Wednesday, the 28th of April, and time for Shelf Control once again! Shelf Control is a weekly feature hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies, and celebrates the books waiting to be read on your TBR piles/mountains. To participate, simply pick a book from your TBR pile, and write a post about it–what its about, why you want to read it, when you got it, and such. If you participate, don’t forget to link back to Lisa’s page, and do also leave your links in the comments below as I’d love to check out your picks as well!

This time’s pick is another old book which I’d been meaning to read for a long time, in fact ever since I saw a copy in the library when I was in college. At that point it was only the name that attracted my attention since I didn’t really know what it was all about, not do I remember picking it up to look (though I probably would have). Anyway, I did later add it to my TBR.

The English Eccentrics or English Eccentrics: A Gallery of Weird and Wonderful Men and Women (the titles on different editions are slightly different) by Dame Edith Sitwell was first published in 1933. The book is a set of (I think interwoven) portraits or sketches of a range of characters, among them hermits, quacks, mariners, travellers and men of learning. We have Lord Rokeby with a beard that reached his knees and who seldom left his bath, Curricle Coats who wore a coat sewn with diamonds, and Princess Caroboo an impostor who fooled an English town for months. And these aren’t fictional eccentrics but very much real life ones!

The description of the book somehow reminded me of E.F. Benson’s The Freaks of Mayfair (published much earlier in 1916) although that one was sketches of fictional personalities, but they were a fun set of eccentrics from snobs to quacks and scandal-mongers in whom were some shades of characters that appeared in Benson’s Mapp and Lucia books. This was a fun read (my review here) and I am expecting that Sitwell’s volume will be that too. Real life eccentrics are likely to turn out far more unbelievable than fictional ones, don’t you think?

Have you read this one? Or any others like it? Which one/s and how did you find it/them? Do you enjoy reading portraits or character sketches sometimes or prefer they be woven into fiction? Any favourites? Looking forward to your thoughts and recommendations!

Find reviews of the book here and here

Book cover and info are as always from Goodreads here

Lisa’s pick this week is When You Read This by Mary Adkins, a modern-day romantic comedy but one which deals with finding love after loss (find her post here)


4 thoughts on “Shelf Control #137: English Eccentrics by Edith Sitwell

  1. One of the LPs I bought to play to students at schools when I first started teaching was William Walton’s Façade, musical settings of Edith Sitwell’s delightful nonsense poems, with some of the pieces recited by Dame Edith herself! My partner used to have a book by her (a memoir I think) which I never got round to reading. So I’ve never read any prose by her but as an English eccentric herself I’m sure she would’ve captured the essence of that condition in this book.


    1. That must have been fun. I haven’t read her poems or prose yet though I think I have read some poetry by Osbert Sitwell. But very much looking forward to this one. I’m sure it’ll be an enjoyable read.

      Liked by 1 person

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