Sir Sacheverell Sitwell, 90; British Poet, Critic

Times Staff Writer

British author Sir Sacheverell Sitwell, 90, a prolific poet and art critic who wrote in the shadow of his famous siblings, re-entered the limelight at his death, as friends and critics remembered him.

“Sachie” Sitwell, who outlived the better-known Osbert and Edith Sitwell, died Saturday at Weston Hall, his baronial manor and 16-year home, located about 60 miles north of London.

Peter Levi, an Oxford University professor, said Sitwell’s worth as a writer has yet to be properly realized.

That’s partly because of Sitwell’s famous brother and sister. The critic Leonard Clark wrote that Sacheverell’s work “lacks much of the religious and mystic passion of his sister and the wit and nostalgia of his brother, (but) they do not possess to the same extent his purity of utterance or his beautifully woven poetic line.”


The Sitwill trio achieved prominence in London society after World War I. The Grenadier Guards veteran and Oxford graduate joined Osbert and Edith to publish “Wing,” a magazine of new poetry.

They set this poetry to music in a hired hall with the help of William Walton, then a struggling pianist who later became one of Britain’s leading composers.

The Sitwells also organized a then-controversial 1919 exhibition of modern French art that introduced Picasso, Modigliani and others to the British public.

The three achieved enough distinction to be parodied by Noel Coward and caricatured by Max Beerbohm. More formal recognition included Osbert’s Companion of Honor award. And Edith became Dame Edith, the feminine equivalent to knighthood.


Fewer honors came to Sacheverell, whom Osbert characterized as strikingly handsome, warmand intense. As an old man, Sacheverell mused that perhaps three writers were too much for one family.

“What I have tried to do,” he once said, “is get as wide a knowledge and cover as wide a range of the arts as possible and to increase the sensibilities and appreciation of the public for the arts.”

The man who had to pay to get his first book published had doubts about his legacy. Once, when showing a visitor his books, Sitwell said: “It’s awful to see that huge array of books, few of them best sellers, none of them likely to be reprinted.”