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Ian Hamilton

1 October 1998
Osbert Sitwell 
by Philip Ziegler.
Chatto, 461 pp., £25, May 1998, 1 85619 646 1
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... In February 1940, a Reynolds News reviewer wrote of the three Sitwells, Osbert, Edith and Sacheverell: ‘Now oblivion has claimed them, and they are remembered with a kindly if slightly cynical smile.’ And this, I suppose, is more or less how they are thought of now. Edith’s dark vowels still find their way into anthologies ...


José Harris

24 July 1986
Wallis and Edward: Letters 1931-1937 
edited by Michael Bloch.
Weidenfeld, 308 pp., £12.95, May 1986, 0 297 78804 3
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Rat Week: An Essay on the Abdication 
by Osbert Sitwell.
Joseph, 78 pp., £7.95, May 1986, 0 7181 1859 6
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... them’ is doomed to failure in advance. Neither Michael Bloch’s cautious scholarship nor Osbert Sitwell’s posthumous malice will erode posterity’s obstinate penchant for romantic love. Having said that, it has to be admitted that both the volumes under review are full of historical insights of the most intriguing and unexpected kind. At the ...
5 August 1982
... the First World War, Ada Leverson’s company was sought by a younger generation of gifted men (Osbert and Sacheverell Sitwell, Harold and Willie Acton, Ronald Firbank, Raymond Mortimer) who saw her as an intriguing survivor from the faded Yellow Book past. Encouraged by these, she published a slim volume containing her ...

Mauve Monkeys

William Fiennes

18 September 1997
Wilde’s Last Stand: Decadence, Conspiracy and the First World War 
by Philip Hoare.
Duckworth, 250 pp., £16.95, July 1997, 0 7156 2737 6
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... First World War seem now to have been leisure’s golden age. Recalling the summers of 1913-14, Osbert Sitwell noted that ‘one band in a house was no longer enough, there must be two, three even.’ House parties were distinguished by an abundance of exotic flowers, and mounds of peaches, figs, nectarines and strawberries ripening in ‘steamy tents ...

Sonata for Second Fiddle

Penelope Fitzgerald

7 October 1982
A Half of Two Lives: A Personal Memoir 
by Alison Waley.
Weidenfeld, 326 pp., £10.95, September 1982, 0 297 78156 1
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... an American interviewer, who was surprised to find that Waley’s recreation was skiing (or, as Osbert Sitwell puts it, ‘practising obsolete Esquimaux tricks’), but only as a lone figure on the high snow slopes. ‘His gesture was courtly in salutation,’ wrote Basil Gray: ‘he enjoyed conversation, but never spoke himself unless he had something ...


J.I.M. Stewart

19 March 1981
Abroad: British Literary Travelling Between the Wars 
by Paul Fussell.
Oxford, 246 pp., £8.95, March 1981, 0 19 502767 1
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... front-line mind’. Artists and poets and writers generally show a particular dislike of warfare; Osbert Sitwell sees it as necessarily coincident with a hatred of poetry and a contempt for beauty; it is in the British in particular that D.H. Lawrence judges it to intensify the innate philistinism of mankind in general. So what follows hard upon the end ...

Back to back

Peter Campbell

4 December 1980
Edwin Lutyens 
by Mary Lutyens.
Murray, 294 pp., £12.95, October 1980, 0 7195 3777 0
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... carpenter’s shop, or that solitariness was not a stimulus for imagination. Indeed, he said to Osbert Sitwell that ‘any talent I may have was due to a long illness as a boy, which afforded me time to think, and to subsequent ill-health, because I was not allowed to play games and so had to teach myself, for my enjoyment, to use my eyes instead of my ...

Bypass Variegated

Rosemary Hill: Osbert Lancaster

21 January 2016
Osbert Lancaster’s Cartoons, Columns and Curlicues: ‘Pillar to Post’, ‘Homes Sweet Homes’, ‘Drayneflete Revealed’ 
by Osbert Lancaster.
Pimpernel, 304 pp., £40, October 2015, 978 1 910258 37 8
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... Arriving​ at his prep school in the bleak winter of 1918 the ten-year-old Osbert Lancaster was made even more miserable than the average new bug by the fact that St Ronan’s, Worthing was a spectacularly sporty school. The headmaster, Stanley Harris, had captained England at football and was also a distinguished cricketer and rugby player ...


Jason Harding: George Moore

21 September 2000
George Moore, 1852-1933 
by Adrian Frazier.
Yale, 604 pp., £29.95, May 2000, 0 300 08245 2
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... who fleetingly glimpsed the man behind the mask were always puzzled. In Great Morning!, Osbert Sitwell recalled that when Moore ‘had said something that he hoped would appal everyone in the room . . . a seraphic smile would come over his face, and remain on it, imparting to it a kind of illumination of virtue, like a saint’. Despite his ...
6 December 1984
Matriarch: Queen Mary and the House of Windsor 
by Anne Edwards.
Hodder, 462 pp., £12.95, September 1984, 0 340 24465 8
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... woman, a mother of kings, wasted and frustrated because she did not know what next to be at. Sir Osbert Sitwell, a frequent visitor to Badminton, detected many ‘Rumanian traits’ in the Queen (there were family links with Transylvania) and among these were ‘the manner in which she smoked cigarettes; her love of jewels, and the way she wore ...

Victorian Piles

David Cannadine

18 March 1982
The Albert Memorial: The Monument in its Social and Architectural Context 
by Stephen Bayley.
Scholar Press, 160 pp., £18.50, September 1981, 0 85967 594 7
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Victorian and Edwardian Town Halls 
by Colin Cunningham.
Routledge, 315 pp., £25, July 1981, 9780710007230
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... confection of gingerbread which ought to be under a glass shade on a giant’s mantlepiece’. Osbert Sitwell, by contrast, thought it a ‘wistful, unique monument of widowhood’, but R.G. Collingwood found it to be ‘visibly misshapen, corrupt, crawling, verminous’. Hermione Gingold, on the other hand, presumably unaware of this swingeing ...
18 September 1980
The Private Diaries of Sir H. Rider Haggard, 1914-1925 
edited by D.S. Higgins.
Cassell, 299 pp., £14.95, May 1980, 0 304 30611 8
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... post-war dissidents and exiles such as Aldous Huxley and Norman Douglas and D.H. Lawrence and Osbert Sitwell to the hot beaches of the Mediterranean and the ‘lakes of light’ in Northern Italy and Mexico. But Haggard was not their kind, and with the exception of a trip to Egypt, after the war he stayed in England, attending his ...
4 April 1991
After Hours with P.G. Wodehouse 
by Richard Usborne.
Hutchinson, 201 pp., £15.99, February 1991, 0 09 174712 0
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... in Norfolk the rule was: HM the Queen and Miss A.C. Henderson alt. Other lay patrons included Sir Osbert Sitwell, Certain Landowners of Colton and two peers who at that time had had eight wives between them. Again, would Wodehouse have dared? It is good news that the man who solved the Tanagra figurine mystery has tracked down the Infant Samuel at ...

Thanks to the Fels-Naptha Soap King

Miles Taylor: George Lansbury

22 May 2003
George Lansbury: At the Heart of Old Labour 
by John Shepherd.
Oxford, 407 pp., £35, September 2002, 0 19 820164 8
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... Belloc, G.K. Chesterton, H.G. Wells, George Bernard Shaw, the young Rebecca West (briefly) and Osbert Sitwell, in addition to G.D.H. Cole and the gifted cartoonist Will Dyson. Later, as leader of the Labour Party in the 1930s, Lansbury presided over a renaissance of intellectual socialism, as Fabians, Socialist Leaguers, ILP-ers, and a long tail of ...


Ian Hamilton

28 September 1989
Wartime: Understanding and Behaviour in the Second World War 
by Paul Fussell.
Oxford, 330 pp., £15, September 1989, 0 19 503797 9
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War like a Wasp: The Lost Decade of the Forties 
by Andrew Sinclair.
Hamish Hamilton, 312 pp., £17.95, October 1989, 0 241 12531 6
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... for home-front ironists like Henry Reed or look-the-other-way aesthetes like Cyril Connolly or Osbert Sitwell. As it turns out, and this is a paradox that runs throughout the book, his hostility to America’s ‘unironic’ temper, to its earnestness and sentimentality, is of such depth and ferocity that it leads him to over-value almost any piece of ...

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