Dame Edith

In response to:

Nothing Like a Dame from the May 20, 1965 issue

To the Editors:

I am reasonably certain that Mr. Geoffrey Grigson’s review of Edith Sitwell’s autobiography will provoke an unamiable little hurricane of outraged protests. Therefore, since I believe he has performed a critical service of value in calling the bluff of the Sitwell cult, it seems only proper that those who more or less agree with his view should say so.

For Dame Edith and her poetry I feel as little animus as admiration, and I should sincerely like to see her qualities, virtues, and defects, as a poet correctly and fairly evaluated. But the viscous snobbery of her more perfervid adherents (which she certainly encouraged) has made impartiality of judgment nearly impossible.

I presume no critic enjoys the kind of task Mr. Grigson was confronted with, but his critical courage in denouncing the bogus mystique that Dame Edith and her followers cultivated may in the end permit a fairer view of her poetry than has been possible in the past. By indirections and in oblique ways Mr. Grigson may have served her future reputation better than all her literary courtiers and cavaliers.

Marius Bewley

St. George, Staten Island