Osbert Sitwell

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Osbert Sitwell, 1919

Sir Francis Osbert Sacheverell Sitwell, Bt. (6 December 18924 May 1969) was an English poet, novelist, memoirist and controversialist on behalf of the arts. Osbert Sitwell, his brother Sacheverell and his sister Edith were among the most conspicuous figures in the British artistic world of the 1920s and 1930s.


  • The British bourgeoisie
    Is not born
    And does not die,
    But, if it is ill,
    It has a frightened look in its eyes.
    • "At the House of Mrs. Kinfoot", line 49 (1919).
  • Heroic figures are now obsolete,
    So Demigod and Devil find retreat
    In minds of children — as rare beasts and men,
    Elsewhere extinct, persist in hill or fen
    From man protected — where each form assumes
    Gigantic stature and intention, looms
    From wind-moved, twilight-woven histories:
    For them each flower teems with mysteries.
    • "When First the Poets Sung", line 34 (1927).
  • For Poetry is the wisdom of the blood,
    That scarlet tree within, which has the power
    To make dull words bud forth and burst in flower.
    • "When First the Poets Sung", line 47.
    • These lines were repeatedly drawn on by Sitwell in his later works.
  • Educ[ated]: during the holidays from Eton.
  • How simple-minded of the Germans to imagine that we British could be cowed by the destruction of our ancient monuments! As though any havoc of the German bombs could possibly equal the things we have done ourselves!
    • Quoted by George Orwell in Tribune, December 31, 1943.
    • Referring to the Baedeker Blitz: a series of German air raids on English cities of historic and architectural interest.
  • Everywhere men have unlocked the prisoners within, and from under the disguising skins the apes have leapt joyfully out.
    • Left Hand, Right Hand!, Introduction (1945).
  • They loved him, I think, because, with all his merits, he showed them to be rich: looking at his portraits, they understood at last how rich they really were.
    • Left Hand, Right Hand!, Bk. II, ch. 6.
    • Of the portrait-painter John Singer Sargent's relationship with his clients.
  • The Rich Man's Banquet, which was to last for a decade, had now begun: the feast, it was recognised, went to the greediest.
  • Hell has a climate, but no situation. It lies in the spirit, and not in space.
    • The Scarlet Tree, Bk. IV, ch. 1 (1946).
  • The artist, like the idiot or clown, sits on the edge of the world, and a push may send him over it.
    • The Scarlet Tree, Bk. IV, ch. 2.
  • The only difference between an artist and a lunatic is, perhaps, that the artist has the restraint or courtesy…to conceal the intensity of his obsession from all except those similarly afflicted.
    • Noble Essences, Bk. IX, ch. 7 (1950).
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