Monday, 28 November 2016

Lyndsy Spence Talks About Her New Book on Doris Delevingne

If you are a regular reader of A Shroud of Thoughts, then chances are good that you are familiar with author Lyndsy Spence. Miss Spence has a talent for writing books on interesting women. She made her debut with a book about the Mitford Sisters, The Mitford Girls' Guide to Life. She followed it up with biographies of the controversial Diana Mosley (Mrs Guinness: The Rise and Fall of Diana Mitford) and beloved film legend Margaret Lockwood (Margaret Lockwood: Queen of the Silver Screen). Her current book, The Mistress of Mayfair: Men, Money and the Marriage of Doris Delevingne, is about scandalous Twenties and Thirties socialite Doris Delevingne, Lady Castlerosse. Lady Castlerosse was linked to some of the most powerful men of the era: Sir Winston Churchill; Sir Cecil Beaton; Sir Alfred Beit; and others. In her social circle were included everyone from British aristocrats to Hollywood royalty. I had a chance to ask Lyndsy Spence a few questions about The Mistress of Mayfair: Men, Money and the Marriage of Doris Delevingne.

A lot of my American readers probably aren't familiar with Doris Delevingne, so could you explain who she was?

Much like modern celebrities, the 1920s and 30s was an era when one could be famous for doing very little, especially if one were a debutante. Or, in Doris's case, for courting infamy. She clawed her way to the top of the social ladder and progressed from selling second-hand evening dresses to chorus girls, to working as a show girl, and then becoming a courtesan. Of course, today Cara Delevingne (Doris's great-niece) has put the family's name on the map, but Doris was quite the star in her day.

What drew you to Doris Delevingne as a subject?

Her name often pops up in biographies but very little was known about Doris, and was has been written about her is quite often misconstrued. Doris herself was very candid about her exploits and I discovered her confessions in various letters locked away in archives. The latter is the reason I enjoy the research stage so much. Anyhow, I love that Doris was practically self-made and she was unapologetic about her lifestyle. She was a trailblazer in an era when women of her class were expected to marry and have children, and she literally grabbed life by the scruff of the neck. I also admire her flaws and, I think, that makes her all the more human. She was just an ordinary girl who set out to be an extraordinary woman.

Doris had affairs with several important men. What appeal do you think she held for them?

I think she was the polar opposite of a debutante and of the women they were expected to, and did, marry. She spoke her mind, had her own money, was not afraid to call the shots. I think men found that appealing and terribly exciting. She was imitating how those men lived and had adopted their point of view, all the while looking very feminine. I also think her profession had something to do with it!

Doris knew some fairly famous people. Who were some of her acquaintances?

Doris knew EVERYONE! Amongst her famous admirers were Winston and Randolph Churchill, Cecil Beaton, Lord Beaverbrook, Gerald Berners, Noel Coward, Michael Arlen, Diana and Nancy Mitford, the Aly Khan, Maxine Elliot, and, of course, her husband Viscount Castlerosse – then the most famous gossip columnist in 20s and 30s London.

What are some of your other projects on which you are currently working?

I am working on a collection of mini biographies of high society women who appear in my books and who deserve wider recognition. Although the portraits are not full-length biographies, I am doing a lot of original research and I have chosen various fun ladies such as Marg of Arg, Enid Lindeman and Mariga Guinness. There will be about 12 in total. I'm also researching my new book, which will be on a group of socialites who lived in a far-off land.

 The Mistress of Mayfair: Men, Money and the Marriage of Doris Delevingne by Lyndsy Spence is available at Amazon, History Press, and other fine book sellers.

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