Edith, Osbert, and Sacheverell Sitwell Papers, 1917-1972

Overview of the Collection

Sitwell, Edith, 1887-1964.
Edith, Osbert, and Sacheverell Sitwell Papers
1917-1972 (inclusive)
2.5 Linear feet of shelf space, (3 Boxes)
Collection Number
Cage 531 (collection)
Papers of Edith Sitwell, Osbert, and Sacheverell Sitwell, consisting of correspondence with friends and associates, manuscripts of poetry, articles and portions of books, miscellaneous dedicatory and inscribed materials, and non-literary materials. Significant correspondants include Roy Campbell, Graham Greene, Helen Rootham, Elizabeth Salter, and others.
Washington State University Libraries' Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections (MASC)
Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections
Terrell Library Suite 12
Pullman, WA
Telephone: 509-335-6691
Access Restrictions

This collection is open and available for research use.


Biographical NoteReturn to Top

Dame Edith Sitwell was born September 7, 1887, in Scarborough, England, the eldest child of Sir George and Lady Ida Sitwell, and sister of Osbert (1892-1969) and Sacheverell (1897- ) Sitwell. She was privately educated. In 1914, she moved to London with her governess Helen Rootham and lived there for the next eighteen years. She resided in London and Paris throughout her life and spent most of her summers at the family estate, Renishaw Hall. For a brief period during World War I she worked as a clerk in a goverment office, after which she diligently pursued a writing career. She was awarded honorary doctorates of literature by the universities of Oxford, Leeds, Durham, and Sheffield. She was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1954 and became a Companion of Literature (awarded by the Royal Society of Literature) in 1963. Dame Edith died in London December 9, 1964. Poet, critic, anthologist, and champion of Modernism, Edith Sitwell entered the English literary world during the 1920s enmeshed in controversy, remaining there for nearly fifty years. Her avant-garde approach to art and fashion, quick-witted repartees, and flamboyant appearance combined to distinguish her as a major writer and eccentric personality. Edith's appearance and highly publicized personal vendettas were largely responsible for her striking image as a high priestess of modern poetry. Nearly six feet tall, she invented her own fashions, donning flowing robes, turbans, and huge aquamarine rings to accentuate her height and large features. Her lightning-quick responses, usually witty and often venomous, invited banter from critics and the press. Her better-known adversaries included D.H. Lawrence, Wyndham Lewis and Noel Coward. Edith was also generous, however, in her support for new, young writers. Dylan Thomas, Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, and Aldous Huxley greatly benefited from her encouragement and promotional schemes.

Sir (Francis) Osbert Sitwell was born December 6, 1892, in London, the son of Sir George and Lady Ida Sitwell, and the brother of Edith (1887-1964) and Sacheverell (1897- ) Sitwell. He attended private preparatory schools in Scarborough and New Barnet, and Eton College. After Eton, Osbert spent two years at a military "crammer" in Camberley and in 1912 was commissioned in the Nottingham Yeomanry. He served with the Grenadier Guards during World War I and left the army in 1919. In 1943 Osbert succeeded his father as fifth baronet. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, an honorary associate of the American National Institute of Arts and Letters, and an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects. He received a Commander Order of the British Empire in 1956 and was named Companion of Honour in 1958. Osbert Sitwell's writing career spanned a period of over fifty years, but it was in the first quarter of the twentieth century that he earned the reputation which would endure his lifetime. Osbert, along with his sister Edith and, to a lesser extent, his brother Sacheverell, publicly challenged what they perceived to be, a sedentary and prosaic British society. Emerging from an aristocratic background, the trio was often referred to as "enfants terribles," in their haste to usher in all that was new in art, literature, music, and fashion, and scourge all that was not. During their heyday, Osbert vociferously campaigned against the Georgian poets, pompous conventionality, and anything that smacked of philistinism. In turn, he ardently promoted Modernism and supported such writers as Eliot, Pound, and Huxley. As a controversial journalist, poet, art critic, novelist, and autobiographer, Osbert voiced his opinions in an acerbic, witty, and highly original writing style. Over the years he published numerous successful works, but his most sustained achievement was his five-volume autobiography, Left Hand, Right Hand, which was published during the years 1944-1950. In the last years of his life Osbert was increasingly incapacitated with Parkinson's disease. He died in 1969.

Sir Sacheverell Sitwell was born November 15, 1897, in Scarborough, England, the youngest child of Sir George and Lady Ida Sitwell and the brother of Edith (1887-1964) and Osbert Sitwell (1892-1969). He attended Eton College and Balliol College, Oxford, and served with the Grenadier Guards in World War I. In 1925 he married Georgia Doble (d. 1980); the couple had two sons, Reresby and Francis. He became the sixth baronet upon the death of his brother in 1969. Sacheverell has resided at Weston Hall, Towcester, Northamptonshire, England, since 1929. A prolific and eclectic writer, Sacheverell has authored over seventy books of poetry, biography, and architectural, art, music, travel, and natural history description. Although he did not achieve the notoriety enjoyed by Edith and Osbert, he has earned considerable distinction as a poet and art critic.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The papers of Edith Sitwell, Osbert, and Sacheverell Sitwell, consist of correspondence, writings, and miscellanea.

Outgoing correspondence in the collection informally addresses some aspect of the Sitwells' literary affairs including lecture tours, work in progress, relations with the press and critics, and appraisal of other writers. Many of the letters also discuss personal concerns such as friends and relatives, illness, finances and household activity. In the case of Edith Sitwell, a major portion is comprised of Edith's letters to her two secretaries, Dorothy Marshall and Elizabeth Salter. Salter quoted from many of these in her memoir of Edith, The Last Years of a Rebel (1967). Incoming items are single letters or small groups of letters from Sitwell friends or literary representatives who, for the most part, discuss literary projects and literary figures.

Many of the untitled manuscripts are bound notebooks containing a variety of work written over a lengthy period of time, including many titled pieces. Manuscript material, often heavily revised and corrected, consists of handwritten poetry (later published) and drafts of published articles and portions of books.

The miscellanea consists of material dedicated to the Sitwells or written about them, works published by friends, and Sitwell items not of a literary nature such as bank account books

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use

Copyright restrictions may apply.

Preferred Citation

[Item description]

Edith, Osbert, and Sacheverell Sitwell Papers, 1917-1972 (Cage 531)

Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections, Washington State University Libraries, Pullman, WA.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top


The collection consists of three groups: Edith Sitwell, Osbert Sitwell and Sacheverell Sitwell. Each group is organized in three series: Correspondence, Writings, and Miscellanea.

The Correspondence series consists of outgoing and incoming correspondence. Outgoing items are arranged alphabetically by the last name of the recipient. Incoming items are arranged alphabetically by the correspondent.

The Writings series comprises titled manuscripts, arranged alphabetically, and untitled manuscripts, arranged chronologically.

The Miscellanea series is arranged chronologically.

Acquisition Information

The papers of Edith, Osbert, and Sacheverell Sitwell have been purchased from various sources by the Washington State University Libraries, beginning in 1972. In 1987, several of these groups of papers were brought together to form this collection. Additions were made almost immediately after the collection was organized, and further additions can be expected to be made again in subsequent years.

Related Materials

Thomas Balston Papers of the Sitwells, 1924-1960 (Cage 9)

Siegfried Sassoon Papers of the Sitwells, 1918-1957 (Cage 165)

Nina Hamnett Papers, 1914-1953 (Cage 534)

Stephen Tennant Papers, 1929-1977 (Cage 643)

Ada Leverson Letters from the Sitwells, circa 1920-1935 (Cage 4669)

Stephen Tennant Papers, 1945-1953 (Cage 4722)

Edith Sitwell Correspondence, 1922-1964 (Cage 4793)

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

Edith Sitwell Papers, 1917-1967Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Outgoing Correspondence
Box Folder
1 1
One letter.
1953 May 11
1 2
MINNIE (FORSBURGH) ASTOR. various addresses.
Fifteen letters, one telegram, ten blank postcards with pictures of Renishaw Hall.
1948-1950, 1953, undated
1 3
MISS BARBER. Renishaw Hall
Six letters.
1 4
JOHN BEEVERS. Renishaw Hall
Two letters.
1935 September 5 and 7
1 5
MRS. BINYON. Surfside Hotel, Palm Beach, Florida
One letter.
1 6
MARY CAMPBELL. Castello di Montegufoni
Three letters.
1957 November 5, 1958 ?ber 20, 1960 February 16
1 7
ROY CAMPBELL. Castello di Montegufoni
One letter.
1956 January 21
1 8
MRS. CHAMBERLAIN. 22 Pembridge Mansions
One letter.
1925 July 20
1 9
MISS DAWSON. Renishaw Hall
One letter.
1948 June 17
1 10
One letter.
1948 October 7
1 11
DOROTHY MARSHALL. various addresses
Sixty letters.
1949 June 11 - 1951 January 31
1 12
MISS MUNRO-KERR. various addresses
Twenty letters.
1946 October 14- 1961 May 2
1 13-14
DENYS KILHAM ROBERTS. various addresses
Eighty-one letters, ten telegrams, and one postcard.
1942-1964, undated
1 15
HELEN ROOTHAM. Agencia Egidi.
One letter with typed transcript.
1 16-20
ELIZABETH SALTER. Sesame Club, Castello di Montegufoni, and Renishaw Hall
One hundred and fifty-seven letters.
1957 - 1960
1 21
SOCIETY OF AUTHORS, ACCOUNTANT. Sesame Club and Renishaw Hall
Three letters.
1948 August 25, 1951 October 18, undated
1 22
PAVEL TCHELICHEW. Pembridge Mansions
One letter and English translation.
1 23
DR. AND MRS. HAL LYDIARD WILSON. Renishaw Hall, New York, London and Castello di Montegufoni
Two postcards, two telegrams and 25 letters.
1949 - 1962
1 24
One letter.
1925 April 30
Incoming Correspondence
Box Folder
2 1
One letter.
2 2
CECIL BEATON. 61 Sussex Gardens and 8 Pelham Place
Two letters.
2 3
One partial letter.
2 4
STELLA BOWEN. unidentified places
Two letters.
2 5
MAURICE BOWRA. Wadham College, Oxford
Three letters.
[1961] May 17, 1964 December 12, [no year] September 3
2 6
One letter.
2 7
KENNETH CLARK. B5 Albany Piccadilly W.1 and Saltwood Castle, Kent
Three letters.
1960 October 9 - 1961 August 18
2 8
JEAN COCTEAU. unidentified places
Four letters in French.
1955 October - 1956 June 18
2 9
One letter.
1936 July 25
2 10
TOM DRIBERG. Bradwell Lodge, Essex
One letter with envelope.
2 11
One letter.
1960 October 2
2 12
ALEC GUINESS. Theatre Royal
One letter.
1960 December 22
2 13
Two letters.
1959 November 10, 1961 January 20
2 14
DAVID JONES. Northwick Lodge
One letter to Miss Frazer about Edith.
1955 October 17
2 15
One letter.
1961 January 30
2 16
COMPTON MACKENZIE. 31 Drummond Place, Waverly
One letter.
1958 March 19
2 17
DENYS KILHAM ROBERTS. Society of Authors and No.1 The Cliff, Cornwall
Two letters.
1943 March 18, 1962 November 20
2 18
One letter.
1962 September 6
2 19
JOHN SPARROW. 3 Pump(?) Court
Two letters.
1954 December 1 - [1960]
2 20
PAVEL TCHELICHEW. unidentified place
One letter in French with a typescript in English.
2 21
One letter.
1964 March 25
2 22
KATHERINE WORSLEY. Hovingham Hall, York
One letter.
1961 May 14
2 23
WILLIAM WORSLEY. Hovingham Hall, York
One letter.
1961 May 13
2 24
Yale Literary Magazine. New Haven, Conneticut
One letter.
1958 March 10
Titled Manuscripts
Box Folder
2 25-27
"Fanfare for Elizabeth." Corrected partial typescript, 287 pages, for the film adaptation of Edith Sitwell's Fanfare for Elizabeth (1946), The screenplay was written in 1953 for a proposed production by Columbia Pictures but never produced.
2 28
"His Blood colours my cheek." Autograph manuscript of Edith Sitwell's poem, signed, n.d. The poem is dedicated to Father Martin D'Arcy, who was a major figure of the modern Roman Catholic Church in England. The poem was first published in The Month, May 1958.
2 29
"Precious Stones and Metals," n.d. Autograph manuscript, signed, with author's deletions and revisions. The article was published in Harper's Bazaar (London) in 1939.
2 30
"Second 'Promenade Sentimentale," n.d. Autograph manuscript of her poem, with an envelope which is authenticated by Osbert Sitwell.
2 31
Wheels, edited by Edith Sitwell. Hand-corrected galley sheets for the second "cycle" (1917) of the annual anthology of poetry. Contributing authors are Osbert and Sachverell Sitwell, Aldous Huxley, and Nancy Fairbairn.
Untitled Manuscripts
Box Folder
2 32
A group of corrected poetic manuscripts, sixteen pages, apparently extracted from notebooks and including work done from the 1920s to the 1940s. Pieces include "Mary Stuart to James Bothwell, Casket Letter No. 2;" "At the Flower Show;" poems beginning "Alice the night is black and chill" and "It was my babe I had buried deep;" numerous drafts of the poems beginning "I hang, I hang upon the gallows tree;" and drafts for several other works. Also included is a rough draft manuscript poem beginning "Spring, come soon and swell the terrible Lethe flood to give me tears," written in ink by Edith on the half title page of a paperback Agatha Christie novel.
2 33
"Rough Suggestions for Children's Anthology," [1936], signed. Eight-page, handwritten scheme for contents of a proposed children's anthology of poetry. This list was originally with Norman Collins' July 1936 letter to Edith discussing the publication of the book by his firm Victor Gollancz Ltd., London. (See incoming correspondence, Norman Collins.) The anthology .us Look! The Sun, edited by Edith, was published in 1941 by that company.
3 1
This group of writings includes manuscripts extracted from various notebooks, sundry pages from Sitwell's works, and typescript copies of published poems. The manuscripts include articles on various English writers, a satiric piece about Hollywood, a review of another's work with publishing instructions, a list of poems to be included in a work, an article on the world and its "great design," and titled pieces "A winter journey," "Two Songs," and "Serian Circles." Typescript copy includes the poem "Scotch Rhapsody" and most of .us The Outcasts (1962).
Box Folder
3 2
The Gum Trees, Roy Campbell, n.d. Published by Faber and Faber Limited, London, with drawings by David Jones. Apparently Jones sent Edith Sitwell this publication along with his letter of October 17, 1955. (See incoming correspondence, David Jones.)
3 3
"Shadow Like A Lovely Lady." Holographic musical score of Jack Lindsay's composition written for Edith Sitwell.
3 4
Bank account books
2 volumes.
3 5
Poetry and the First World War, Sir Maurice Bowra, 1961. Bowra, the warden of Wadham College, Oxford, sent this Oxford publication to Edith along with a May 17 [1961] letter in which he discusses the work. (See incoming correspondence, Maurice Bowra.) The work is inscribed "To Edith with love from Maurice."
3 6-9
The Last Years of a Rebel: A Memoir of Edith Sitwell (1967). Publisher's copy of Elizabeth Salter's book includes typescript material and illustrations. Originals and copies of clippings about Edith Sitwell and her literary works. Collected by Denys Kilham Roberts. (Some in oversize case.)
3 10-11
Originals and copies of clippings about Edith Sitwell and her literary works. Collected by Denys Kilham Roberts. (Some in oversize case.)
3 12
Copies of letters having to do with Mr. Bebbington's anthology. Letters copied in Edith's hand.
3 13-14
Originals and copies of clippings about Edith Sitwell. Came with the outgoing correspondence to Minnie (Forsburgh) Astor.

Osbert Sitwell Papers, 1949-1967Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Outgoing Correspondence
Box Folder
4 1
Minnie Fosburgh. Renishaw Hall.
Three letters and two envelopes.
1949 November 21 - December 30
4 2
Graham Greene. Renishaw Hall,Castello di Montegufoni, Carlyle Square, Church Street W.8.
Seventeen letters and one postcard.
1945-1967, undated
4 3
Dorothy Marshall. Renishaw Hall.
Four letters and two envelopes.
1939 November 15 - 1940 January 10
4 4
Alan Ross.
Three letters.
1949 August 4 - 1955 April 3
4 5
Edith Sitwell. San Remo.
One letter.
4 6
Dr. Hal Lydiard Wilson. Castello di Montegufoni.
One letter.
1959 February 13
Titled Manuscripts
Box Folder
4 7
Escape With Me! An Oriental Sketch-book. Original autographed copy of manuscript, undated, and heavily corrected and revised by the author. Published by Macmillan & Co., Ltd., London in 1939, the travel book documents Osbert's impressions and experiences made during visits to China and the Far East.
4 8
Most of the Game, n.d., edited by Osbert Sitwell. Twenty seven-page typescript, bound copy of letters from Henry Moat, valet and butler to Sir George Sitwell for over forty years. Includes a brief introduction by Osbert and inscription, "For darling Edith."

Sacheverell Sitwell Papers, 1928-1972Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Incoming Correspondence
Box Folder
5 1
Ronald Hayman. Written from Weston Hall.. The correspondence discusses the publication of To Henry Woodward (1972), a collection of Sacheverell's poems. Included in the letters is the preface note to Woodward. Apart from some small collections privately printed the same year, Woodward was Sacheverell's first book of new poems since 1936.
Five letters.
1972 May - September
Titled Manuscripts
Box Folder
5 2
"A Castle and an Abbey," (n.d.) Typescript material for chapter four of the first volume of The Gothick North, A Study of Mediaeval Life, Art, and Thought (1929). Cover is autographed by the author.
5 3
"Opus Anglicanum," (January 24, 1972). Hand written manuscript of twenty stanzas of poetry with corresponding and minor revisions, eight pages.
1972 January 24
Untitled Manuscripts
Box Folder
5 4
One hundred fifty page folio, dated 1928-1930, signed, Weston Hall. The folio includes most of the original material for Two Poems, Ten Songs (1929); parts for cantos 4, 5 and 6 of Dr. Donne & Gargantua, The First Six Cantos (1930); drafts of the preface and finale to The Gothick North: A Study of Mediaeval Life, Art, and Thought (1929-1930, three volumes); the poems, "The Grande Adagio,""A Catch of Hands," and "The Cliffs of Capri"; as well as other unpublished prose and poetry.
5 5
One hundred fifty page folio, dated 1959-1962, signed, Weston Hall. The notebook contains numerous, modified drafts of several untitled poems and drafts of the poems "The Portrait of Campaspe" and "Kailasa." Also included are research notes and descriptions of color plates of French snuff boxes made during 1739-1749; a draft of Sacheverell's article "Castles in Spain," which appeared in Opera News in December 1962; and a draft of a letter addressed "My dear George" which discusses the sales of Great Houses of Europe(1961), edited by Sacheverell, and states his intention to write a book on monasteries.
5 6
One hundred fifty page folio, dated 1974-1975, signed,Weston Hall. The folio contains drafts of essays on J.S.mBach and Lt. Colonel A.H. Wolley-Dod (1862-1948), author of A Flora of Sussex (1937); a draft of the revised preface to the paperback edition of Spain (1975),a descriptive guidebook based on Sacheverell's many visits; drafts of the poem "Nymphis et Fontibus"; plus other untitled poems and prose. Portions of what appears to be an autobiography are also included. Sacheverell discusses the art of writing and describes his early efforts as an author.
5 7
Approximately one hundred and fifty page folio, dated ca. 1966-1971, signed, Weston Hall. Manuscript notebook containing notes and drafts for an essay on Jacques Callot; "Introduction for the Paintings of Axel Amuchastegui"; three drafts of "La Gazza Ladra"; four drafts of "Birds as Oracle," two of these under the title "Vogel as Prophet"; four drafts of "St. Margaret's"; "Bahia de Todos los Santos"; three drafts of "Toupial". Also other untitled notes and writings, including his notes on a collected edition(?) of his poetry.
circa 1966-1971

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Authors, English -- 20th century.

Personal Names

  • Campbell, Roy, 1901-1957.
  • Greene, Graham, 1904-1991.
  • Rootham, Helen.
  • Salter, Elizabeth, 1918-1981.
  • Sitwell, Edith, 1887-1964 -- Archives
  • Sitwell, Osbert, 1892-1969. -- Archives
  • Sitwell, Sacheverell, 1897-1988. -- Archives

Family Names

  • Sitwell family -- Archives

Other Creators

  • Personal Names
    • Sitwell, Osbert, 1892-1969. (creator)
    • Sitwell, Sacheverell, 1897-1988. (creator)