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26 October 1989
Sylvia Townsend WarnerA Biography 
by Claire Harman.
Chatto, 358 pp., £16.95, July 1989, 0 7011 2938 7
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For SylviaAn Honest Account 
by Valentine Ackland.
Chatto, 135 pp., £6.95, July 1989, 9780701135621
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... Before she was born, SylviaTownsendWarner was called Andrew. When she was seven, her mother took against her for failing to be pretty and failing to be male; by the time she was 17 she was known to the boys of Harrow, where her father was a ...

Keeping warm

Penelope Fitzgerald

30 December 1982
Letters of Sylvia Townsend​ Warner 
Chatto, 311 pp., £15, October 1982, 0 7011 2603 5Show More
The Portrait of a Tortoise 
by Gilbert White and Sylvia Townsend Warner.
Virago, 63 pp., £3.50, October 1981, 0 86068 218 8
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Sylvia Townsend WarnerCollected Poems 
edited by Claire Harman.
Carcanet, 290 pp., £9.95, July 1982, 0 85635 339 6
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Scenes of Childhood and Other Stories 
by Sylvia Townsend Warner.
Chatto, 177 pp., £6.50, September 1981, 0 7011 2516 0
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... SylviaTownsendWarner expected her correspondence to be published, indeed she sensibly provided for it. ‘I love reading Letters myself,’ she told William Maxwell, her literary executor, ‘and I can imagine enjoying ...


Frank Kermode

21 July 1994
The Diaries of Sylvia Townsend​ Warner 
edited by Claire Harman.
Chatto, 384 pp., £25, June 1994, 0 7011 3659 6
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Sylvia​ and David: The Townsend​ Warner/Garnett Letters 
Sinclair-Stevenson, 246 pp., £20, June 1994, 1 85619 341 1Show More
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... SylviaTownsendWarner died in 1978, aged 84. Her first novel, Lolly Willowes, appeared in 1926, and none of her later works quite matched its success. In her later years she was probably better known to most people as a ...

The Method of Drifting

Ian Patterson: John Craske

9 September 2015
Threads: The Delicate Life of John Craske 
by Julia Blackburn.
Cape, 344 pp., £25, April 2015, 978 0 224 09776 5
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... in the book: among other things, we pick up information about the Glandford Shell Museum, the Little Auk, Gilbert White, sea fishing, the Elephant Man, Edwardian Sheringham, Valentine Ackland and SylviaTownsendWarner, embroidery technique, Edward Meyerstein, Walt Disney, the Norfolk Giant, the pituitary gland, diabetes, MI5, and Einstein, who stayed at a (not very) ‘secret location’ on ...

At the British Museum

Peter Campbell: Samuel Palmer’s dream landscapes

17 November 2005
... early night scenes. It finds echoes in English romantic painting of the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, but closer to it are the slightly spooky depths of rural England evoked by novelists like T.F. Powys, SylviaTownsendWarner and David Garnett ...

At Tate Britain

Brian Dillon: Queer British Art

6 September 2017
... or invitation, this confected gleam that connects the queer and the modern? It’s everywhere in Cecil Beaton’s portraits of the late 1920s and early 1930s. Thanks to darkroom dodging and burning, SylviaTownsendWarner seems to glow with a pure white flame in a photograph from 1930; the Tate catalogue tells us the backdrop is satin, but it looks like Cellophane, which more than any other material ...

Ten Poets

Denis Donoghue

7 November 1985
Selected Poems 
by Donald Davie.
Carcanet, 124 pp., £2.95, April 1985, 9780856355950
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Collected Poems: 1947-1980 
by Allen Ginsberg.
Viking, 837 pp., £16.95, April 1985, 0 670 80683 8
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Instant Chronicles: A Life 
by D.J. Enright.
Oxford, 58 pp., £4.50, April 1985, 9780019211970
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Selected Poems 
by Edwin Morgan.
Carcanet, 139 pp., £2.95, April 1985, 0 85635 596 8
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Selected Poems 
by Jeffrey Wainwright.
Carcanet, 79 pp., £2.95, April 1985, 0 85635 598 4
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Selected Poems 
by Gillian Clarke.
Carcanet, 112 pp., £2.95, April 1985, 0 85635 594 1
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The Price of Stone 
by Richard Murphy.
Faber, 92 pp., £4, May 1985, 0 571 13568 4
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Selected Poems 
by Iain Crichton Smith.
Carcanet, 121 pp., £2.95, April 1985, 0 85635 597 6
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Selected Poems 
by Sylvia Townsend Warner.
Carcanet, 95 pp., £2.95, April 1985, 0 85635 585 2
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From the Irish 
by James Simmons.
Blackstaff, 78 pp., £3.95, May 1985, 0 85640 331 8
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... I’d believe in the rainbow more readily if it weren’t already translated into forgiveness. But it’s a lively, colourful selection, entirely welcome, except for one rather trivial poem about TV. SylviaTownsendWarner was a novelist by profession and a poet at times, so she thought her poems the best of her. They are very fine, especially those which come in forms and manners which Hardy did most ...

‘Come, my friend,’ said Smirnoff

Joanna Kavenna: The radical twenties

1 April 1999
The Radical Twenties: Aspects of Writing, Politics and Culture 
by John Lucas.
Five Leaves, 263 pp., £11.99, January 1997, 0 907123 17 1
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... lover gives up and dies just as the heroine decides she might have him after all). Meanwhile, female writers (Virginia Woolf, Charlotte Mew, Ivy Compton-Burnett, Nancy Cunard, Katherine Mansfield, SylviaTownsendWarner) allowed the old Victorian spinster a few escape-routes: killing off the controlling father who kept her at home (Mansfield’s ‘The Daughters of the Late Colonel’); investing her ...

Downland Maniacs

Michael Mason

5 October 1995
The Village that Died for England 
by Patrick Wright.
Cape, 420 pp., £17.99, March 1995, 0 224 03886 9
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... of H.J. Massingham, the neo-paganism of Llewellyn Powys (brother of John Cowper), the symbolist nostalgia of Mary Butts, the Marxist version of village life offered by lesbians Valentine Ackland and SylviaTownsendWarner, the Luddite organicism of Rolf Gardiner and the yeoman-patriotic creed of Sir Arthur Bryant (both the latter having shady pro-Nazi backgrounds). These idealists were all anti-MoD in ...
9 January 1992
Through a Glass Darkly: The life of Patrick Hamilton 
by Nigel Jones.
Scribner, 408 pp., £18.95, December 1991, 0 356 19701 8
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... purposes. It is both the strength and weakness of Hamilton that he had nothing similar to exploit: certainly not his zeal for Communism, which was sincere enough in terms of the spirit of the age (SylviaTownsendWarner was an equally incongruous convert) but which offered to Hamilton’s inner creativity nothing in the way of an alternative world. In his time he was a genuine odd man out, rather in ...

Everybody knows

Christina Gombar: Kate Jennings

22 August 2002
Moral Hazard 
by Kate Jennings.
Fourth Estate, 180 pp., £10, April 2002, 1 84115 737 6
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... In this respect, Moral Hazard is a breakthrough, a more full-blooded portrait. Early in the story, Cath telegraphs her values to the reader through her favourite writers, who include Muriel Spark, SylviaTownsend-Warner and Ivy Compton-Burnett: ‘they assumed intelligence – emotional as well as intellectual – on the part of the reader.’ Jennings’s style shares these writers’ brevity ...

No Tricks

Frank Kermode: Raymond Carver

19 October 2000
Call If You Need Me: The Uncollected Fiction and Prose 
by Raymond Carver.
Harvill, 300 pp., £15, July 2000, 1 86046 759 8
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... For various reasons the English short story is now a predominantly American form. There are hardly any London outlets, while New York still has a few, which sometimes accept British stories, as with SylviaTownsendWarner and also, of course, Pritchett. There are many annual prizes for stories. Moreover the form fits better than the novel into the pattern of the creative writing courses that are taught ...
8 May 1997
Beyond the Frontier: the Politics of a Failed Mission, Bulgaria 1944 
by E.P. Thompson.
Merlin/Stanford, 120 pp., £12.95, December 1996, 0 85036 457 4
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... of the SOE at Bari, who later wrote to order the truly creepy From Trotsky to Tito. But around Our Time and Theatre Today, the journals on which I worked, were the happily idiosyncratic Communists SylviaTownsendWarner, Edgell Rickword, Patrick Hamilton, Montagu Slater, Randall Swingler and, around them, particularly in nearby pubs, such friends as Nancy Cunard, Lennox Berkeley, Roy Fuller, John ...


Michael Church

9 October 1986
The Children of the Souls: A Tragedy of the First World War 
by Jeanne Mackenzie.
Chatto, 276 pp., £14.95, June 1986, 9780701128470
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Voices from the Spanish Civil War: Personal Recollections of Scottish Volunteers in Republican Spain 1936-39 
edited by Ian MacDougall, by Victor Kiernan.
Polygon, 369 pp., £9.95, July 1986, 0 948275 19 7
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The Shallow Grave: A Memoir of the Spanish Civil War 
by Walter Gregory, edited by David Morris and Anthony Peters.
Gollancz, 183 pp., £10.95, June 1986, 0 575 03790 3
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Spanish Front: Writers on the Civil War 
edited by Valentine Cunningham.
Oxford, 388 pp., £15, July 1986, 0 19 212258 4
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The Spanish Cockpit 
by Franz Borkenau.
Pluto, 303 pp., £4.95, July 1986, 0 7453 0188 6
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The Spanish Civil War 1936-39 
by Paul Preston.
Weidenfeld, 184 pp., £10.95, June 1986, 0 297 78891 4
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Images of the Spanish Civil War 
by Raymond Carr.
Allen and Unwin, 192 pp., £14.95, July 1986, 0 04 940089 4
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... confidence in chance, in forgiveness, in life.’ Nan Green, a nurse with the International Brigade, watches a soldier’s lips regain colour as her blood is piped directly from her veins into his. SylviaTownsendWarner visits the public letter-writers’ booths, ‘where men and women whose faces bear the unmistakable imprint of intellect and thought wait in a queue to dictate the letters they are ...

Reminder: Mother

Adam Mars-Jones: Helen Phillips

22 December 2019
The Need 
by Helen Phillips.
Chatto, 272 pp., £16.99, August 2019, 978 1 78474 284 3
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... sometimes seems that the enthronement of Virginia Woolf in the canon has entailed the demotion of a whole generation and a bit of women, not just Bagnold (born 1889) but Rose Macaulay (born 1881) and SylviaTownsendWarner (born 1893). This seems especially unjust when one of them successfully addresses, as Bagnold does in The Squire, the area where Woolf is weakest – engagement with the body ...

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