Sylvia Townsend Warner: A Biography by Claire Harman - review by Victoria Glendinning

Victoria Glendinning

She Adored Cockneys

Sylvia Townsend Warner: A Biography


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If you are not quite sure who Sylvia Townsend Warner was, you are not American. Though she was as English as afternoon tea, she was always more famous there than here, chiefly because of the 150 short stories she wrote for The New Yorker. She was also a much-published poet, the biographer of T H White, translator of Proust's Contre Saint-Beuve, and the author of seven novels, some of them reissued by Virago; her first two, Lolly Willowes and Mr Fortune's Maggot, were bestsellers in the 1920s.

The great love of her life was another woman, Valentine Ackland. The two of them were indefatigable diary-keepers and letter-writers; Sylvia's letters were published in 1982, as were her Collected Poems. (She was a witty, lyrical, accomplished poet in the traditional mode; her list of likes and dislikes in poetry,

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