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This article is taken from PN Review 23, Volume 8 Number 3, January - February 1982.

Plain Heart, Light Tether Arnold Rattenbury


Just so, I think, your shade,
Alien and clear, was laid
Briefly on this plain heart which now plods on
In this plain house where progeny is none.
                    (King Duffus and Other Poems, 1968).

. . . for he spoke softly, and moved limberly, and had . . . an air of being only lightly tethered to reality. This last quality was especially reassuring to her.
(The True Heart, 1929)


Towards the end of her life-in a house the several outer doors of which stood open to all but the bleakest weathers, mostly alone except for cats familiar enough to share her tea, addicted to wandering at dusk in a garden adrift with herbs-Sylvia Townsend Warner took a pronounced dislike to Lolly Willowes, her first novel of 1926. 'It seems', she said, 'so poor a welcome for the General Strike-though I had begun it long before'-in 1923/4, the Preface to the 1978 reprint suggests. 'Also, people persist in thinking it a piece of self-portraiture. But I was never a witch, you know. Why, Lolly (who was) might not have seen that she must of course support the miners! I hope sincerely she would have had the sense, for she was meant to be likeable.'

The point is salutary-as were most that she made in fact or fiction. However bewitched her pen, however bewitching, she lived wholly in an unambiguous world where the only dignity ...


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