The Life and Letters of Madame de Sévigné

madame de Sevigne at Carnavalet

Who was Madame de Sévigné (1626 – 1696) and why are we still reading her collected letters more than three hundred years later? She lived in complicated times— during the reign of Louis XIV — and she was a gifted chronicler. 

To this day, 1,372 of her letters survive, mostly written to her beloved daughter, Françoise-Marguerite de Sévigné.

Thanks to this correspondence, we have detailed insight into French history, politics, and culture, not to mention gossip — about the King’s love life, the Rennes tax revolt, or details of the corruption trial of finance minister Nicolas FouquetRead More→

Don’t Tell Alfred By Nancy Mitford (1960)

Don't Tell Alfred by Nancy Mitford

Don’t Tell Alfred (1960) was the last novel by British author Nancy Mitford (1904 –1973) and the final installment of the loose trilogy encompassing The Pursuit of Love (1945) and Love in a Cold Climate (1949). 

Like the two previous novels, Don’t Tell Alfred is narrated by Frances (“Fanny”) Wincham. It takes place some twenty years after the previous two (whose timelines were more or less concurrent) and focuses on the narrator herself.

The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate are told from her perspective but have different main characters, both of whom are cousins of Fanny. Read More→

Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford (1949)

Love in a Cold Climate

Love in a Cold Climate (1949) was the follow-up novel to The Pursuit of Love (1945) by British novelist, biographer, and journalist Nancy Mitford (1904 – 1973).

Not a sequel but a companion volume of sorts to its predecessor, like Mitford’s other novels, it satirized upper-class life in England. 

The Pursuit of Love was Mitford’s fifth novel but her first breakaway success, selling two hundred thousand copies within the first year. It set the stage for Love in a Cold Climate, which proved to be equally successful.  Read More→

The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford (1945)

The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford

The Pursuit of Love (1945) was British author Nancy Mitford’s fifth novel, and her first breakout success. The first of what was to become a trilogy, it was followed by Love in a Cold Climate (1949; arguably the best known of her many works) and Don’t Tell Alfred (1960).

The Pursuit of Love sold two hundred thousand copies within the first year, making Nancy Mitford financially independent for the first time in her life.

Adapted as a television miniseries in 2021, The Pursuit of Love marked the directorial debut of Emily Mortimer (who also had the role of Fanny’s mother, “the Bolter”). This well-received three-part series revitalized interest in Mitford’s work, much as earlier adaptations of Love in a Cold Climate had done. Read More→

Nancy Mitford, author of Love in a Cold Climate

Nancy Mitford, British novelist and journalist

Nancy Mitford (November 28, 1904 – June 30, 1973) was a British novelist, journalist, and biographer. She was best known for her novels depicting upper-class life in England, often with satirical and provocative humor.

In addition to her two most successful novels, The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate, she also wrote several other works of fiction as well as historical biographies, magazine articles, and essays.

Nancy was the eldest of the six Mitford sisters, most of whom courted controversy in one way or another, and was considered one of the “Bright Young Things” on the London scene of the 1920s and 1930s.

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Early Poems by Alice Dunbar-Nelson (from Violets and Other Tales)

Violets and Other Tales by Alice Dunbar-Nelson

Alice Dunbar-Nelson (1875 – 1935; also known as Alice Moore Dunbar-Nelson) was a poet, short story writer, essayist, and journalist associated with the Harlem Renaissance. Presented here are poems from Violets and Other Tales (1895), her first collection, when she was still Alice Ruth Moore, her original name.

Published when she was just twenty, Violets and Other Tales includes short stories interspersed with the poems. Some of this early work hints at feminism and social justice, in a preview of the kind of writing that would become her hallmark.

Dunbar-Nelson would later become at least as well known for her short stories and searingly honest essays as for her poetry, if not more so. More of her short stories, which have come to be known as the Creole stories, have recently come to light.
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Worth a Thousand Words: 4 Trailblazing Women Photojournalists

jessie Tarbox Beals outside the White House

Though Margaret Bourke-White and Dorothea Lange were two of the most influential pioneering modern photojournalism, the field continues to be male dominated. As we learn more about them, along with the two other trailblazing American women photojournalists presented here (Jessie Tarbox Beals and Ruth Gruber), it’s worth musing on why this persists.

A photojournalist is a reporter with a camera. Some photojournalists (past and present) have only taken pictures, and a different reporter writes the text that goes with them. Others take photos as well as write articles. Read More→

Inspiration from Classic Caribbean Women Writers

Paule Marshall (young)

How can writers reconcile the demands of the social and political moment with the demands of their craft? Caribbean women writers of color offer some models in the way they explore the rich intersection of concerns with gender, race, and colonialism through their work.

Anglophone writers with links to African and indigenous Caribbean cultures as well as to the United States or the United Kingdom (or both) express those connections with language, story, and rhythm.

Following are brief introductions to several classic Caribbean women writers, listed in order of their dates of birth — Rosa Guy, Paule Marshall (shown above), Georgina Herrera, Michelle Cliff, Mahadai Das, and Jean “Binta” Breeze. Read More→