Most Read... Rebecca WattsThe Cult of the Noble Amateur
(PN Review 239)
John McAuliffeBill Manhire in Conversation with John McAuliffe
(PN Review 259)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Patricia CraigVal Warner: A Reminiscence
(PN Review 259)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Tim Parksin conversation with Natalia Ginzburg
(PN Review 49)
Next Issue Gwyneth Lewis ‘Spiderings’ Ian Thomson ‘Fires were started: Tallinn, 1944’ Adrian May ‘Traditionalism and Tradition’ Judith Herzberg ‘Poems’ translated by Margitt Helbert Horatio Morpurgo ‘What is a Book?’
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
PN Review 276
PN Review Substack

This article is taken from PN Review 119, Volume 24 Number 3, January - February 1998.

Sexism and Spain Alan Munton

Edgell Rickword was a misogynist. Or: Edgell Rickword's poetry is misogynist. These alternatives arise from remarks in Janet Montefiore's 1996 book Men and Women Writers of the 1930s. In what amounts to a denunciation, Montefiore tells her readers three times in seventeen lines that Rickword - or is it his poetry? - is misogynist. The cause of this attack is 'To the Wife of a Non-Interventionist Statesman', published in Left Review in 1938, and widely regarded as one of the great satirical poems of this century.

In the poem, Rickword sets up a fiction in which its speaker enters the bedroom of the wife of a politician who supported the Non-Intervention Treaty of 1936, and addresses her. (Non-Intervention prevented the Spanish Republicans receiving the arms with which to fight Franco.) In a monologue, the speaker argues that the politician's wife should withdraw from his bed in order to persuade him to change a policy causing deaths in Spain at that moment, and a possible European war in the future. Aristophanes' Lysistrata lies behind this, as do the four-stress rhyming couplets of Swift:

Think what should be a wife's reaction
If he turned out the tool of faction,
Who put across the crooked schemes
Of statesmen sunk in backward dreams; ...

Would she not have its sponsor outlawed
From power, position, bed and board?

The poem's vitality, and its political intelligence, have assured its survival long ...

Searching, please wait... animated waiting image