Sylvia Townsend Warner, though published often, has received sparse critical attention assessing her importance as a writer of short fiction, novels, poems, biographies, and translations. She was born in Harrow on the Hill, Middlesex, England, on December 6, 1893. Her father, George Townsend Warner, was a Harrow School housemaster, but Sylvia did not receive a formal education. Her mother, Eleanor (Hudleston) Warner, taught her to read, her father taught her history, and a governess tutored her in general subjects. By the age of ten, Sylvia was reading extensively in her father’s library. She favored books on the occult, a subject that would later influence much of her writings. After her father died in 1916 she took a job in a munitions factory during World War I. She then moved to London to study music and was a member of the editorial committee that compiled the ten volumes of Tudor Church Music (1922-1929), which took ten years to complete.
Warner’s first book of poetry, The Espalier, was published in 1925. Her first novel, Lolly Willowes, was printed in 1926 and was selected by the newly established Book-of-the-Month Club. Warner’s second novel, Mr. Fortune’s Maggot, published in 1927, was chosen by the Literary Guild. Despite this early popularity of her novels, Warner received little critical acclaim for them; she became best known for her short stories. From 1936 to 1978, The New Yorker...
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