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Warner, Sylvia Townsend

life

(British, 1893–1978)

Warner was born in Harrow, the daughter of a master at a public school. With her lifelong companion, Valentine Ackland, she went to Spain during the Civil War, then returned to Dorset where she spent most of the rest of her life. Original and ironic, Warner is an inventive story-teller with wide-ranging subject matter and a brilliant style. Begin with Lolly Willowes (1926), her most popular and straightforwardly enjoyable novel. It is the tale of a London spinster who absconds to a village in the Chilterns to meet the Devil and find her calling as a witch. Next read the witty and touching Mr Fortune's Maggot (1927), about a bank clerk turned South Sea missionary, whose vocation proves a failure. Warner later turned to historical themes, as in her own favourite, The Corner That Held Them (1948), a worldly and affectionate account of life in a medieval convent. She also had 140 short stories published in the New Yorker over four decades.

T. F. Powys, Dorothy Parker, Radclyffe Hall  JN

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