One of the meanest and truest things that have been said about the Sitwells was F. R. Leavis’s comment that they belong not so much to the history of literature as to the history of publicity. The three Sitwell siblings, Edith, born in 1887, Osbert, five years her junior, and Sacheverell, five years younger still and known to family and friends as Sachie, were among the earliest examples of that twentieth-century phenomenon, the person who is famous for being famous. In his gossipy and pleasantly readable new biography of Osbert Sitwell, Philip Ziegler estimates that at the height of Osbert’s success, for every one person who had read his books there were ten who knew something of him and his family. Today the ratio would probably be more like one to a thousand. Most educated people know who Osbert Sitwell was, but you don’t often see anyone curled up with one of his books, not even Left Hand, Right Hand!, the five-volume...


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