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520 LETTERS IN CANADA 1997 Sitwell's view of most women poets was harsh. She was cruel if accurate about Charlotte Mew: 'a grey tragic women ... sucked dry ofblood.' On the history of women's poetry she was lethal: 'Women's poetry with the exception of Sappho ... and with the exception of "Goblin Market" and a few deep and concentrated, but fearfully incompetent poems of Emily Dickinson, is simply awful- incompetent, floppy, whining, arch, trivial, selfpitying .' Against this emotionalism she proposes a 'hard and glittering' marmer, such as she herself produced. The mystery of Sitwell's own emotional life (if there is one) remains. Sitwell was surrounded by gay men, beginning with her brother Osbert and including Forster, Joe Ackerley, StephenSpender, Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears, Noel Coward, Charles Henri Ford, and Lincoln Kirstein, and she was also friendly with lesbians such as Stein and Alice B. Toklas, Vita Sackville-West, H.D., and Bryher. Sitwell herself lived for many years with her former governess, Helen Rootham. Despite this entourage, Greene argues that she 'had a limited understanding of homosexuality.' It is hard to imagine her as quite so ignorant but then she could well have seen homosexuality in herself and others without 'understanding' it. There can be little doubt that the cult of Sitwell relies in part on a gay male taste for exaggeration and performance. Sitwell was always on stage, transforming her somewhat odd appearance into a forceful presentation of self. Sitwell's theatricality clearly marks her as camp, and her letters confirm her gift for narrative comedy and arch presentation. Although often cruel and unbending, Sitwell was also capable of great affection and support, as with her friend Helen. Nothing ever angered her more than T.S. Eliot's famous abandonment of his wheelchair-bound flatmate John Hayward. For Sitwell, Eliot was guilty of 'sly, crawling, lethal cruelty' (a pattern that echoed his actions towards his first wife), and she concludes after thirty years 'The friendship is over.' It is time no doubt for a Sitwell revival, in which these letters will no doubt play a crucial part. In little more than a year the letters of Sitwell to the surrealist artist Pavel Tchelitchew, now at Yale, will be opened, and much more light may be shed on this crucial relationship between Sitwell and the gay young man she fell so deeply in love with. Sitwell's letters already confirm her essential place in the history of modern English poetry and culture. Her mannerisms, which once repelled many readers now seem to make her one of us. (ROBERT K. MARTIN) Michael Millgate. Faulkner's Place University of Georgia Press. xx, 146. us$22.95·Michael Millgate has written and edited numerous reviews, essays, and books on English and American literature of the nineteenth and twentieth HUMANITIES 521 centuries, and, as the author ofThomas Hardy: A Biography, he is now widely recognized as one of the world's foremost scholars of Hardy's life and work. Yet, especially in the United States, he has long been principally identified with the work of William Faulkner, the subject of this his most recent book Faulkner's Place. Like his sometime collaborator, James B. Meriwether, with whom he coedited the crucial work Lion in the Garden: Interviews with William Faulkner, 1926-1962 (1968), Millgate is widely recognized as a meticulous and ground-breaking scholar. But in addition, especially as the author of The Achievement ofWilliam Faulkner (1965), he is also widely recognized as one of the foremost critics and interpreters of Faulkner's fiction. And it is to the ongoing and even accelerating process of assessment and interpretation of Faulkner's fiction that Faulkner's Place makes its important contribution. By 'place' Millgate means, finally, nothing less than Faulkner's standing among the masters of fiction. And he undertakes the task of defining Faulkner's 'place,' not by sustained argument1 but by a gathering of eight essays, seven of which, as he puts it in his Preface, were first 'writt~n for oral delivery on specific occasions.' In addition, he undertakes his task in what has become an unfashionable way, for he specifically declines to engage, challenge, or refute what he...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 520-522
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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