Saturday, 19 December 2009

Minor Country-House Fascists

Before coming to the British Isles, I had never heard of country-house fascists. But once here they became hard to overlook. Not that country-house fascists necessarily live in country houses - on the contrary, they are a common social type of class-shifter. Their fascist name-droppping is intimately connected with very arduous social climbing. They have the snobbishness of lackeys and the vulgarity of parvenus. They live in the perpetual twilight of a P.G. Wodehouse "Jeeves and Wooster" farce.

The original county-house fascists were of course mostly well-born - some of them like the Mitfords, breeders of an inordinate number of daughters were also known as "nature's fascists". The local public library has a whole shelf devoted to the various writings and memoirs of this prolific family. I picked the memoirs and reminiscences of Diana (Mitford) Mosley as an introduction to this local species of fascism, mostly unknown on the continent. Diana was one of a family of five daughters and one brother, all of whom attached themselves in the thirties and forties to political movements, preferably fascist. Although one of the daughters, Jessica, was an equally fervent communist. Retribution did not spare that family. Death and disillusion garlanded their way. They never lacked for nice country-houses though. Unity, the daughter who hung around Hitler with the dog-like devotion he so esteemed shot herself in the head when England declared war on her beloved Fatherland. She was unsuccessful and survived. Hitler personally gave her permission to return to the wormy bosom of her family. There she existed another nine years or so as a slobbering idiot, a real picture of Aryan Glückseligkeit. Her father 'farve', as he was called in the family lingo, wasn't so pleased with this view so he moved out and separated from the mother of those miscreations after forty years of marriage. The brother (only son) who fought in Asia because he refused to fight against the country he loved was promptly shot - in Burma, I think. Diana Mosley, née Mitford married Oswald Mosley with whom she lived in exile with that peculiar society of losers, heirs to non-existent thrones, confiscated estates (amongst them a Bohemian Habsburg 'parasite'), the fascists who did not have quite enough friends in the country houses, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and straw men whose sole raison d'être was to be recipients of letters already marked for publication. The brother of one such recipient took his revenge and burned some Mitford letters.

The tale of English 'country-house fascists' is mostly one of unrequited love. It has a feminine cast. As Sylvia Plath, shortly before she committed suicide, famously wrote, "every woman adores a fascist" - but a fascist does not necessarily adore every woman. The English country-house fascist longs for the adoration of real fascists, but prefers that their fascist governing be done elsewhere. A sign of their delusion of grandeur - since the downfall of the British Empire they consider those more vital ghosts of fascism their haunted empire by proxy. Due to the esoteric spiritist nature of this love - many of the country-house fascists of today tend to be 'pagan' as well.

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