Date Published: 1937 to 1966
Binding: No binding & hard cover
INTERESTING EDITH SITWELL COLLECTION
Dame Edith Sitwell (1887-1964) was a British poet and critic and the eldest of the three literary Sitwells. She published poetry continuously from 1913, some of it abstract and set to music. With her dramatic style and exotic costumes, she was sometimes labelled a poseur, but her work was praised for its solid technique and painstaking craftsmanship. She never married, but in 1927 she allegedly fell in love with the gay Russian painter Pavel Tchelitchew (see the card below inviting Burnett to see his last portrait).
The collection contains 29 items dating from 1937 to 1966 specifically, 28 letters and 1 typed statement.
• ALS to Charles Jasper Sisson (1885-1966); Shakespeare scholar),
Sunday, [?28 October 1937], 4 pp., thanking him for his charming letter and saying how sorry she was that he could not come to her lectures because of his cold, “My colds are always like the San Francisco earthquake, so I can sympathise”, and referring to “one awful moment [at her lecture] when, owing to something going wrong with the microphone, I thought some of my enemies had got in and were beginning a demonstration against me. But my fears work without foundation… I'm now starting work on a giant anthology, with a long critical preface, into which parts of my lecture will be incorporated. I do sympathise with your being stuck with your novel. That is what a cold does for one. How can one work in the middle of an earthquake, and with a boxing match going on the inside of ones head?”, before concluding that she hopes to see him at Sacheverell [Sitwell]’s lecture”.
• ALS to Mrs. Sisson (his wife, Vera), 11 November 1937, 2 pp., with autograph envelope postmarked 12 November , thanking her for the delightful dinner party and hoping that she and Professor Sisson will make it to her own “very small informal party here on Friday” before she goes to Paris.
2 ALS and 1 Card to BBC producer Hugh Burnett (“Face to Face”),
• The first letter (2 pp. about 120 words.) on notepaper from Renishaw Hall, 25 September 1959, is about a meeting Burnett at the Sesame Club and mentions a poem sent to her (“My brother Osbert thinks she must be a negress”), punch holes at side not affecting text.
• The second (2 pp. also about 120 words), 14 April 1960, on the Sesame Imperil and Pioneer Club notepaper, mentions an accident to her spine and Burnett's candidacy for the Ford Foundation.
• A card with the printed words “at Home” and an invitation in Sitwell's hand to Burnett to see Tchelitchew's last portrait of Edith Sitwell at the Sesame Club (Grosvenor St, W.1.). Sitwell appeared on the BBC's “Face to Face” in May 1959.
• A series of 18 letters, six in the third person, to her insurance brokers, largely relating to jewellery purchases, 1954-1964, all to the Atlas Insurance Company, some to named individuals, together with five letters written on her behalf by secretaries, and a typed valuation certificate from Cameo Corner, 19 November 1958, a total of 38 pages.
These letters reveal not only an enthusiastic collector but a remarkably business-like personality. The letters are variously written from Renishaw Hall, The Sesame and Imperial Club, and Chicago, and all bear the received-stamp of the Leeds branch of the insurers, some being annotated with financial calculations in pencil.
Some letter content…“... When the Manager was so kind as to insure Dame Edith's Jewellery some time ago, amongst the items was a Renaissance pendant, consisting of a Queen's Head carved out of a garnet, with a gold crown, and surrounded by branches with flowers of white enamel with centres of rubies. (To this subsequently added a brooch - value £65, I think, if I remember rightly, from Cameo Corner....The whole jewel was inadequately priced at the moment. Dame Edith's secretary, Miss Salter, took it the other day, to be valued at Messrs. Philipps, the antique jewellers, of New Bond Street, and they said that although it was impossible, really, to price it, as it is a work of art, they would sell it for £600....” “… a deep blue, square-oblong aquamarine ring, purchased for £160.” “... my sable-dyed Rolinsky coat, bought by me for £82. 19s.” “... I have just (with my Guinness prize) bought two new rings from Cameo Corner ... the amount I shall pay for these will be either £175 or £180.” “... One ring is an amethyst surrounded by diamonds, the other a ring of small pearls with a few tiny diamonds interspersed. ... Incidentally, I changed the amethyst ring, and the pearl ring that I bought last autumn, for a topaz & pearl ring, and three half hoop pearl rings. These came to £25 less than the others, but I shall, when I have been televised, get another ring which will increase that sum. etc. etc....”
Edith Sitwell was well-known for her extravagant taste in jewellery, and this correspondence shows how seriously she took the question of valuing her new purchases, very many of them from Cameo Corner in Museum Street, London. Dame Edith (who, as ever, insists that she should be properly identified as “Dame” or “D.B.E.”) describes the individual purchases in her letters, and is most particular to ensure that she has full insurance cover when travelling abroad.
Collection is on consignment with LDRB.