Published in 1945, Nancy Mitford’s satire on the upper classes The Pursuit of Love was very much of its time. On the eve of war, the Radletts lived a typical aristocratic existence at their seat Alconleigh in Gloucestershire. Life was punctuated by hunting, Debs balls, dogs, and, of course, a very British pursuit of love. But for those seeking to find their equivalent suitor in today’s rather different amorous landscape it bears imagining what Mitford’s male figures would be like for our times. One thing is for certain: you would definitely linger over their profiles before you swiped left…
Linda meets Tony Kroesig at neighbour Lord Merlin’s party after he has been invited to fill in for another guest. Appalled by Linda’s choice of such an inferior candidate for her affections, not to mention his German roots, her father Uncle Matthew weeps throughout their entire wedding at St Margaret’s Westminster. Tony’s redeeming feature is, of course, his enormous wealth thanks to his father’s position at the Bank of England. Today’s Tony Kroesig would come from a distinguished line of Euro financiers. Educated at Harrow, not Eton (because he didn’t get in), Tony works for a boutique Hedge Fund in Mayfair. He lives in South Kensington and spends winter weekends at his parent’s chalet in Gstaad. You’ve probably seen him lingering in 151, waiting to buy you a drink.
Irony of ironies, Linda is introduced to Christian Talbot by her disapproving father-in-law Sir Leicester Kroesig at their suburban ‘overgrown cottage’ in Surrey. An ardent Communist, Christian takes to Linda immediately and invites her to join him in his political activism from his bedsit. A Christian Talbot for our times would be somewhere in between Ben Goldsmith and Swampy. An OE who went to Oxford, Christian has left his past behind to become an environmental activist on the Greta Thunberg trail. He lives in a commune of fellow environmentalists in Bruton, Somerset. His dress sense is at best described as raffish, at worst trampish. Friends from school who see him on the television protesting find him almost unrecognisable.
Fabrice de Sauveterre
Linda’s final suitor whom she meets at the Gare de Nord in Paris having been abandoned by Christian, is your archetypal French lover. Elegant, gentlemanly, and of course extremely handsome, Fabrice is the love of Linda’s life. For a modern-day equivalent, think a cross between the lineage Comte Alexandre de Lesseps with the sweeping good looks and mane of Pierre Casiraghi. If you want to find a 21st century Fabrice, you may have to persevere. Dividing his time between New York (he has a Harvard MBA) and the weddings of the smart set in Lichtenstein and Monaco, sightings of him are extremely rare. In Paris he wanders moodily around the Left Bank, fag in mouth, before retreating to his apartment near the Luxembourg.
Linda’s suitors are all, in some ways, both a corrective to and an affirmation of, her father Uncle Matthew. An ardent blood sports man, Uncle Matthew loathes Germans (for which see the entrenching tool in the hall at Alconleigh), hates leaving his house and despairs of his children whom he terrifies and enchants in equal measure. The glory of Mitford’s Uncle Matthew is that he is an anachronism in his own era, never mind ours. But I am convinced that Uncle Matthews exist today, too. A hard line Brexiteer who adores Nigel Farage and thinks the EU is a fascist bloc, Uncle Matthew lives in fear of a Labour government, or worse still, a Boris coup. Living in deepest Dorset, he shuns all visitors by unplugging the land line. He has been known to shoot cats from his bedroom window.
Fanny’s ‘stepfather’ Davey Warbeck marries Aunt Emily as a widow in later life. He is reassuringly aristocratic as Linda and Fanny are pleased to discover during his first trip to Alconleigh. Perpetually worried about his health, particularly during the period of evacuation and food rationing when war breaks out, Davey takes endless pills to alleviate his ailments. A Davey for our era would be thrilled by the advances in vegan food and the rewilding movement on his friends’ country estates. Much like Prince Charles, he would be strictly organic and wander around his garden talking to the plants. Although happiest at home, Davey can be found in Swiss spas taking advantage of the very best treatments in facial tissue regeneration and thalassotherapy.
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