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This review is taken from PN Review 33, Volume 10 Number 1, September - October 1983.

BRABBLING WITH WATERY VOICE Sylvia Townsend Warner, Letters, ed. William Maxwell (Chatto) £15.00

Few writers have spread their talents as widely as Sylvia Townsend Warner did without suffering an attendant inconsistency. Known mainly for her novels and short stories, here she cements a reputation for excellent prose in yet another field-that of letter-writing.

Letters has been edited with an introduction by the American novelist, William Maxwell, a close friend of Sylvia's, her editor at The New Yorker and now one of her literary executors. Sylvia's letters to him form the core of this book. Among the other major correspondents are Nancy Cunard, David Garnett, Paul Nordoff and Alyse Gregory. One thing that this enormous and surprisingly homogeneous book proves to me is how un-literary a writer Sylvia Townsend Warner was, and how original. The energy behind her writing-her turns of phrase, her verbal playfulness and wealth of allusion do more than indicate a quick wit and fine mind; they show how natural good writing was to her. Nor are these letters the work of a writer with one eye on publication. She did not keep copies of her letters (indeed, she didn't always have copies of her own books). But the editor has had little trouble in finding his material since many of her letters were preserved, and no doubt treasured, by their recipients. The book covers a fifty-seven year period in which her energies never seem to flag. The first letter here, written before she had even contemplated the possibility of becoming a published author, are as peculiar to ...


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