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 thoughts on “On Sylvia Townsend Warner and Virginia Woolf

  • June 15, 2012 at 9:36 am
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    LOVE Virginia Woolf. She just sounds like the most interesting, albeit eventually tragic, person.

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    • June 15, 2012 at 11:21 am
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      I know! I think I'd have been far too scared to talk to her, but still.

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  • June 15, 2012 at 11:09 am
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    Clarity, young man, *clarity*!!! What is PN Review? I want to read the rest of this!

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    • June 15, 2012 at 11:22 am
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      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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  • June 15, 2012 at 12:59 pm
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    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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    • June 18, 2012 at 9:11 am
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      She certainly seems intimidating… STW does a bit too, but less so.

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  • June 15, 2012 at 1:15 pm
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    That's wonderful – but what is SOLO and where do us poor plebs find this amazing piece??

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    • June 18, 2012 at 9:11 am
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      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.

      Reply

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