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Edith Slitwell

Edith Slitwell

Edith Slitwell is our take on literary heroine Dame Edith Louisa Sitwell DBE (7 Sept 1887 – 9 Dec 1964), who would occasionally sleep in a coffin before writing poetry. Retired Librarian Edith Slitwell will be introducing the opening and concluding chapters of our interactive graphic novel Dawn of the Unread.In our story Slitwell guides a young reader around the city of Nottingham where they meet the great social campaigner, William Booth
(10 April 1829 – 20 August 1912). In 1878 William Booth founded the Salvation Army. He believed that Christian Gospel, a strong work ethic and charity were the solution to society's ills.

Edith Sitwell was an eccentric British poet and critic - the eldest of the three literary Sitwells. 2014 is the 50th anniversary of her death. If you think your parents are tough, consider Edith’s childhood for a moment. She was forced to undertake a “cure” for her supposed spinal deformation which involved being locked into an iron frame as well as being forced to wear a nose-truss to improve her profile.

Her angular features were deemed so offensive to the eye that her father, Sir George, instructed the artist John Singer Sargent to straighten her nose when commissioned to paint a family portrait in 1900. Sargent was so appalled by this request that he added a crook to Sir George’s nose. Given her upbringing, it is hardly surprising that a melancholy pervades her work and that she didn’t handle criticism too well.


Edith Sitwell Facts

1: The Sitwell’s believed that D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover (1928) was drawn on them which led to a lifelong feud. Out of the family, Edith’s brother Oswald gets off the worst. Portrayed in the novel as the crippled and unsexed Clifford.

2: The 6ft tall poet liked to dress up in long flowing robes, velvet gold turbans and a plethora of rings. The writer Elizabeth Bowen once commented she was ‘like an altar on the move’

3: Morrissey used an image of Edith as a backdrop during his 1991 Kill Uncle tour. The singer certainly shares Edith’s reputation for being controversial and out spoken.

4: Sitwell wrote two books about Queen Elizabeth I of England: Fanfare for Elizabeth (1946) and The Queens and the Hive (1962).

5: Guests visiting the Sitwell family home would be presented with a form which requested such information as the ‘Age, sex and weight of your wife’ as well as, ‘Has any relative of yours ever been confined in a mental home?’ (With the supplementary question, ‘If not, why not?’) This was to sift away unwanted visitors.

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