De mortuis nil nisi bonum never seemed to apply to Angela Thirkell (1890–1961). The appearance of a full-length biography—Margot Strickland’s Portrait of a Lady Novelist—sixteen years after Thirkell’s death triggered a kind of orgy of execration among British reviewers in which a single epithet recurred. To Hilary Spurling in The Observer, Thirkell was “a monstrous egotist, snobbish, reactionary, irredeemably callous in private, mistress in public of the sour aside and the spiteful dig.” The Listener’s Patricia Beer praised a related book, the autobiography of Thirkell’s son Graham, for providing “such a brilliant portrait of a monster in a landscape.” “A monster, I decided,”...


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