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Book Release: A Constant Heart

Seven years' worth of diary entries, detailing the thoughts, experiences, joys and trials of Maud Russell, a single woman during the Second World War, have been published as a fascinating new book by the granddaughter of the author, Emily Russell.

A Constant Heart, edited by Emily Russell published in hardback by The Dovecote Press in March 2017 and in paperback in August 2017.

Antiques News & Fairs - The War Diaries of Maud Russell

The War Diaries of Maud Russell show life in England in the Second World War through the eyes of an independent woman who was a patron and one of the first serious female collectors of Modern Art, and who regularly rubbed shoulders with some of the biggest names of the political and artistic scene in mid-C20th Britain.

Maud Russell (1891-1982) was the daughter of German immigrants who settled in London in the 1880s.  She married aristocrat Gilbert Russell, which lead to a life of socialising with the famous writers, artists and musicians, and many powerful politicians and their families. 

She was an avid reader and writer, keeping a diary for 40 years from 1937.  Her 1938-1945 entries are some of the last unpublished Second World War diaries.

Her granddaughter, Emily Russell, began reading Maud’s diaries in 2014 and has edited them for publication, along with useful explanations throughout to provide context and help the reader be fully aware of the bigger picture.

Antiques News & Fairs - The War Diaries of Maud Russell

Family Picture: Emily Russell sitting by her grandmother Maud's feet (on the left) in the Whistler Room at Mottisfont

The loss of her husband at the age of 50 meant Maud had to reinvent herself as a single woman, bravely taking a job in the Admiralty's wartime propaganda unit.  Her diaries reveal her views on the Second World War, life in London and Hampshire, her efforts to obtain visas to England for her Jewish relatives in Germany, her intimate friendship with author Ian Fleming (she gave him the money for his Jamaican house where James Bond was 'born'), a meeting in Paris with Matisse who drew her portrait, and more.

The entries show a strong, independent woman with a gift for observation, a sense of humour, a worldly outlook, critical judgement and an insatiable curiosity about life and people.

Maud Russell established herself as an important patron of the arts and a collector of Modern Art, controversially took a younger lover in Ian Fleming, and maintained a long term relationship with the Russian mosaic artist Boris Anrep, sharing him with his common-law wife. 

She successfully and effortlessly combined Bloomsbury bohemia with the conservative aristocratic circle she married into and her background as a Jewish-German heiress.

Emily Russell says: “My grandmother's diaries took me by surprise, I hadn't realised what a varied life she had led and there were many revealing family stories. I realised the diaries would also be of interest to a wider public as they portray such a crucial historical period and also prominent people of the day. I think Maud is an excellent example of how the war made women more independent and how their position in society changed for the better.”

A Constant Heart - The War Diaries of Maud Russell, 1938-1945 is available in hardback and paperback format from both traditional and online bookstores.

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