Annal: 1981 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Biography

Results of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in the year 1981.

Book:Edith Sitwell

Edith Sitwell: A Unicorn Among Lions

Victoria Glendinning

Not until her twenties was the real Edith Sitwell born. Freed from her unhappy home life she set up home in a shabby London flat: she became—almost overnight—one of the best-known 1920s pioneering poets. Her Plantagenet good looks attracted the photographer Cecil Beaton and the principal painters of the day. She befriended Aldous Huxley, T.S. Eliot, and Gertrude Stein. She rebuffed Wyndham Lewis and ardently loved the temperamental Russian painter, Pavel Tchelitchew. The thirties she spent in penury, writing her novels, poems and biographies and it was only when Yeats hailed her as ‘a major poet’ that her work reached a wider audience and she set off to conquer New York and Hollywood.

In this vivid and sympathetic portrayal, drawing on Edith’s brilliantly funny and often outrageous letters, Victoria Glendinning shows the spontaneous, gallant, yet tragically insecure woman behind the public image.

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