Sitwell, Dame Edith

Sitwell, Dame Edith

▪ British poet

born Sept. 7, 1887, Scarborough, Yorkshire, Eng.
died Dec. 9, 1964, London
 English poet who first gained fame for her stylistic artifices but who emerged during World War II as a poet of emotional depth and profoundly human concerns. She was equally famed for her formidable personality, Elizabethan dress, and eccentric opinions.

      A member of a distinguished literary family, she was the daughter of Sir George Sitwell and the sister of Sir Osbert and Sir Sacheverell Sitwell. Her first book, The Mother and Other Poems, appeared in 1915. She began to attract attention by editing in 1916 an annual anthology, Wheels, in which she and her brothers led a spirited revolt against the prevailing poetry of the Georgians. The notoriety sought by the Sitwells in their artistic battles may, at the time, have obscured the originality of her talent. The visual sensibility and verbal music of her early poetry, Clowns' Houses (1918), Bucolic Comedies (1923), and The Sleeping Beauty (1924), in which she created her own world of beautiful objects, nursery symbols, and unfamiliar images, revealed the influence of W.B. Yeats and T.S. Eliot. Her emphasis on the value of sound in poetry was shown especially in Façade (1923), for which William Walton wrote a musical accompaniment. Gold Coast Customs (1929), with its harsher and more agonized imagery, marked the end of a period of experiment. In 1930 her Collected Poems appeared.

      In her later work, especially Street Songs (1942), Green Song (1944), and Song of the Cold (1945), written during World War II, a greater mastery of technique and a deeper sense of suffering and spirituality are apparent. The religious symbolism that informs Sitwell's war poetry was further emphasized in Gardeners and Astronomers (1953) and The Outcasts (1962), works that brought her wide recognition as a poet of tragic grandeur and intensity.

      Her wide reading and scholarship and her predilection for the splendours of a lost aristocratic age are revealed in the prose works Alexander Pope (1930), Bath (1932), The English Eccentrics (1933), I Live Under a Black Sun (1937; a novel based on the life of Jonathan Swift), A Poet's Notebook (1943), and A Notebook on William Shakespeare (1948). She made visits to the United States, where, in 1953 in Hollywood, she completed the film script of her book on the girlhood of Elizabeth I, A Fanfare for Elizabeth (first published 1946). Her Selected Letters (1970; also published as Selected Letters, 1919–1964) were edited by John Lehmann and Derek Parker. She was created Dame of the British Empire in 1954.

Additional Reading
John Pearson, Façades: Edith, Osbert, and Sacheverell Sitwell (1978, also published as The Sitwells, 1979); Victoria Glendinning, Edith Sitwell, a Unicorn Among Lions (1981).

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Universalium. 2010.

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  • Dame Edith Louisa Sitwell — noun English poet (1887 1964) • Syn: ↑Sitwell, ↑Dame Edith Sitwell • Instance Hypernyms: ↑poet …   Useful english dictionary

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  • Sitwell Family, Edith, Osbert and Sacheverell — (1887 1988)    The Sitwells were probably the most famous literary family of their time. They were the children of Sir George Reresby Sitwell 4th Baronet, and his wife, Lady Ida Emily Augusta Denison, daughter of the Earl of Londesborough. They… …   British and Irish poets

  • Sitwell — noun English poet (1887 1964) • Syn: ↑Dame Edith Sitwell, ↑Dame Edith Louisa Sitwell • Instance Hypernyms: ↑poet * * * Sitwell [Sitwell] the name of a sister and two brothers of an ↑ …   Useful english dictionary

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  • Sitwell — [sit′wəl, sit′wel] 1. Dame Edith 1887 1964; Eng. poet & critic: sister of Osbert & Sacheverell 2. Sir Osbert [äz′bərt] 1892 1969; Eng. poet & essayist 3. Sacheverell [sə shev′ər əl] 1897 1988; Eng. poet & art critic …   English World dictionary

  • Edith Sitwell — Roger Fry: Porträt von Edith Sitwell, Öl auf Leinwand, 1915 Dame Edith Louisa Sitwell DBE (* 7. September 1887 in Scarborough; † 9. Dezember 1964 in London) war eine britische Dichterin …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Sitwell Baronets — The Sitwell Baronetcy, of Renishaw in the County of Derby, is a title in the Baronetage of the United Kingdom. It was created on 3 October 1808 for Sitwell Sitwell, Member of Parliament for West Looe. The Sitwell family had been ironmasters and… …   Wikipedia

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