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English Eccentrics by Edith Sitwell
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English Eccentrics (1933)

by Edith Sitwell

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» See also 22 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
I'm willing to take the other reviewers' word for it that there is some interesting content in here if you can chop your way through the jungle of impenetrable prose. After the first few pages, I have no idea what she thinks she is talking about, and have no desire to try any more. Straight into the paper recycling. ( )
1 vote MarthaJeanne | Aug 21, 2018 |
"Eccentricity exists particularly in the English", June 8, 2014

This review is from: English Eccentrics a Gallery of Weird (Paperback)
A variable collection of characters, from the true eccentrics to those who would hardly seem to qualify.
The former include such individuals as the 'amphibious' lord Rokeby ; the 'not entirely pleasing' Celestina Collins, who shared her bed with thirty fowls; Squire Mytton, who frightened his hiccups away by setting his nightshirt on fire...

I was entertained by the account of Mr Coates, a Shakespearean actor who never quite cut the mustard: 'Mr Coates appeared at The Theatre Royal, Richmond...and again no attempt was made upon his life. indeed, the only lives that were in danger were those of certain unfeeling young gentlemen, who, in the scene where the hero poisons himself, were seized with such immoderate paroxysms of laughter that a doctor who was present became alarmed at their condition, and ordered them to be carried into the open air, where they received medical attention.'

Edith Sitwell's sarcastic tone adds to the narrative: 'Others of Miss Martineau's neighbours were hardly respectable, but like a comfortable Christian woman Miss Martineau said no more about them than would destroy their reputation for respectability and enhance her own.' I found her writing extremely hard to get into on the first page, but soon got used to it.

The last 60 pages or so I found less interesting: a lengthy investigation into people exhuming the (reported) grave of Milton, and removing parts of the body to sell; a description of the Carlyles. Neither seemed really relevant to the theme of the book.
In conclusion then, interesting in parts. ( )
1 vote starbox | Jun 8, 2014 |
Six-word review:

Witty, eloquent appreciation of world-class oddballs. ( )
  Meredy | Sep 4, 2013 |
The English Eccentrics is quite entertaining, although sometimes reading Edith Sitwell's prose is rather like eating spaghetti with your hands. A lovely example is the following sentence:

"That queer irascible old rascal, Captain Thicknesse, who, in spite of his violent temper (which may have been due in part to the fact that he suffered from gallstones and was in the habit of drinking large quantities of laudanum in order to soothe the pain), had a real, if strangely constituted heart, and his descriptions of his sufferings when his wife and daughters died, is moving--all the more so, perhaps, because it is an artless production, for Captain Thicknesse was no writer."

Having read nothing else by Sitwell, I don't know whether this was her normal style, or whether she was mimicking the 18th and 19th century biographers from whom she copiously quoted.

I found some of her subjects interesting, and some not at all, but the most fascinating character in the book was the author herself. She would describe some highly improbable situations in a completely non-judgmental manner, and she clearly had a soft spot for some of the frauds, but then she would treat some relatively innocuous character with biting sarcasm. Her opinion of misers was especially low.

While I have no desire to read any of the biographies she has written, I would like to learn more about Edith Sitwell. ( )
4 vote SylviaC | Apr 25, 2013 |
Delightful reading on a rainy night. ( )
  Katherine_Ashe | Aug 18, 2011 |
Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Sitwell, EdithAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Horder, MervynIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pym, RolandIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Dr and Mrs H. Lydiard Wilson with my affection.
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In this strange 'goose-weather', when even snow and the black-fringed clouds seem like old theatrical properties, dead players' cast-off rags, 'the complexion of a murderer in a bandbox, consisting of a large piece of burnt cork, and a coal-black Peruke', and when the wind is so cold that it seems like an empty theatre's 'Sea, consisting of a dozen large waves, the tenth a little bigger than ordinary, and a little damaged', I thought of those medicines that were advised for Melancholy, in the Anatomy of this disease, of mummies made medicine, and the profits of Dust-sifting.
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Eccentricity exists particularly in the English, states Dame Edith Sitwell, because of "that peculiar and satisfactory knowledge of infallibility that is the hallmark and the birthright of the British nation." Originally published in 1933, " The English Eccentrics "has lost none of its vitality and wit. We find hermits, quacks, mariners, indefatigable travelers, and men of learning. We meet the amphibious Lord Rokeby, whose beard reached his knees and who seldom left his bath; the irascible Captain Thicknesses, who left his right hand, to be cut off after his death, to his son Lord Audley; and Curricle Coats, the Gifted Amateur, whose suit was sewn with diamonds and whose every performance ended in uproar. This is a glorious gallery of the extremes of human nature, portrayed with humor, sympathy, knowledge, and love.… (more)

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