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Sylvia Townsend Warner by Howard Coster, 1934

Sylvia Townsend Warner (1893-1978) was a highly individual writer of novels, short stories and poems, and a contemporary of writers such as Virginia Woolf and Djuna Barnes. Her first novel Lolly Willowes (1926) established her as a new literary talent and was shortlisted for the Prix Femina. She contributed short stories to the New Yorker for more than forty years, and went on to write six more novels ranging far and wide in time and place, dazzlingly full of what she called “the oddness of the world and the surprisingness of mankind”. She also translated Proust’s Contre Saint-Beuve into English, wrote a biography of the novelist T.H.White, and a travel guide to Somerset.

She lived in rural Dorset for most of her life with the poet Valentine Ackland. As a couple, they collaborated on writing and became known for a time as the leading Communists of Wessex.

Sylvia Townsend Warner’s reputation was re-established in the 1970s, when her work was published by the newly-launched Virago Modern Classics imprint. Although there has been a revival of her work in recent years, she remains an under-appreciated figure. The Sylvia Townsend Warner Society hopes to bring new readers to her work, as well generating discussion among the scholars and readers to whom she is already known.


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