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Dame Edith Sitwell (Dame Edith Louisa Sitwell) Biography

(1887–1964), (Dame Edith Louisa Sitwell), The Mother and Other Poems, Twentieth Century Harlequinade, Clowns' Houses

British poet, born in Scarborough, the sister of Osbert and Sacheverell Sitwell; she grew up at Renishaw Hall in Derbyshire, the seat of her aristocratic family. Her early collections of poetry include The Mother and Other Poems (1915), notable for its unusually violent title piece; Twentieth Century Harlequinade (1916), one of several collaborations with Osbert; and Clowns' Houses (1918), which established rhythmically extravagant experimentation as a characteristic of her verse. She edited Wheels from 1916 to 1921. Façade, a radically innovative suite of predominantly unparaphrasable poems, provoked controversy when it was performed with music by William Walton in 1923. The attention she and her brothers attracted throughout the 1920s caused F. R. Leavis to remark that the Sitwells ‘belong to the history of publicity rather than that of poetry’. Her poetry grew more ethically purposeful with Gold Coast Customs (1929), which denounced the habits of affluent society through the creation of parallels with the rites of African tribes. Street Songs (1942), Green Song (1944), and The Song of The Cold (1945), won her wide respect for their stoically transcendent treatments of the suffering and destruction wrought by the Second World War. The resonantly rhetorical title poem of The Shadow of Cain (1947), a response to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, indicates her affinities with Dylan Thomas, whom she was among the first to acclaim. She was made a Dame Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire in 1954. Collected Poems was produced in 1957. Her numerous prose works include the critical study Aspects of Modern Poetry (1934) and the popular biography Victoria of England (1936); Taken Care of (1965) is autobiographical. John Lehmann's A Nest of Tigers (1968) is a study of the three Sitwells; Victoria Glendinning's biography Edith Sitwell appeared in 1981.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Lemn Sissay Biography to Southwold Suffolk