I have just discovered the Google Books Ngram Viewer. When you enter phrases it displays a graph showing how those phrases have occurred in a corpus of books (e.g. in “English”, “American English”, “British English”, ”English”, “English Fiction”, “French”) over the selected years. I tried comparing Rosemary Sutcliff, with Geofrrey Trease, Georgette Heyer, JK Rowling, and Terry Pratchett, in the US and UK. This clearly shows the rise and decline in attention to the books of Rosemary Sutcliff.
I have just discovered, courtesy of Bing search and never found on Google, two portraits of Rosemary Sutcliff which I had not seen for many a year. They are at The National Portrait Gallery. I have applied for full size reproduction rights. Meanwhile two thumbnails must suffice. The one below is by Lord Snowden, for the Sunday Times who I think had compiled a list of top twenty authors of the 20th Century
The others in the photo are:
- Dame Beryl Bainbridge (1932-2010), Novelist and actress.
- Sir John Betjeman (1906-1984), Poet Laureate, writer and broadcaster.
- Sir Malcolm Stanley Bradbury (1932-2000), Novelist and critic.
- Anthony Burgess (John Burgess Wilson) (1917-1993), Novelist and critic; composer.
- Leon Garfield (1921-1996), Writer.
- Laurence Edward Alan (‘Laurie’) Lee (1914-1997), Poet and prose writer.
- Rosamond Nina Lehmann (1901-1990), Novelist.
- Sir Victor Sawdon (‘V.S.’) Pritchett (1900-1997), Writer and critic.
- Sir Laurens Jans van der Post (1906-1996), Writer, farmer, explorer and conservationist.
Source: National Portrait Gallery
Sad today to learn of the death of John Rowe Townsend, albeit aged 91, who The Guardian describe in their obituary as “not only a dominant figure in the academic study of children’s literature, but … a seminal influence on the entire development of modern children’s books.
Rosemary Sutcliff—as historical novelist and children’s book writer—was the subject an essay by him in his 1971 book A Sense of Story. He observed that Rosemary Sutcliff’s books amount to ”a body of work rather than a shelf of novels”.
Day to day, minute to minute, second to second the surface of our lives is in a perpetual ripple of change. Below the immediate surface are slower, deeper currents, and below these again are profound mysterious movements beyond the scale of the individual life-span. And far down on the sea-bed are the oldest, most lasting things, whose changes our imagination can hardly grasp at all. The strength of Rosemary Sutcliff’s main work—and it is a body of work rather than a shelf of novels—is its sense of movement on all these scales. Bright the surface may be, and vigorous the action of the moment, but it is never detached from the forces underneath that give it meaning. She puts more into the reader’s consciousness than he is immediately aware of.
For reasons I cannot divine, my Google alert for new items on <Rosmeary Sutcliff> pointed today to a 2011posting at this blog about her appearance on BBC Radio’s Desert Island Discs! At that time, a recording of Rosemary Sutcliff’s appearance with Roy Plomley was not available for downloading. It is now, here.
In the usual way on this radio programme, Rosemary Sutcliff talked (in October 1983) about her life and work and chose eight records to take to the mythical BBC Radio desert island. She said she chose her music just because she loved it—not everyone does, especially these PR-obsessed days. Her choices were:
- Record 1: Dvorak’s New World Symphony, played by the London Symphony Orchestra, by Istvan Kertesz.
- Record 2: “Eternal father strong to save” – Hymn.
- Record 3: L’Apres-midi d’une Faune by Debussy. Royal Philharmonic conducted by Thomas Beecham.
- Record 4: “We’ll Gather Lilacs” sung by Anne Ziegler & Webster Booth.
- Record 5: “The Flowers of the Forest” played by the pipes & drums of the 1st Battalion of the Scots Guards.
- Record 6: Excerpt from “Under Milk Wood”. Polly Garter’s song.
- Record 7: “The Lark Ascending” by Vaughan Williams. The Boyd Kneale Orchestra. With Frederick Grinker.
- Record 8: “Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring” by Bach. Choir of King’s college, Cambridge, conducted by David Willcocks.
- If she could only take One Record: The Lark Ascending
- One Luxury for the island: Roy Plomley refused her request to take her beloved dogs. She chose therefore flowers, “delivered daily by bottle”.
- One Book for the island: “Kim” by Rudyard Kipling.
Read more about Desert Island Discs, and stream the episode, here
The Irish Times has recalled that Ben Kane has been “described by Wilbur Smith as ‘the rising star of historical fiction’ “. He has written nine novels—and is a great fan of Rosemary Sutcliff. (The latest book, the fourth in his Hannibal series, is Hannibal: Clouds of War). He answered various questions on his writing life, at two points referring to Rosemary Sutcliff.
What was your favourite book as a child?
I read so many, and it’s long enough ago that it’s hard to remember. Either The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff or Sir Nigel by Arthur Conan Doyle.
Which writers, living or dead, would you invite to your dream dinner party?
JRR Tolkien, Rosemary Sutcliff, Rene Goscinny, Albert Uderzo, Christian Cameron, Wilbur Smith, Guy Gavriel Kay, Michael Scott Rohan.
Intriguingly, Rosemary too was a fan of Asterix (by Uderzo and Goscinny).
Source: Brought to Book: Ben Kane on his writing life | The Irish Times – Mar 24, 2014