An angular, aristocratic woman, 6 ft (183 cm) tall, Dame Edith Sitwell was famous for her wit and her eccentric appearance. Her poetry, strongly influenced by the French symbolists, ranges from the artificial and clever verse of her early years to the deeper and more religious poems of her maturity. Collections of her work include Clowns' Houses (1918), Rustic Elegies (1927), Gold Coast Customs (1929), The Song of the Cold (1948), Façade, and Other Poems, 1920–1935 (1950), Gardeners and Astronomers (1953), and The Outcasts (1962). Her Collected Poems appeared in 1954. Façade, characterized by ragtime rhythms and abstract word patterns, was set to music by William Walton and first read by her in 1922.
Important among her critical works are Poetry and Criticism (1925), Aspects of Modern Poetry (1934), and A Poet's Notebook (1943), a collection of aphorisms on the art of poetry. Other prose works include Alexander Pope (1930); The English Eccentrics (1933); I Live under a Black Sun (1937), a novel about Jonathan Swift; and Fanfare for Elizabeth (1946) and The Queens and the Hive (1962), biographies of Queen Elizabeth I. In 1954 she was made dame of the British Empire.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.