In 1926, Sylvia Townsend Warner’s first novel, Lolly Willowes, was the first Book-of-the-Month Club selection; her second novel, Mr. Fortune’s Maggot, was a selection of the newly formed Literary Guild. Her later novels did not attain the same popularity, but her short stories, 144 of which were published in The New Yorker over a period of four decades, gained for her a wide readership.
In 1967, she became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature (she wryly commented that it was the first public acknowledgment she had received since she was expelled from kindergarten) and in 1972, an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Her short story “The Love Match” was awarded the Prix Menton for 1968.
No full-length critical assessment of Warner’s achievement as novelist, short-story writer, and poet has been produced. John Updike noted in a favorable review that her “half century of brilliantly varied and superbly self-possessed literary production never won for her the flaming place in the heavens of reputation that she deserved.” As far as her achievement in the short story is concerned, however, she certainly ranks alongside H. E. Bates and V. S. Pritchett, her two British contemporaries, whose work most resembles her own.