Friday, 15 June 2012

On Sylvia Townsend Warner and Virginia Woolf


Bea Howe (c.1925) by Duncan Grant

"What inspired and intrigued most about Sylvia was her way of talking.  I had never heard anybody speak like her before.  Some chance remark or an artfully-posed question by Tommy – who loved to argue with her – and Sylvia was off in a fantastic flight of her own.  Poetic words, colourful phrases, an apt quotation, extraordinary similes poured forth from her in a way I did not meet again till I came to know, and dine with, Virginia Woolf.  But where Sylvia kept her conversational flights of fancy more or less under control while the slightly malicious gleam in her eyes dared one to give her verbal battle, Virginia’s flights of pure fantasy, soaring sky-high, as the light in her beautiful deep-set luminous eyes kindled and grew almost wild, silenced one to listen to her, entranced." 


Bea Howe
PN Review 8:3 (1981)

8 comments:

  1. LOVE Virginia Woolf. She just sounds like the most interesting, albeit eventually tragic, person.

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    1. I know! I think I'd have been far too scared to talk to her, but still.

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  2. Clarity, young man, *clarity*!!! What is PN Review? I want to read the rest of this!

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    1. Haha! That's what it's published as, Alison! It might be Poetry Nation or something, but you should be able to find it as PN Review on SOLO. It's from a special issue devoted to Sylvia Townsend Warner.

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  3. I'm going to echo both Lyndsay and you and say that I LOVE Virginia Woolf and I think she would be the most fascinating person to talk to...but I'd be too scared to actually do so, if I had the (impossible) chance. And hey, I'd like to talk to STW, too.

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    1. She certainly seems intimidating... STW does a bit too, but less so.

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  4. That's wonderful - but what is SOLO and where do us poor plebs find this amazing piece??

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    1. Oops, sorry - SOLO is the Bodleian online catalogue. I'm afraid you'll have to use a university library to find this - it's pretty scarce.

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