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Sitwell, Sacheverell:

An Inventory of His Collection at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center

Creator: Sitwell, Sacheverell, 1897-1988
Title: Sacheverell Sitwell Collection
Dates: 1912-1988
Extent: 84 boxes (35.46 linear feet), 9 galley folders, and 4 oversize folders
Abstract: The Sacheverell Sitwell Collection contains an extensive sampling of his written works, including 272 notebooks in which Sitwell wrote initial drafts for many of his works. Also present are letters written to Sitwell, business papers regarding his publications and the running of the Weston estate, and a small number of personal papers.
RLIN Record #: TXRC03-A1
Access:

Open for research




Acquisition:

Purchases, 1964-1990

Processed by:

Chelsea Dinsmore, 2003

Repository:

Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas at Austin


Sacheverell Reresby Sitwell was the third child and second son born to Sir George and Lady Ida Sitwell. Born at Scarborough in November 1897, "Sachie" suffered less from the expectations of his parents than his older siblings and was doted upon by the whole family. When he began school in 1908, he attended St. David's, Reigate, and then Eton.

Between 1912 and 1915 the Sitwell family was preoccupied by legal issues resulting from Lady Ida's debts, and Sacheverell suffered a great deal of emotional stress over her eventual imprisonment. World War I also loomed large in Sitwell's life as his brother, Osbert, and many of their mutual friends were shipped to the Front. At the age of seventeen Sitwell sought escape in aesthete attitudes and indulgences, running up debts to purchase books, pottery, and Japanese prints. He maintained these habits of escapism and living beyond his means throughout his life.

Sitwell left Eton at the end of 1916 and early the following year he joined the 5th Reserve Battalion, the Grenadier Guards, stationed at Chelsea Barracks in London. Lacking any aptitude for mechanics, horses, or leadership, Sacheverell made a poor soldier. However, while recovering from a bout of jaundice, he wrote several poems for his sister's magazine Wheels. Edith Sitwell had early detected Sachie's "poetic nature" and encouraged him to write. In 1918 his first volume of poetry, The People's Palace, was privately published but received very little notice.

Freed from the military early in 1919, Sitwell entered Oxford as an undergraduate of Balliol but left without taking a degree. He spent the next several years traveling, writing poetry, and making a start on what would become Southern Baroque Art. He worked with Edith to produce the performance art piece, Fa├žade, and in 1922 Sitwell published The Hundred and One Harlequin, the first collection of his poetry to be published by the general publisher, Grant Richards. Southern Baroque Art, the prose work with which he would most often be identified, was published in 1924. Unlike Sitwell's poetry, which had so far been criticized as technically adept but obscure and lacking focus, Southern Baroque Art received praise all around. It also marked a personal transition for Sitwell, who went from thinking of himself as a poet to considering himself a writer.

In addition to being a successful literary year, in 1924 Sitwell met and fell in love with his future wife, Georgia Doble. They met at a dance. Sachie pursued Georgia assiduously for a year before she would agree to become engaged. They were married in Paris on October 12, 1925. Their first son, Reresby, was born in 1927 and his younger brother, Francis, in 1935.

Over the next several decades Sitwell produced a wide variety of literary works. He wrote one volume of short stories, several books on art, and two biographies. Developing a passion for British architecture, Sitwell published British Architects and Craftsmen in 1945, and four travel books between 1948 and 1956. He did not publish any more poetry until 1948 when Selected Poems, edited by Edith and Osbert Sitwell, came out. It was warmly received by critics. Sacheverell had no real desire to be brought into the limelight which was once again focused on the Sitwell Triad, however. While Edith and Osbert made international tours and promoted their works with vigor, Sacheverell stayed home on the Weston Estate, or traveled research new volumes.

The death of Edith in 1964 devastated both Osbert and Sacheverell and Osbert's death in 1969 was another serious emotional blow. However, it also served to release Sacheverell finally from the familial dependence he had always felt, financially and emotionally, and allowed him to make a sort of peace with the memory of his brother; this despite Osbert having left the larger part of his estate to Reresby. Enough of the estate went to Sacheverell to allow him to live out his days in relative wealth. Georgia died in 1980. Two years later, Sacheverell published his final volume of poetry, An Indian Summer. He was made a Companion of Honor in 1984 and died in 1988.


Bradford, Sarah. Sacheverell Sitwell: Splendours and Miseries. London: Sinclair-Stevenson, 1993.

National Portrait Gallery. The Sitwells and the Art of the 1920s and 1930s. London: National Portrait Gallery Publications, 1994.


The Sacheverell Sitwell Collection, 1912-1988, contains an extensive sampling of his written works, including 272 notebooks in which Sitwell wrote initial drafts for many of his works. Also present are letters written to Sitwell, business papers regarding his publications and the running of the Weston estate, and a small number of personal papers. The collection is organized into four series: Series I. Works, 1920-1976 (65 boxes); Series II. Correspondence, 1912-1988 (12 boxes); Series III. Business and Personal Papers, 1922-1988 (5 boxes); and Series IV. 1926-1984 (2 boxes). Portions of this collection were previously accessible through a card catalog, but have been re-cataloged as part of a retrospective conversion project.

Series I makes up about three-quarters of the collection and is composed of handwritten and typescript drafts as well as page proofs for a wide variety of Sitwell's works. Examples of poetry, travelogues, art criticism, and biography are all present including All of Summer in a Day, A Background for Domenico Scarlatti, For Want of the Golden City, Gothik North, Red Chapels of Banteai Srei, and Selected Poems, 1946-1963. Almost four boxes of handwritten and typescript poetry are present which may have been pulled together as part of Selected Poems, or may have been meant for a retrospective publication that was in the planning stages when Sitwell died. Of particular note are the 272 notebooks containing handwritten drafts of many poems, travel notes, and essays. Many of the works in these notebooks have been identified and are included in the Index of Works, along with all of the other titles in this series; however there is a quantity of unidentified text that is not listed in the index.

The Correspondence Series is composed almost exclusively of letters received by Sitwell, though a few written by him are interfiled. Of particular note are letters from Winifred Bryher, a patron of the Sitwells, and extensive correspondence from Edith and Osbert Sitwell. Identified correspondents are listed in the Index of Correspondence at the end of this guide. Also present, but not indexed, are letters of condolence on the death of Osbert and Georgia Sitwell, congratulatory letters on Sitwell's receipt of the Companion of Honor, and two folders of fan mail and another of general invitations. Finally there are ten folders of letters from unidentified correspondents.

Series III is made up of business and personal papers. These include household bills, account statements from and correspondence with accountants, brokers, and solicitors. Additional correspondence with publishers, lists and notes, photographs and printed images for books, radio show transcripts, tax records, and various printed ephemera are also included. Correspondents in this series are included in the Index of Correspondents at the end of this guide.

The final series is made up of third party correspondence and works. Letters written to and from people other than Sacheverell Sitwell comprise one folder in this series and are indexed in the Index of Correspondents at the end of this guide, while the rest of the material is composed of typescripts and page proofs of materials written by other authors. Included in this section is "A Brief History of Weston Hall," by Sir George Sitwell, which includes a handwritten family tree; two volumes of page proofs for the Diaries of Sylvester Douglas edited by Francis Bickley; and a confidential report on remote parts of Persia written by John Russell for the British Ambassador in 1956.

Elsewhere in the Ransom Center are six photographs of Sitwell, his family, and friends, located in the Literary Files of the Photography Collection. Also present are 16 vertical files primarily containing newspaper clippings regarding his works, as well as some printed material. One folder of newspaper clippings is located in the Scrapbook Collection. Illustrations drawn by John Farleigh for Old Fashioned Flowers are located in the John Farleigh Art Collection. Other materials related to Sacheverell Sitwell may be found in the following manuscript collections at the Ransom Center:

  • Cunard, Nancy
  • Lehmann, John
  • Lindsay, Philip
  • Lowndes, Belloc
  • Owen, Peter
  • Palmer, Herbert Edward
  • Sitwell, Edith, Dame
  • Sitwell, Georgia
  • Sitwell, Osbert, Sir
  • Strong, Leonard Alfred George
  • Symonds, John
  • Walpole, Hugh, Sir
  • Wilde, Oscar


Correspondents

Aly Khan, Joan.

Beaumont, Cyril W. (Cyril William), 1891-1976.

Bryher, 1894-.

Cunard, Nancy, 1896-1965.

Egremont, Pamela.

Elizabeth II, Queen of England, 1926-.

Farleigh, John.

James, Zita Jungman.

Magro, Frank.

McCann, William.

Richards, Grant, 1872-1948.

Salter, Elizabeth, 1918-1981.

Sitwell, Edith, Dame, 1881-1964.

Sitwell, Osbert, 1892-1969.

Organizations

Faber and Faber.

Subjects

Authors, England, 20th century.

England, Social life and customs, 20th century.

Poets, English, 20th century.

Document Types

Financial records.

Galley proofs.