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Monday, 17 May 2010

Stevie Smith: Lady 'Rogue' Singleton


File:Gasometer & pylons, Tottnham.JPG

Come, wed me, Lady Singleton,
And we will have a baby soon
And we will live in Edmonton
Where all the friendly people run.

I could never make you happy, darling,
Or give you the baby you want,
I would always very much rather, dear,
Live in a tent.

I am not a cold woman, Henry,
But I do not feel for you,
What I feel for the elephants and the miasmas
And the general view.

File:Londonwaste ecopark.jpg

from Stevie Smith: Mother, What is Man?, 1942

("I thought [marrying] was the right thing to do. One ought to... but I wasn't very keen on it.")

Edmonton Gasworks viewed from Tottenham Marshes: photo by Iridescenti, 2009
LondonWaste EcoPark (aka Edmonton Incinerator), Edmonton, Middlesex: photo by John Davies, 2005


TC said...

The "original" of Henry may have been one of Stevie's beaus, Freddy (Frederick "Eric" Armitage).

At one point he proposed, but she said no, because she feared being suffocated by conventional existence in a suburb. Like, say, Edmonton.

She lived most of her life with her spinster aunt Margaret Spear in North London, and was bowled over when the older woman died at 96.

She made a point of saying that in response to anyone who assumed she knew nothing about emotions because she had never married, she wanted that "put right" after her death.

"I loved my aunt."

billymills said...

A true original, Stevie, and perhaps the only English novelist to learn from Gertie Stein?

TC said...

Original... and inimitable.

The Stein suggestion is worth pondering, Bill, though I have always had the impression Stevie was in advance of rather than following the avant-garde. Had she known more of it perhaps there might have been less of that original in her?

Now and then I hear in the headlong run-on sentences of Henry Green as well a note that sounds a bit like a diluted echo of Beckett or even, if one strains, of Stein.

Possibly in Green's as in Smith's case, something in the modern air, a catalyst, become common and generic?