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Edith Sitwell

  • In the great gardens, after bright spring rain, / We find sweet innocence come once again.

    • Edith Sitwell,
    • "The Innocent Spring," The Sleeping Beauty ()
  • Art is magic, not logic. This craze for the logical spirit in irrational shape is part of the present harmful mania for uniformity ...

    • Edith Sitwell,
    • "Modernist Poets," Echanges ()
  • The reason why Matthew Arnold, to my feeling, fails entirely as a poet (though no doubt his ideas were good — at least, I am told they were) is that he had no sense of touch whatsoever. Nothing made any impression on his skin. He could feel neither the shape nor the texture of a poem with his hands.

  • In the Augustan age ... poetry was ... the sister of architecture; with the romantics, and their heightened vowel-sense, resulting in different melodic lines, she became the sister of music; in the present day, she appears like the sister of horticulture, each poem growing according to the law of its own nature ...

  • I have often wished I had time to cultivate modesty ... But I am too busy thinking about myself.

    • Edith Sitwell,
    • in The Observer ()
  • My poems are hymns of praise to the glory of life.

    • Edith Sitwell,
    • "Some Notes on My Poetry," Collected Poems ()
  • Poetry ennobles the heart and the eyes, and unveils the meaning of all things upon which the heart and the eyes dwell. It discovers the secret rays of the universe, and restores to us forgotten paradises.

    • Edith Sitwell,
    • "Of What Use Is Poetry?" in Reader's Digest ()
  • All great poetry is dipped in the dyes of the heart ...

    • Edith Sitwell,
    • in Richard Thruelsen and John Kobler, eds., Adventures of the Mind, 1st series ()
  • The poet is the complete lover of mankind.

    • Edith Sitwell,
    • in Richard Thruelsen and John Kobler, eds., Adventures of the Mind, 1st series ()
  • ... it is as unseeing to ask what is the use of poetry as it would be to ask what is the use of religion.

  • Poetry is, indeed, the deification of reality ...

  • If certain critics and poetasters had their way, 'Ordinary Piety' and its child, Dullness, would be the masters of poetry.

  • Oh you, the hour when the work of the world, the hunt for our food, is done — / Love me, my ultimate Darkness, kiss me, my infinite Sun!

  • I am not an eccentric. It's just that I am more alive than most people. I am an unpopular electric eel in a pool of catfish.

    • Edith Sitwell,
    • in Life ()
  • I have never, in all my life, been so odious as to regard myself as 'superior' to any living being, human or animal. I just walked alone — as I have always walked alone.

  • A pompous woman of his acquaintance, complaining that the head-waiter of a restaurant had not shown her and her husband immediately to a table, said, 'We had to tell him who we were.' Gerald, interested, enquired, 'And who were you?'

  • Eccentricity is not, as dull people would have us believe, a form of madness. It is often a kind of innocent pride, and the man of genius and the aristocrat are frequently regarded as eccentrics because genius and aristocrat are entirely unafraid of and uninfluenced by the opinions and vagaries of the crowd.

  • A lady asked me why, on most occasions, I wore black. 'Are you in mourning?' / 'Yes.' / 'For whom are you in mourning?' / 'For the world.'

  • Rhythm is one of the principal translators between dream and reality. Rhythm might be described as, to the world of sound, what light is to the world of sight. It shapes and gives new meaning. Rhythm was described by Schopenhauer as melody deprived of its pitch.

  • The child and the great artist — these alone receive the sensation fresh as it was at the beginning of the world.

  • ... the arts are life accelerated and concentrated.

  • ... music, that vast and inevitable structure.

  • She wore an extraordinary amount of clothes in some places and — it being the evening — none in others.

  • When we think of cruelty, we must try to remember the stupidity, the envy, the frustration from which it has arisen.

  • Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for talk beside the fire; it is the time for home.

  • By the time I was eleven years old, I had been taught that nature, far from abhorring a Vacuum, positively adores it.

  • I am patient with stupidity, but not with those who are proud of it.

    • Edith Sitwell,
    • in Elizabeth Salter, The Last Years of a Rebel ()
  • I am as unpopular as an electric eel in a pool of flatfish.

    • Edith Sitwell,
    • in Elizabeth Salter, The Last Years of a Rebel ()
  • The aim of flattery is to soothe and encourage us by assuring us of the truth of an opinion we have already formed about ourselves.

    • Edith Sitwell,
    • in Elizabeth Salter, The Last Years of a Rebel ()
  • I am one of those unhappy persons who inspire bores to the highest flights of their art.

    • Edith Sitwell,
    • in Elizabeth Salter, The Last Years of a Rebel ()
  • Good taste is the worst vice ever invented.

    • Edith Sitwell,
    • in Elizabeth Salter, The Last Years of a Rebel ()
  • ... I met an appalling woman called Madeleine Caron Rock, extremely fat and exuding a glutinous hysteria from every pore. I sat beside her on the sofa, and became (much against both our wills) embedded in her exuberance like a very sharp battle-axe. Whenever anyone mentioned living, dying, eating, sleeping, or any other of the occurrences which beset us, Miss Rock would allow a gelatinous cube-like tear, still warm from her humanity, to fall upon my person, and would then leave the room in a marked manner. A moment afterwards, the flat would be shaken by a canine species of howling, and after an interval, Miss Rock would return and beg all our pardon with great insistency ... She is rather a good poet, all the same.

    • Edith Sitwell,
    • 1919, in John Lehmann and Derek Parker, eds., Selected Letters ()
  • [On John Cowper Powys' Wolf Solent:] ... there is a curious film of dirtiness over the whole book, which one can't explain. I am sure as a boy he never washed his hands, but drank ink and kept mice in his pockets.

    • Edith Sitwell,
    • 1935, in John Lehmann and Derek Parker, eds., Selected Letters ()
  • ... all ugliness passes, and beauty endures, excepting of the skin.

    • Edith Sitwell,
    • 1941, in John Lehmann and Derek Parker, eds., Selected Letters ()
  • I may say that I think greed about poetry is the only permissible greed — it is, indeed, unavoidable.

    • Edith Sitwell,
    • 1955, in John Lehmann and Derek Parker, eds., Selected Letters ()
  • What the reporters are like! They are mad with excitement at the thought of my approaching demise. Kind Sister Farquhar, my nurse, spends much of her time in throwing them downstairs. But one got in the other day, and asked me if I mind the fact that I must die.

    • Edith Sitwell,
    • 1962, in John Lehmann and Derek Parker, eds., Selected Letters ()
  • Isn't it curious how one has only to open a book of verse to realise immediately that it was written by a very fine poet, or else that it was written by someone who is not a poet at all. In the case of the former, the lines, the images, though they are inherent in each other, leap up and give one this shock of delight. In the case of the latter, they lie flat on the page, never having lived.

    • Edith Sitwell,
    • 1939, in John Lehmann and Derek Parker, eds., Selected Letters ()
  • My temper is not spoilt. I am absolutely non-homicidal. Nor do I ever attack unless I have been attacked first, and then Heaven have mercy upon the attacker, because I don't! I just sharpen my wits on a wooden head as a cat sharpens its claws on the wood legs of a table.

    • Edith Sitwell,
    • 1937, in John Lehmann and Derek Parker, eds., Selected Letters ()
  • A man reporter asked me on the telephone: 'Is it true you are 78?' I replied: 'No. Eighty-two.' 'But I read last week that you are 78.' 'Yes, but that was last week. This week I'm 82.'

    • Edith Sitwell,
    • 1937, in John Lehmann and Derek Parker, eds., Selected Letters ()
  • I beg, I absolutely implore you to omit entirely any mention of Ebenezer Jones. He is so unspeakably horrible as a poet that I am left almost speechless! I am sure he had all the civic virtues, and was an estimable person, but he has all the passion of Ella Wheeler Wilcox, the intellect and zeitgeist of the author of 'There are girls in the golden city, / There are women and children too, / And they cry, 'Hurry up, for pity,' / So what can a brave man do?' Seriously, Jack, have you taken your temperature? You — you of all people in the world, compare him to Baudelaire, speak of him in the same breath as Blake!!! Why, the man can't begin to write. He is jejune, platitudinous, — the colours of all the words he uses came out in the wash years ago. As I say, no doubt he had all the civic virtues, but the only thing that makes a man a great poet is — being a great poet. I get the sort of thing he writes sent me, on an average, three times a month from Nottingham, Leicester, and Birmingham. ... I can hear the harmonium! I can see the people coming from the chapel — look you! — and going to the chapel — God be with you! I can taste the subsequent cocoa! You can't, Jack! You really can't! I do loathe bad poetry, and this is the end!

    • Edith Sitwell,
    • 1957, in John Lehmann and Derek Parker, eds., Selected Letters ()
  • One's own surroundings means so much to one, when one is feeling miserable.

    • Edith Sitwell,
    • in John Lehmann and Derek Parker, eds., Selected Letters ()
  • We once had a lily here that bore 108 flowers on one stalk: it was photographed naturally for all the gardening papers. The bees came from miles and miles, and there were the most disgraceful Bacchanalian scenes: bees hardly able to find their way home.

    • Edith Sitwell,
    • 1943, in John Lehmann and Derek Parker, eds., Selected Letters ()
  • I wish the Government would put a tax on pianos for the incompetent.

    • Edith Sitwell,
    • 1943, in John Lehmann and Derek Parker, eds., Selected Letters ()
  • Virginia Woolf, I enjoyed talking to her, but thought nothing of her writing. I considered her 'a beautiful little knitter.'

    • Edith Sitwell,
    • 1955, in John Lehmann and Derek Parker, eds., Selected Letters ()
  • ... the great sins and fires break out of me like the terrible leaves from the bough in the violent spring. I am a walking fire, I am all leaves ...

    • Edith Sitwell,
    • in Elizabeth Salter and Allanah Harper, eds., Edith Sitwell: Fire of the Mind ()
  • ... never till Time is done / Will the fire of the heart and the fire of the mind be one.

    • Edith Sitwell,
    • in Elizabeth Salter and Allanah Harper, eds., Edith Sitwell: Fire of the Mind ()
  • By 'happiness' I do not mean worldly success or outside approval, though it would be priggish to deny that both these things are most agreeable. I mean the inner consciousness, the inner conviction that one is doing well the thing that one is best fitted to do by nature.

    • Edith Sitwell,
    • "A Self Developed Person" (1936), in Elizabeth Salter and Allanah Harper, eds., Edith Sitwell: Fire of the Mind ()
  • Why not be one's self? That is the whole secret of a successful appearance. If one is a greyhound, why try to look like a Pekingese?

    • Edith Sitwell,
    • "Why I Look As I Do," in Elizabeth Salter and Allanah Harper, eds., Edith Sitwell: Fire of the Mind ()
  • The trouble about most Englishwomen is that they will dress as if they had been a mouse in a previous incarnation, or hope to be one in the next.

    • Edith Sitwell,
    • "How to Wear Dramatic Clothes," in Elizabeth Salter and Allanah Harper, eds., Edith Sitwell: Fire of the Mind ()
  • What is the special privilege of youth? It is, I think, the power of looking forward, the firm belief that the future holds something that is worth possessing, and that, therefore, one can let the present moment drop from one without regret and without fear.

    • Edith Sitwell,
    • "Why Worry About Your Age?" (1932), in Elizabeth Salter and Allanah Harper, eds., Edith Sitwell: Fire of the Mind ()
  • Cameras have arisen in our midst like a new race of mechanical ghouls.

    • Edith Sitwell,
    • "Twentieth Century Justice Through a Camera Lens" (1935), in Elizabeth Salter and Allanah Harper, eds., Edith Sitwell: Fire of the Mind ()
  • All great art contains an element of the irrational.

    • Edith Sitwell,
    • 1929, in Elizabeth Salter and Allanah Harper, eds., Edith Sitwell: Fire of the Mind ()
  • What an artist is for is to tell us what we see but do not know that we see.

    • Edith Sitwell,
    • 1929, in Elizabeth Salter and Allanah Harper, eds., Edith Sitwell: Fire of the Mind ()
  • The poet speaks to all men of that other life of theirs that they have smothered and forgotten.

    • Edith Sitwell,
    • "Rhyme and Reason," in Elizabeth Salter and Allanah Harper, eds., Edith Sitwell: Fire of the Mind ()
  • My personal hobbies are reading, listening to music, and silence.

    • Edith Sitwell,
    • in Reader's Digest ()
  • I do not want Miss Mannin's feelings to be hurt by the fact that I have never heard of her ... At the moment I am debarred from the pleasure of putting her in her place by the fact that she has not got one.

    • Edith Sitwell,
    • 1930, in John Pearson, Façades ()
  • Hot water is my native element. I was in it as a baby, and I have never seemed to get out of it ever since.

    • Edith Sitwell
  • I'm dying, but otherwise I'm in very good health.

    • Edith Sitwell
  • A great many people now reading and writing would be better employed keeping rabbits.

    • Edith Sitwell

Edith Sitwell, English poet, writer, editor, literary critic

(1987 - 1964)

Full name: Dame Edith Louisa Sitwell, DBE.