London: Hamish Hamilton and The Book Society, 1954. Single volume, measuring 8.5 x 5 inches: , 275, . Original blue cloth lettered in silver, top edge stained red, original unclipped pictorial dust jacket designed by Cecil Beaton. Illustrated with black-and-white plates throughout text. Signed by Mitford in ink on the half-title. Pinpoint foxing to jacket, edges, and endpapers; light edgewear to jacket with tiny chips at corners.
First edition of the first of Nancy Mitford’s popular Versailles biographies, to be followed by Voltaire in Love in 1957 and The Sun King in 1966, signed by Mitford on the half-title. Mitford’s aristocratic background, social acuity, and piercing wit made her a sympathetic chronicler of pre-Revolutionary France. Her love of the arts may have suggested the subject of Pompadour, who delighted in beauty, and captivated Louis XV with her curiosity and enthusiasm: “She had all the gifts of a great amateur, erudition, tireless energy in searching for perfection, and an intuitive understanding of the creative temperament, which enabled her to make an artist do better than his best, and to impose her own ideas on him, without hurting his feelings.” Mitford’s long attachment to a womanizing French officer may also have led her to Pompadour, who could never marry the man she loved. This Book Society edition was issued concurrently with the trade edition “on the first publication in March, 1954.” A near-fine copy, scarce signed.