In addition to the short stories for which Sylvia Townsend Warner is best known, she wrote seven novels: Lolly Willowes: Or, The Loving Huntsman (1926), Mr. Fortune’s Maggot (1927), The True Heart (1929), Summer Will Show (1936), After the Death of Don Juan (1938), The Corner That Held Them (1948), and The Flint Anchor (1954). She also wrote several collections of poetry, which were published as Collected Poems (1982), a biography, a travel guidebook, and a volume of literary criticism, and she translated two books from French into English.
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.
Ackland, Valentine. For Sylvia: An Honest Account. New York: W. W. Norton, 1985. A brief but poignant autobiography by Warner’s lover, detailing the years with Warner and the painful separation caused by Ackland’s struggle with alcoholism. Bea Howe’s lengthy foreword discusses her firsthand understanding of the influence of Ackland on Warner’s personal and professional life.
Brothers, Barbara. “Through the ‘Pantry Window’: Sylvia Townsend Warner and the Spanish Civil War.” In Rewriting the Good Fight: Critical Essays on the Literature of the Spanish Civil War, edited by Frieda S. Brown et al. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1989. Places Warner in the context of her contemporaries regarding the period of the Spanish Civil War. Bibliography.
Dinnage, Rosemary. “An Affair to Remember.” The New York Times, March 7, 1999. A review of Selected Letters of Sylvia Townsend Warner and Valentine Ackland; comments on Warner’s offbeat short stories from The New Yorker, claiming the short story was well suited to her whimsy; discusses her lesbian relationship with Valentine Ackland.
Harmon, Claire. Sylvia Townsend Warner: A Biography. London: Chatto Windus, 1989. An even and thorough biography with illustrations, a bibliography, and an index. Deals openly and...
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