JANUARY 28, 1952
PARIS, Sunday—Before I left home, someone gave me a book called "The Blessing," by Nancy Mitford, and I have just found a little leisure lately in the middle of the night to read something lighter than government reports. I am told that if you know Paris society you can pick out all the characters in this book. But as I don't know Paris society, nor enough gossip even in my own New York or Washington to pick out characters of this kind, I can only say that I did enjoy the understanding of certain French points of view not universally held today, but more prevalent certainly in my generation or even my mother-in-law's generation than they are now.
There are few men left anywhere in the world today who could live the kind of life the charming Frenchman in the book lived. He was almost a professional art collector. He restricted his real business to the fewest possible hours, and when he was not collecting objets d'art he was occupied with the next most important business—the art of making love to many beautiful ladies! The little boy who is the "blessing" is simply unbearable, but a perfect product of his environment; and the end is the real French ending. The woman who learns to be charming, to bring up a family and to make a delightful home will in the end hold even a husband who enjoys pretty ladies perhaps a bit too much.
I would not recommend this book to anyone as a real picture of France. It is a picture of a certain kind of society which once upon a time existed in more than one area of the world, but which is now passing into the realm of back history.
Madame Leon Blum was kind enough to give me a book which is very difficult to find, since it was written in French from notes made by her husband during the last month of their wartime imprisonment. Called "The Last Month," it is really little more than a pamphlet; but it is a moving and touching story. One feels what the prisoners went through as they were herded from one prison to another, never knowing whether at the next stop the end of their journey would be death or whether liberation might save them. One gets the feeling that all were prepared to die, and that perhaps one of the consolations of going through these experiences was the realization of how fine people can be.
Since there is quite a large Communist group in France, it is not surprising that one receives much the same type of letters that come from Communist groups anywhere else in the world. A few letters are personal and use vulgar, almost slanderous, language; others hide behind high-sounding phrases. I received one the other day, for instance, begging me in the name of all the mothers in a certain area to use my influence to bring about peace through the United Nations. They sometimes appeal to my husband's memory, saying that he would have understood this desire, forgetting that he was one of the first people to say that war could only be abolished when we set up guarantees for peace.