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Osbert Sitwell

Ziegler, Philip

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ISBN 10: 0679446508 / ISBN 13: 9780679446507
Published by Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1999
Condition: Very good Hardcover
From Ground Zero Books, Ltd. (Silver Spring, MD, U.S.A.)

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About this Item

xiii, 444, 2] p. Illustrations. Notes. Books by Osbert Sitwell; Books About Osbert Stiwell or the Sitwell Family. Bibliographical Notes. Index. The first full-length biography of Osbert Sitwell, the celebrated English poet, essayist, and wit. Sir Osbert was poet Edith Sitwell's brother, and was one of the most famous writers in England before his reputation diminished in the middle of the century. First American edition {stated]. Presumed first printing. Bookseller Inventory # 60311

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Osbert Sitwell

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf, New York

Publication Date: 1999

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition: Very good

Dust Jacket Condition: very good

Edition: 1st Edition

About this title


A wonderfully witty, major new biography of the renowned poet, novelist, essayist and legendary twentieth-century eccentric, from the best-selling author of Mountbatten and King Edward VIII.

The Sitwells -- Osbert, Edith and Sacheverell -- were the enfants terribles of the 1920s; outflanked in the 1930s by the politically conscious generation of Auden, Isherwood and Spender; then resurgent after World War II, when Osbert's autobiography, Left Hand, Right Hand!, achieved critical and commercial success and he and Edith took the United States by storm.

At the heart of every literary fracas from 1918 until well after 1945, Osbert was a close friend and sometime sparring partner of T. S. Eliot, Aldous Huxley, Evelyn Waugh and Cyril Connolly, and a ferocious enemy of Noël Coward, the Leavises and Winston Churchill. His love life was notoriously turbulent; he could be outrageous, perverse, arrogant, bullying; he could be generous, loyal, considerate, public-spirited -- but he was never dull.

Meticulously researched and beautifully written, this entertaining biography provides extraordinary social insights, a striking overview of literary Britain in this century and, above all, a moving portrait of a remarkable human being.


Perhaps his own 1941 Who's Who entry best encapsulated Osbert Sitwell's career: "For the past 22 years has conducted, in conjunction with his brother and sister, a series of skirmishes and hand-to-hand battles against the Philistine." Although he considered himself a poet and wrote several fine short stories in addition to his brilliant autobiography (Left Hand, Right Hand!), Sitwell was best known as an artistic provocateur. In concert with his older sister Edith and younger brother Sacheverell, he delighted in shocking the bourgeoisie with such aggressively modernist works as Façade. (This no-holds-barred performance piece, in which the three siblings declaimed poetry through a megaphone, belongs less to the history of theater than to the annals of PR--but that, too, may have pleased the Sitwells as an act of Warholian prescience.)

Born into a wealthy, well-connected English family, none of the three children ever quite fit in. Philip Ziegler sums up the situation in Osbert Sitwell: "The aristocrats felt Osbert to be extravagantly artistic; to the artists he seemed suspiciously aristocratic." Ziegler astutely chronicles his subject's dicey relationships with an airhead mother and overbearing father (Sir George's "view of contemporary life was almost entirely solipsistic and rendered the more eccentric by his firm assumption that, whatever subject might be in question, it had almost certainly been done better in the Middle Ages"). He manages to separate Osbert's story from those of Edith and Sacheverell without scanting the siblings' fierce and mutual devotion. Nor does he overlook their propensity for quarrels with the gifted and famous, most notably Noël Coward. This is not, in the end, a portrait of a great man. But it will persuade many readers that its subject mattered--that "it was possible to dislike Osbert Sitwell, to mock him, even to despise him, but it was very difficult to ignore him." Thanks to Ziegler's judicious life, it should be not only difficult but impossible. --Wendy Smith

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Founded and operated by trained historians, Ground Zero Books, Ltd., serves the book collector, the scholar, and institutions. We focus on the individual, and pride ourselves on our personal service. Please contact us with your wants, as we have many books not yet listed in our database.

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