Sassoon

The Sitwells

The Sitwells (Edith Sitwell, Osbert Sitwell, Sacheverell Sitwell), were three siblings who formed an identifiable literary and artistic clique around themselves in London in the period roughly 1916 to 1930. This was marked by some well-publicised events, notably Edith's Façade with music by William Walton, with its public debut in 1923. All three Sitwells wrote; for a while their circle was considered by some to rival Bloomsbury, though others dismissed them as attention-seekers rather than serious artists.

In 1917 Edith wrote to Siegfried Sassoon to tell him how much she and her brothers sympathised with his protest against the war. Sassoon first met Edith at Edward Marsh’s house in Gray’s Inn in October 1918. The friendship blossomed but Sassoon disliked their taste for modernism. For example, they liked T.S. Elliot and had a contempt for the Georgian Poets which left Sassoon feeling old-fashioned. The friendship continued however, with Edith often praising Sassoon’s poetry. Sassoon liked a lot of Edith’s work and she eventually fell in love with him, which amused Sassoon and he felt able to tease her.

In 1917 Osbert wrote to Sassoon, ‘Do, for god’s sake, take care of yourself, we cannot afford to lose a poet – and especially you’. Osbert visited Sassoon when he was in hospital at Lancaster Gate, London, in August 1918 recovering from wounds, and also later encouraged Sassoon to write his memoirs.

Things did not always go well, there was a big falling-out in November 1921 when Osbert mocked Graves, Turner and Blunden in the Sitwell’s poetry anthology ‘Wheels’ and Sassoon ended the friendship for some time which upset Edith especially.

On 22nd June, 1927, Sassoon attended the christening of Sacheverell’s son at Lambeth by the Archbishop of Canterbury, and this was where he first met Stephen Tennant. In July 1927 Sassoon drove across Europe and met Osbert and Sacheverell among others on the continent and with them went on to tour Dresden, Prague and Vienna.

Regarding their work, Sassoon thought Osbert and Sacheverell too frivolous, although he did have an affinity with their writing as their themes always seemed to revolve around Sassoon’s favourite subject, that of nostalgia.

In 1929, after Edith had criticised Sassoon for being mean with money, he offered to take over Osbert and Sacheverell’s overdrafts (£5,000), as ‘a sort of mortgage’. Osbert, who had become a baronet after the death of his father, repaid the loan in 1950.

Osbert Sitwell Bt devoted himself to poetry, art criticism and controversial journalism. Together with his brother Saacheverell, he sponsored a controversial exhibition of works by Matisse, Utrillo, Picasso and Modigliani. The composer William Walton also greatly benefited from his largesse (though the two men afterwards fell out). He published two books of poems: Argonaut and Juggernaut (1919) and At the House of Mrs Kinfoot (1921). In the mid-1920s he met David Stuart Horner (1900-1983) who was his lover and companion for most of his life.

Sacheverell Sitwell Bt was a writer, poet, art critic. As his poetry was so severely criticised, particularly by those who disliked the Sitwells in general, and although Canons of Giant Art was a work of considerable impact, he refused to publish any of his poems for many years.

Dame Edith Sitwell was a British poet and critic and the eldest of the three literary Sitwells. Edith's closest emotional bond was with another woman, Helen Rootham. In 1903, Rootham, an aspiring poet who translated the works of Arthur Rimbaud into English, was engaged as her governess. In 1913, the two women left the Sitwell family home and set up lodgings in a small, shabby flat in Pembridge Mansions, Bayswater. In 1927, Edith allegedly fell in love with homosexual Russian painter Pavel Tchelitchew. The relationship lasted until 1928, the same year that Rootham underwent operations for cancer. Edith moved to Paris in 1932 with the terminally ill Rootham, to live with Rootham’s younger sister, Evelyn Wiel, and she remained there until her companion's death in 1938. During the Second World War, Sitwell returned from France and retired to Renishaw Hall in Derbyshire with her brother Sir Osbert Sitwell and his lover David Horner. In August 1955, she converted to Roman Catholicism and asked author Evelyn Waugh to serve as her godfather.

Sing High! Sing Low! - By Osbert Sitwell, published in 1944 by MacMillan & Co. Ltd., and signed by the author. Osbert Sitwell befriended Sassoon during the First World War. He devoted himself to poetry, art criticism and controversial journalism. Together with his brother Sacheverell, he sponsored a controversial exhibition of works by Matisse, Utrillo, Picasso and Modigliani. The composer William Walton also greatly benefited from his largesse (though the two men afterwards fell out). He published two books of poems: Argonaut and Juggernaut (1919) and At the House of Mrs Kinfoot (1921). In the mid-1920s he met David Stuart Horner (1900-1983) who was his lover and companion for most of his life.

Theatrical Figures In Porcelain - by Sacheverell Sitwell, published in 1949 by The Curtain Press. Inscribed and signed by the author, 19th November 1963. Attached to the inside of the back cover is an envelope addressed to Victoria Durham (the person who the book was inscribed to), plus a newspaper cutting from The Times, dated 19th March 1977, covering a story about a sale of porcelain. The Sitwells befriended Sassoon during the First World War. Writer, poet, and art critic, Sacheverell’s poetry was so severely criticised, particularly by those who disliked the Sitwells in general, and although Canons of Giant Art was a work of considerable impact, he refused to publish any of his poems for many years.

The Pleasures of Poetry  - By Edith Sitwell, published in 1931 by Duckworth. Signed and inscribed by the author on the front end paper ‘For, my dear Mrs Ethel Rootham with best wishes from Edith Sitwell’ on the verso of the end paper it has at the top ‘J.L.G. from E.L.R. 1936’, this is John Linton Gardner from Mrs Rootham, this is John Gardner the composer and the the book is from his library. In 1917 Edith wrote to Sassoon to tell him how much she and her brothers sympathised with his protest against the war. Sitwell's closest emotional bond was with another woman, Helen Rootham. In 1903, Rootham, an aspiring poet who translated the works of Arthur Rimbaud into English, was engaged as Edith’s governess. In 1913, the two women left the Sitwell family home and set up lodgings in a small, shabby flat in Pembridge Mansions, Bayswater. Ethel Rootham was Helen’s sister.

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