When Gertrude Stein Met Edith Sitwell

Article excerpt

This is, in fact, a first, middle and (arguably) final encounter. The story begins in 1924, when Edith Sitwell came to Paris and called at 27 rue de Fleurus, where Gertrude Stein and Alice B Toklas lived and Cezannes and Picassos hung on the walls. Stein's expectations were guarded: Sitwell had discussed her work in English journals, not always with enthusiasm. But Stein's impression was favourable. Edith Sitwell was very tall, Gertrude noted, beautiful, with a most distinguished nose, and she walked as if advancing and withdrawing at the same time. Alice recalled a double-breasted coat with large buttons. Edith likened Gertrude to an Easter Island idol. They talked about poetry: Sitwell's unorthodox, mocking poems shocked the public as much as did Stein's prose. Edith admired Gertrude's prose - how she "threw a word into the air", freeing it of past associations.

More visits were exchanged, and on her return home Sitwell lobbied for Stein to lecture at Cambridge and Oxford. …