The sense that Sylvia Townsend Warner is coming more into view has been confirmed by two recent events. In August 2016 the London Review of Books bookshop made Warner their author of the month, showcasing a selection of her fiction alongside copies of this Journal. Then on 7 December the Poetry Library at the Southbank Centre in London held an evening on Warner’s poetry. This event was proposed and organised by two former students at UCL, Katherine Rodgers and Aileen Wang – organised so well, in fact, that all seats were taken and there was standing room only, not always a phrase associated with poetry events. Claire Harman, Frances Bingham and Peter Swaab were the guest speakers, and a recording of the event has been made, to be lodged in the Warner-Ackland archive in due course.
One further sign of this gathering interest in Warner was the 2015 reissue by Penguin of Claire Harman’s biography. We are very pleased in this issue of the Journal to be including Harman’s further researches into Warner’s great-grandfather and her remarkable grandmother, of whom she said ‘I loved her next to my father’. The issue also features an essay by Pauline Matarasso on the fascinating subject of Warner’s evocations of religion in her poetry, showing with great thoroughness that her sometimes militantly atheist views aren’t the whole of this story. Many of Warner’s readers have a special affection for her letters, collected so far in volumes edited by William Maxwell, Richard Garnett and Michael Steinman. Peter Tolhurst’s article ‘Where Are They Now?’ is a sort of catalogue-in-progress of the whereabouts of her letters, and will be a valuable tool for anybody interested in researching her correspondence.
The Journal includes two works by Warner herself. The first is her essay on ‘Man’s Moral Law’, published in 1932 in the collection of essays titled Man, Proud Man and edited by Mabel Ulrich. Much discussion of Warner has focussed on her relation to twentieth-century feminism and has drawn in particular on her 1959 lecture ‘Women as Writers’, conveniently reprinted in Carcanet’s 1982 edition of the Collected Poems and in With the Hunted (2012). However, this essay specifically on questions of gender in relation to morality has received almost no critical attention, even in discussions of her pre-war writings. Second, we are publishing from manuscript some versions of Baudelaire that Warner made in 1959 after finishing her translation of Proust’s Contre Sainte-Beuve and before beginning her translation of Jean-René Huguenin’s La côte sauvage.
I am glad to be able to report that plans to digitise all the back numbers of the Journal are now going ahead, thanks mainly to the generous support of the English Department at UCL. We expect that the work of digitisation will be completed by the end of 2017. By that point, too, the Journal will have caught up with its chronology. The current issue is the 2016 one, appearing – with apologies – after its chronological due date, but the 2017 issue will actually appear in the year of its nominal publication.
Following discussions by the society committee it has been decided that the ‘Sylvia Townsend Warner Society Lecture’ will take place every two years, and we are very pleased to announce that Professor Maud Ellmann will be lecturing this year on Thursday, 22 June 2017 at 6pm. The venue will be the Institute of Advanced Studies at UCL, and further details will be announced on the society website (http://www.townsendwarner.com/) and in the newsletter. Attendance will be free but registration is advised.