Rosemary Sutcliff’s world of The Eagle of the Ninth is real | An High Tory perspective

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Rosemary Sutcliff, author of the children’s book and historical novel The Eagle of the Ninth, set in Roman Britain, told me more than once that she believed in re-incarnation and that she had lived in Roman times. Hence, she believed, her feel for that period. So – as I have posted before – I was struck by Barendina Smedley’s words in her blog Fugitive Ink on reading The Eagle of the Ninth for the first time as an adult not a child:

It really does feel as if the world in which she set her characters was, in some sense, as real to her as the characters themselves …  

The fuller quote is

… there’s nothing remotely cynical about her writing. It’s hard to come away from reading The Eagle of the Ninth without the conviction that all those mists, storms and so forth were not so much imagined by Sutcliff as lived, at least imaginatively, in the course of writing the book. It really does feel as if the world in which she set her characters was, in some sense, as real to her as the characters themselves, hence as worthy of rich description and serious regard.

Barendina wrote earlier in the article that:

“Amongst the lesser pleasures of parenthood should be numbered the opportunity, not only to re-visit the favourite books of one’s own early childhood  … but also … the opportunity to encounter as an adult the children’s books one missed in childhood. Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Eagle of the Ninth very much a case in point.”

See here for the full, fascinating reflection upon reading The Eagle of the Ninth

See here for the blog, which tackles “issues of politics, art and literature from an unapologetically idiosyncratic, vaguely High Tory perspective”

4 comments

  1. You’re far too modest, Anthony. And thanks, Anne, for telling me about Rosemary Sutcliff’s ‘Beowulf’ – I feel pretty sure it’s going to be amazing – that’s one of my son’s birthday presents sorted out, then!

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  2. Rosemary Sutcliff’s beautiful and deceptively simple rendering of “Beowulf” is also an excellent introduction to this seminal Anglo-Saxon work.

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  3. Thanks, Anthony, both for the link and for the adjective ‘fascinating’ – from someone who knows as much about Rosemary Sutcliff’s writing as you do, that means a lot!

    Meanwhile I am thrilled to discover this site. As my son and I continue our journey through Sutcliff’s work, the information here will doubtless prove a very worthwhile resource.

    Finally, if I were writing that blog piece again today, I’d have to revise upwards my estimate of the quality of Sutcliff’s prose. We’ve recently read (aloud) her two re-tellings of the Homeric epics – the most extraordinarily effective introduction to those great stories I’ve ever encountered, by the way – and honestly, her account of Patroclus’ funeral games is far better than most proper translations, in terms both of clarity and poetry. And those, oddly, are ‘lived’, too. What a truly extraordinary woman!

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    1. It sounds to me like you know Rosemary’s writings much better than I, let alone translations of the Homeric epics! You have driven me back to the funeral games … Thanks for the comment.

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