Guide to the Edith Sitwell poems, circa 1940-1950


Dame Edith Sitwell was a British poet and critic whose work helped usher in the modernist era of British poetry. This autograph manuscript contains the text of two of her poems: "Lullaby" and "Serenade: From Any Man to Any Woman." Both poems were inspired by the early years of World War II and were published in her 1942 collection "Street Songs."

Collection Details

Collection Number
Edith Sitwell poems
circa 1940-1950
0.1 Linear Feet, 1 item
David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Materials in English

Collection Overview

The five leaf holograph manuscript with text on the front side of each numbered page consists of two poems both titled at the top and signed "Edith" at the bottom. Both poems, "Lullaby," and "Serenade: Any Man to Any Woman" appeared in her 1942 collection "Street Songs." In this manuscript, "Serenade" is titled "Any Man to Any Woman." Both were inspired by the early years of World War II and are ironically titled. "Lullaby," sung by a baboon, describes a chaotic, primeval world destroyed by wartime chaos and despair in which, "All is equal - blindness, sight/There is no depth, there is no height." "Serenade" spoken by a dying soldier, regards his love through the lens of death and destruction. He identifies his love with a cannon and invites her to "die with me and be my love" in a reversal of the famous Marlowe line.

Both poems are referenced in the Edith Sitwell papers at the Ransom Humanities Center. Viewed March 9, 2017

Source: Misko, Ellen, "A Study of Dame Edith Sitwell's Later Poems: 1940-1945" (1972). Dissertations. Paper 1211. Viewed March 9, 2017

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How to Cite

[Identification of item], Edith Sitwell poems, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

Contents of the Collection

Folder 1

Historical Note

Edith Sitwell was a British writer and critic who was named Dame Commander of the OBE. Her two younger brothers, Osbert and Sacheverell, were literary figures in their own right. The Sitwell family had aristocratic origins, but Edith had an unhappy home life and was closer to her governess than to her parents. Sitwell suffered from complications related to Marfan Syndrome, but used her height to dramatic advantage with her manner of dress and style, particularly when giving readings. She said of herself, "I am not eccentric. It's just that I am more alive than most people. I am an unpopular electric eel in a pool of catfish." Although her prose was commercially successful, she is chiefly known for her poetry, which challenged the stylistic conventions of her day and helped usher British poetry into the modernist age. Sitwell befriended and promoted younger poets and their work, including Dylan Thomas. She was intimately involved with the British literary intelligensia of the early to mid 20th century. When she converted to Catholicism late in life, Evelyn Waugh served as her godfather.

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The Edith Sitwell poems were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library as a purchase in 2015.

Processing Information

Processed by Megan E. Lewis, March, 2017

Accessions described in this collection guide: 2015-0050-LUBMSS448