De Courcy, Anne
de COURCY, Anne
PERSONAL: Born in England; daughter of John Lionel Mackenzie Barrett and Evelyn Kathleen Frances. Education: Attended Wroxall Abbey, Leamington Spa. Hobbies and other interests: Reading, writing, gardening and swimming.
ADDRESSES: Offıce—Daily Mail, Northcliffe House, 2 Derry Street, Kensington, London W8 5TT, England.
CAREER: London Evening News, London, England, women's editor, 1970s; Evening Standard, London, feature writer, 1980s; Daily Mail, London, writer, 1992—.
Kitchens, Studio Vista (London, England), 1973.
Starting from Scratch, Studio Vista (London, England), 1975.
(With Pierre Fowell) Making Room at the Top, Pelham (London, England), 1976.
A Guide to Modern Manners, Thames & Hudson (London, England), 1985.
The English in Love, Ebury Press (London, England), 1986, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1987.
1939: The Last Season, Thames & Hudson (London, England), 1989.
Circe: The Life of Edith, Marchioness of Londonderry, Sinclair-Stevenson (London, England), 1992.
The Viceroy's Daughters: The Lives of the CurzonSisters, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (London, England), 2000, Morrow (New York, NY), 2002.
WORK IN PROGRESS: A book about England's debutantes from 1938 to 1939 who were displaced from their cushioned lives into working for the war.
SIDELIGHTS: Anne de Courcy, journalist and nonfiction author, has written books on topics ranging from English love to upper-class biography. She has written several works on the lives of British women in the first half of the twentieth century.
One of de Courcy's earlier books, 1939: The Last Season, published in 1989, is centered in London in the midst of preparing for World War II. De Courcy shows how high-society England lived and changed in the years before the war. However, reviewer Isabel Colegate in the Times Literary Supplement felt that de Courcy exaggerates the change in high society, and that the upper class functioned much the same in 1939 as it did in 1959. But a Books reviewer was more in support of de Courcy's argument. The elite's tradition of attending Ascot, Henley, and other glitzy events during the six months beginning in March was part of what got swept away as World War II crept closer; class barriers slipped away and high life fell under the shadow of war. The reviewer also mentioned that de Courcy's book does more than take the reader on a tour of ballrooms; it provides an overview of British life, including the divorce rate, the number of cars on the road, and the cost of a ticket to Paris.
De Courcy's next published book was her 1992 Circe: The Life of Edith, Marchioness of Londonderry. This biography follows the story of the wife of the Seventh Marquess of Londonderry (1878-1949). Married to a wild philanderer, she was a loyal wife, a political hostess, and an avid horseback hunter. She created the Women's Legion during World War I and made the gardens at Northern Ireland's Castle Stewart, now owned by the National Trust. A London Observer reviewer called the book "a shrewdly-judged but affectionate and touching portrait of the last great political hostess."
Her 2000 book, The Viceroy's Daughters: The Lives of the Curzon Sisters, is also biographical, but the book isn't a true biography, because it centers not on the entire lives of the three sisters—Irene, Cimmie and Baba—but only on their lives during the 1920s and 1930s, when they were young and badly behaved. The Viceroy's Daughters is a "chronicle of gossip, scandal, sisterly bickering, political nastiness and the smart social gatherings that Anne de Courcy finds so extraordinarily exciting," noted David Gilmour in his Spectator review. He went on to explain that de Courcy details the sisters' social lives, including wedding presents, dress parties and menus but not, he noted, much that really mattered.
The story begins with Lord Curzon, the British Viceroy of India from 1898 to 1905, whose wife dies in 1906, leaving him with his three daughters. They grew into women who were stubborn like their father. Lord Curzon died in 1925 and then, after a hard life with an abusive husband, Cimmie died in 1933. The book then becomes a chronicle of the love affairs of Irene and Baba, noted Isabel Colegate in her Times Literary Supplement review. The book's focus is in the bedroom, Colegate noted, and on money and quarrelling.
But Miranda Carter, writing in the New York Times Book Review, found de Courcy "a keen and experienced topographer of the landscape of upper-class Britain in the 1920s and 30s."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Books, April, 1989, review of 1939: The Last Season, p. 5.
New York Times Book Review, June 2, 2002, Miranda Carter, review of The Viceroy's Daughters: The Lives of the Curzon Sisters, p. 19.
Observer (London, England), June 27, 1993, review of Circe: The Life of Edith, Marchioness of Londonderry, p. 63.
Spectator, October 28, 2000, David Gilmour, review of The Viceroy's Daughters, pp. 50-51.
Times Literary Supplement, May 26, 1989, Isabel Colegate, review of 1939, p. 571; December 15, 2000, Isabel Colegate, review of The Viceroy's Daughters, p. 6.*