I just finished a book called Darling Monster…a collection of intimate correspondence Lady Diana Manners Cooper wrote to her only son, John Julius (now 85), between the years 1939-1952 beautifully edited by him.
It was given to me by a friend who appreciates my love of letters. You truly feel like a fly on the wall, and a privileged one at that, peeking into the personal thoughts and feelings of another. Diana, I’ll call her, now that I feel we’re best friends, didn’t disappoint.
Diana Cooper, Viscountess Norwich (née Lady Diana Manners; 29 August 1892 – 16 June 1986), was a prominent and beautiful social figure in London and Paris. The young Diana moved in a celebrated group of intellectuals, but most of the men of this group were killed in World War I. She married one of the few survivors, Duff Cooper, later Ambassador to France who died in 1954 at the age of 63.
The letters take you most vividly through the Second World War, prying open your heart since John Julius, at seven, is sent to America to live out of harms way with William and Dorothy Paley, friends of his parents. One forgets there ever was a Mrs. Paley before Babe (Barbra Cushing Mortimer Paley, famous social icon), but there was between the years 1932 and 1947. Bill Paley created The Columbia Broadcasting System otherwise known as CBS.
The Coopers were married happily for thirty-five years, if you discount Duff’s parade of mistresses Diana knew all about. The way I understand it, once a woman was past her childbearing years she was replaced by a series of younger ones right under her nose and often in her own home. Diana tells her son she approved of most of them unless of course, they were beneath his father…badaboom. I wish she really was trying to be funny, but alas, Diana was telling the truth.
This always throws me not being the type of woman who could ever share a man. I’d walk away before accepting duel partnership for lack of a sprucer term. Of course our culture disapproves of double-dipping and Diana, who too had a dalliance or two, was raised to accept and wisely look the other way. But according to her son who pens a little intro to each chapter, his mother loved his father passionately until she died in 1986 at 94.
When he asked her, didn’t she mind all these other woman, she said, Why would I, if they made your father happy. I always knew, they were the flowers, but I was the tree.
I cried when I read that. If you sift between her words you feel the pain she successfully disguised for those not wishing to see it.
Women love down to their socks and hurt when infidelity rears its ugly head. Sex means little to a man…like one more round of golf…and we’re expected to understand when he comes home weary from wandering, wearing another woman’s scent.
Made me think of L’wren Scot, Mick Jagger’s designer girlfriend who committed suicide three weeks ago. When everyone was blaming her plummeting business I was thinking, she didn’t exit because of that…she loved this man madly and it was the only way she could leave him. My theory was met by many arched brows, but first thoughts are always the ones to consider. Can you imagine being the long time girlfriend of the most famous rock and roller of all time? “But Mick was so beside himself,” my friend Joanne said. “It was obvious he was devastated.” All I could say about that is guilt and grief look very much alike, and if it were me, I don’t think I could resume my tour barely three weeks later. I might have mourned a bit longer, even to just make it look good to the press.
But back to Diana and Duff…
Duff Cooper was considered quite the stud in his day even fathering another child by Susan Mary Alsop, wife of American journalist Joseph Alsop, a fact that came out years later. I read her bio as well (American Lady, Caroline de Mergerie) and one could say, Duff broke many a heart along those white cliffs of Dover tossing them out like litter.
Brings up conscience along with penises that never know when to quit, and this was way before Viagra hit the nightstand.
Like Diana, when I love I love big, but certainly don’t possess her patience, politesse and equanimity.
No, I would have killed old Duff in his sleep then got myself a good lawyer.
However, I do recommend her letters where candor, poignancy and a hint of denial eloquently rule.