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First edition
(publ. Hamish Hamilton)

Love in a Cold Climate is a novel by Nancy Mitford, first published in 1949. The title is a direct quotation from George Orwell's novel Keep the Aspidistra Flying (1936).


Plot summaryEdit

Love in a Cold Climate is a companion volume to The Pursuit of Love. The time frame of Love in a Cold Climate is the same as The Pursuit of Love, but the focus is on a different set of characters. Fanny remains the fictional narrator. In The Pursuit of Love, Fanny narrates the story of her cousin Linda Radlett. In Love in a Cold Climate, Fanny narrates the story of Polly, to whom Fanny is distantly related through her father's family. Lady Leopoldina [Polly] Hampton, is the only child of the supremely aristocratic and very rich Earl of Montdore [fictional title] and his wife, Sonia. Lady Montdore is a product of the minor ranks of the aristocracy and her marriage to an earl is regarded as a social coup on her part. She is depicted by Fanny, as an avaricious, greedy snob, but not without charm. Her thrusting personality, allied to her husband's impeccable social standing, riches and political influence makes her a formidable woman. Lady Montdore, unbeknown to Lord Montdore, takes advantage of her husband's reputation to forward her own career as a hostess and manipulator of her social circle. After 20 years of marriage and no children, "Lady Montdore began to feel less well than usual". The result is Polly. So beautiful and so perfect, the narrator, Fanny, adores Polly, as do her parents. Fanny loses contact with Polly, when Lord Montdore is sent as Viceroy of India.

Fanny receives an invitation to visit the Montdores at Hampton, their country house upon the family's return from India. Fanny is torn between her affection for Polly and her anxiety about the complex social issues involved in such a visit. Her reunion with Polly is successful in that the two young women rekindle their childhood affection and establish a mature friendship. Fanny, the readers' informant, has great affection for Polly, but is aware of Polly's reticence in revealing her personal feelings. Unlike Fanny's Radlett cousins who "told everything", Polly reveals little of herself. Slightly older than Fanny, Polly has "come out" in India and as such a beautiful and socially important debutante, is expected to have a very successful season in London. The standing of the Montdore family is such that the beautiful Polly is expected to have her pick of all the eligible bachelors in the country. However, Polly consistently demonstrates a total lack of interest in the London season and all of the men she meets. She tells Fanny that when she "came out " in India, she found the whole thing very boring. Love affairs, so common in India, do not interest Polly, but she is hoping that "in a cold climate", society will be less interested in love affairs. Lady Montdore, hoping that Polly will make an important marriage, is exasperated by her daughter's apparent indifference to love and marriage. "Important" potential suitors acknowledge that Polly is very beautiful, but find her cold and aloof. The self-contained Polly reveals to no one that she has been in love with her uncle, "Boy" Dougdale [the husband of her paternal aunt, Lady Patricia] since she was 14. Boy is snobbish, spending his time writing books about the aristocracy, and sexually rapacious; his many affairs are common knowledge to both his wife and society at large. Fanny and her Radlett cousins have long suspected that the sexually ambiguous Boy, whom they have named the "Lecherous Lecturer," has paedophile tendencies and he is a joke amongst Fanny's cousins for his inappropriate touches and furtive, "lecherous" behaviour towards young girls. Polly marries her widowed uncle, shortly after her aunt's death, causing a scandal in her social circle and distressing her parents deeply. It is also known in these circles that Boy has been Lady Montdore's lover for many years, unbeknown to Polly. Polly is excluded from her father's will upon her marriage and she and Boy ostracised from society. They move to Sicily and away from Fanny for several years.

Polly's place in the family is filled by the heir to Lord Montdore's entailed fortune and title, Cedric Hampton. Born in Nova Scotia to a minor member of the Montdore family, Cedric has cast off his colonial origins and has used his exceptional good looks and personal charm to establish a place within the homosexual milieu of the European aristocracy. Cedric has lived a life of luxury as the lover of rich and aristocratic men. Currently out of favour in that quarter, Cedric accepts an invitation to visit the Montdores. His natural love of beauty, innate good taste and his careful use of flattery, enable Cedric to win the affections of Lord and Lady Montdore and many others. Cedric focuses his attentions upon Lady Montdore in particular and encourages her to update her wardrobe and general appearance and revive her interest in social matters, which has diminished since the "loss" of her lover and her daughter. Lady Montdore uses Cedric's popularity and charm to reestablish herself as a leading society hostess, to Cedric's advantage.

Fanny, as a regular visitor to the Montdores, shares with her readers all of the activities of the Montdore household and Cedric soon becomes one of her close friends. Polly, heavily pregnant, returns from Sicily with Boy. The marriage has turned sour and Fanny notes that neither Polly nor Boy is in love any more. Polly is regularly visited by the elderly Duke of Paddington [a fictional title] while pregnant, who lavishes her with luxurious flowers and attention. Polly reconciles with her mother after bearing a child who dies shortly after its birth. Cedric and Boy meet and fall in love. "Cedric arranged the whole thing perfectly", according to Fanny. While Polly recovers from the difficult birth, Cedric whisks Boy and Lady Montdore to France, leaving Polly free to be carried off by the elderly Duke. While this outcome shocks the conservative social circles in which they mix, Fanny takes a broader minded view, pleased to see people she loves each finding happiness in their own way.


  • Polly Hampton, the daughter of Lord and Lady Montdore, is renowned for her beauty but not much else
  • Lady Montdore, Polly's abrasive, narcissistic and inconsiderate mother
  • Lord Montdore, Polly's kindly and rather dull father and the previous Viceroy of India
  • Fanny Wincham, the narrator, is a distant cousin of Polly and a frequent visitor of the family.
  • Linda Radlett, Fanny's cousin and best friend, daughter of Lord and Lady Alconleigh. Her relationships form a central part of story in The Pursuit of Love.
  • Louisa Radlett, eldest daughter of Lord and Lady Alconleigh, marries Lord Fortwilliam.
  • Cedric Hampton, the heir to Hampton and a close friend of Fanny's, is flagrantly homosexual and extremely charming. He causes a great deal of gossip and scandal, yet most people are won over by his charm once they meet him. Once he arrives at Hampton, he spends most of his time making over his aunt
  • Harvey "Boy" Dougdale, husband of Lord Montdore's sister Patricia and later the husband of Polly Hampton. Boy is bisexual and known for his extremely active sex life
  • Lady Patricia Dougdale, whom Polly is said to resemble, is the wife of Boy Dougdale. Patricia pined for Boy for several years before he finally married her, but within six months of the wedding Patricia became aware of her husband's extramarital affairs. She was long afflicted with ill health and her death is a major plot point in the story
  • Davey Warbeck, Fanny's uncle and close friend of the Montdores and the Alconleighs
  • Jassy Radlett, Fanny's cousin, is a regular visitor who never fails to cheer up Fanny
  • Victoria Radlett, Jassy's younger sister, and likewise one of Fanny's most welcome visitors
  • Matthew Alconleigh, father of Jassy and Victoria and uncle to Fanny, Matthew is notable for his intense loathing of Cedric Hampton
  • Sadie Alconleigh, Fanny's aunt and mother of Jassy and Victoria, is a close friend of the Montdores
  • Alfred Wincham, an Oxford don and Fanny's husband. Although Fanny often claims that she and her husband are perfectly suited for one another, Alfred is often dismissive of his wife's behaviour and interests
  • Norma Boreley, Fanny's neighbour, is one of her closest friends despite their many differences in temperament
  • Mrs. Chaddesley Corbett, the most popular and prominent socialite of her day and an important visitor at Hampton
  • Fabrice de Sauveterre, a wealthy French duke and a guest at Hampton. Sauveterre is a major character in The Pursuit of Love


Don't Tell Alfred (1960) is a sequel to the novel giving further insight into the married life of Fanny and Alfred.

Television adaptationsEdit

Love in a Cold Climate has been adapted twice as a mini-series:

Both versions were broadcast in the US by PBS as part of Masterpiece Theatre.

External linksEdit