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‘Turbot, sir,’ said the waiter

E.S. Turner, 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 ...

Two Ediths and a Hermit

Raleigh Trevelyan, 5 September 1985

... Therefore I used pseudonyms. Now I can say that a character I called Lady Kathleen V – was Edith Sitwell. She and I became friends eventually, but for a while I was in hot water. It began with my discovery of the diary of Jimmy Mason, known as the Hermit of Great Canfield, in the loft of my parents’ house. I was 16 at the time, and any schoolboy would have ...

We were the Lambert boys

Paul Driver, 22 May 1986

The Lamberts: George, Constant and Kit 
by Andrew Motion.
Chatto, 388 pp., £13.95, April 1986, 0 7011 2731 7
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... possessed of a deep and strange Englishness), or crucially transforms its text by Sacheverell Sitwell and assures itself a popularity, again like Façade’s, beyond the ephemeral. The Rio Grande (1927) – a mere quarter-of-an-hour of music for chorus, an orchestra woodwind-less but heavy with percussion, and prominent piano obbligato – is sui generis ...

No False Modesty

Rosemary Hill: Edith Sitwell, 20 October 2011

Edith SitwellAvant-Garde Poet, English Genius 
by Richard Greene.
Virago, 532 pp., £25, March 2011, 978 1 86049 967 8
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... to hang bells in’ was, apparently, the response of one American visitor to a portrait of Edith Sitwell in the Tate. Elizabeth Bowen, herself an imposing physical presence, described Sitwell in real life as like ‘a high altar on the move’, and Virginia Woolf, on first encountering her in 1918, noted that she was ‘a ...

Diners-out

E.S. Turner, 3 July 1986

Augustus Hare: Victorian Gentleman 
by Malcolm Barnes.
Allen and Unwin, 240 pp., £20, May 1986, 9780049201002
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Midway on the Waves 
by James Lees-Milne.
Faber, 248 pp., £10.95, October 1985, 0 571 13723 7
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... to drink’, which may well have stimulated Nancy Mitford to write her essay on Hare.) Sir Osbert Sitwell has testified to the mild panic which met Hare’s arrival at a garden party at Renishaw, when ‘the ladies held their hats to their heads and fled, fearing that he might include them in his next book.’ A useful peep, to be ...

Porcupined

John Bayley, 22 June 1989

The Essential Wyndham Lewis 
edited by Julian Symons.
Deutsch, 380 pp., £17.95, April 1989, 0 233 98376 7
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... Apes of God. Symons suggests comparing a portrait, even a photograph, with this prose picture of Osbert Sitwell, served up as Lord Osmund Finnian-Shaw. In colour Lord Osmund was pale coral, with flaxen hair brushed tightly back, his blond pencilled pap rising straight from his sloping forehead: galb-like wings to his nostrils – the goat-like profile ...

Blowing Cigarette Smoke at Greenfly

E.S. Turner: The Beastliness of Saki, 24 August 2000

The Unrest-Cure and Other Beastly Tales 
by Saki.
Prion, 297 pp., £8.99, May 2000, 9781853753701
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... side to be heart-stoppingly hideous. Saki’s silly asses, or smartasses, had something of what Osbert Sitwell described as ‘concave and fatigued elegance’. There was no need to be epicene in order to throw off epigrams, but it helped. These soigné posers were decidedly not the sort of young men who cannot wait to turn their sisters into ...

Maisie’s Sisters

Ruth Bernard Yeazell: Sargent’s Daughters, 5 August 2010

Sargent’s Daughters: The Biography of a Painting 
by Erica Hirshler.
MFA, 262 pp., £23.95, October 2009, 978 0 87846 742 6
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... the Gilded Age only encouraged the imputations of superficiality. ‘Looking at his portraits’, Osbert Sitwell said, Sargent’s subjects ‘understood at last how rich they really were’. ‘Le chef de rayon de la peinture’ – the department store manager of painting – is how Degas characterised him. John Singer Sargent, ‘The Daughters of ...

The Last Intellectual

Rosemary Hill: The Queen Mother’s Letters, 6 December 2012

Counting One’s Blessings: The Selected Letters of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother 
edited by William Shawcross.
Macmillan, 666 pp., £25, October 2012, 978 0 230 75496 6
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... of middle-aged Britons; ‘what a lot of war we have seen in our generation,’ she wrote to Osbert Sitwell, noting how her own daughters were growing up as she had done, puzzled and alarmed by their parents’ sadness. Her contemporaries were always her most consistent admirers. This shared experience of war was surely the reason and this the ...

Hobohemianism

Blake Morrison, 30 June 2011

The Autobiography of a Super-Tramp 
by W.H. Davies.
Amberley, 192 pp., £14.99, September 2010, 978 1 84868 980 0
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... bad if 30 sheep only died out of 2000. Davies did not always feel the same compassion for humans. Osbert Sitwell, who knew him later in London, was struck by his animosity to black men, and the autobiography bears him out. An eyewitness account of a lynching near Memphis is devoid of any sympathy for the victim. And after being mugged in the ...

Cad’s Cadenzas

Christopher Driver, 15 September 1988

William Walton: Behind the Façade 
by Susana Walton.
Oxford, 255 pp., £12.95, February 1988, 0 19 315156 1
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Façade: Edith Sitwell Interpreted 
by Pamela Hunter.
Duckworth, 106 pp., £10.95, September 1987, 9780715621844
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... how the 17-year-old Christ Church music scholar might or might have not developed had Sacheverell Sitwell not met him and decided that his ‘very clever-shaped head’ recalled John Wesley. Of William’s Sitwell friends, Sachie was the intimate, however exhausting: ‘one weekend at Sachie’s house in Weston, he had ...

Trouble down there

Ferdinand Mount: Tea with Sassoon, 7 August 2003

Siegfried Sassoon: The Making of a War Poet 1886-1918 
by Jean Moorcroft Wilson.
Duckworth, 600 pp., £9.99, September 2002, 0 7156 2894 1
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Siegfried Sassoon: The Journey from the Trenches 1918-67 
by Jean Moorcroft Wilson.
Duckworth, 526 pp., £30, April 2003, 0 7156 2971 9
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Sassoon: The Worlds of Philip and Sybil 
by Peter Stansky.
Yale, 295 pp., £25, April 2003, 0 300 09547 3
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... pretending that their kinship was rather distant. The one time they met properly, at dinner with Osbert Sitwell, Philip told Sitwell how bad ‘The Old Huntsman’ was, while Siegfried told him how jealous Philip was of his literary fame. During the General Strike, Siegfried enjoyed contemplating the possibility that ...

Sacred Monster

Graham Hough, 20 August 1981

Edith SitwellA Unicorn among Lions 
by Victoria Glendinning.
Weidenfeld, 391 pp., £9.95, July 1981, 0 297 77801 3
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... where we never know what it is we are being asked to admire, their life-style or their art. Edith Sitwell comes in this class, and Victoria Glendinning’s biography brings these dubieties to the surface again. She is much aware of them herself, and she begins her book by asking – or almost asking – the unforgivable, inescapable preliminary question: is ...

Attila the Hus

Mary-Kay Wilmers, 4 November 1982

Rules of the Game: Sir Oswald and Lady Cynthia Mosley 1896-1933 
by Nicholas Mosley.
Secker, 274 pp., £8.95, October 1982, 0 436 28849 4
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... an affair with a mutual friend with whom they had been in Venice the previous summer. (Georgia Sitwell: ‘Of course we all went to bed with him, but afterwards we were rather ashamed.’) Anxious to speak in Parliament about a crisis in Mesopotamia, Mosley returned to England ten days before his wife. The following quotations are from the letters they ...

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