Edith Louisa Sitwell, daughter of Sir George and Lady Ida Sitwell and sister of the two writers Osbert and Sacheverell, was born at Scarborough, England, in 1887. Though she was reared in an atmosphere of wealth and culture, her early years, as her brother Osbert wrote in his Left Hand, Right Hand (1944), were emotionally trying. An unwanted child, she suffered considerable physical and nervous anguish in being reared by a tyrannical father, who, among other things, made his only daughter wear a painful device to improve the shape of her aquiline nose. At an early age, she announced her intention of becoming a genius, and soon after she learned to write, she tried her hand at poetry. Physically, she grew to be a tall, pale, distinguished-looking young woman with heavy-lidded eyes and a Plantagenet presence.
Early in the 1920’s, Edith, Osbert, and Sacheverell emerged as a literary cult of three. Their circle was graced by such figures as Yeats, Virginia Woolf, Aldous Huxley, and Eliot. The most prolific of the three Sitwells, Edith produced volume after volume of poetry, and she took to reading her work to literary groups. Wheels, an iconoclastic annual publication that she founded and edited, outraged many. Critics and philistines not appreciative of her efforts often felt the sting of her tongue.
Between 1914 and 1929, in what might be called her initial period, she reacted strongly against the “banal bucolics” of the Georgian poets and wrote a great deal of nonrepresentational verse, which to some extent parallels the paintings of Pablo Picasso and the cubists. During her middle period, which extended from 1930 to 1940, she abandoned her dream world of sensuous mood and tonal patterns, her “pure poetry,” to write...
(The entire section is 722 words.)