ...
André DeShields. Mr. DeShields is currently appearing in "Knock Me A Kiss" at The Henry Street Settlement. It's a new play inspired by the actual events surrounding the 1928 marriage of W. E. B. Du Bois's daughter Yolande to one of Harlem's great poets, Countee Cullen.
Bob Fribourg, Nadine Kalachnikoff, Effie Fribourg, Lars Bolander
Bob Fribourg, Nadine Kalachnikoff, Effie Fribourg, Lars Bolander
André DeShields with his girlfriend Lia Chang. Ms. Chang is an actress, photographer, and journalist. She has a recurring role in "One Life to Live." Glenn Collins and his wife, Sarah Collins. Mr. Collins has worked for The New York Times forever, and his wife works at the Foundation Center Institution. "I teach people how to write grant proposals," she said. Ms. Collins is the volunteer coordinator for The Paper Mill Playhouse, which is going to be doing Les Misérables, starting November 19th. (She thinks).
Bob Fribourg, Nadine Kalachnikoff, Effie Fribourg, Lars Bolander
Bob Fribourg, Nadine Kalachnikoff, Effie Fribourg, Lars Bolander
Lisa Tenaglia, the line editor of the book, with publisher, J.P. Levinthal. The book was published by Black Dog & Levinthal. Harold Holzer finally gets away from autographing books and has a giggle with his grandson.
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