Before my mother stopped her (to keep all her papers in one place), Rosemary Sutcliff happily responded ad hoc to speculative letters asking for research notes and other papers connected with her historical novels and children’s books. So this collection at the University of Southern Mississippi includes notes in her trademark red notebooks. Interestingly the reference refers not only to The Lantern Bearers, but to notes for books called The Red Dragon and The Amber Dolphin, as well as notes on several other topics. There never were published books with those titles. The collection also contains a manuscript and two typescripts for the radio play The New Laird. The programme was taped on April 4, 1966, and broadcast from Edinburgh on May 17, 1966 as part of the Stories from Scottish History series. (I note that the library has not bothered with making accurate and up-to-date their brief paragraphs on her life … )
topics and books
- Rosemary Sutcliff on writing historical novels and children’s books: “I start with an idea, never a plot” and “I do not write to a standard length”
- Aim for the stars and you may end up on a lamp-post | Author Rosemary Sutcliff’s motto
- My inspiration | Tony Bradman on historical novelist Rosemary Sutcliff
- In 1988 Rosemary Sutcliff was interviewed on BBC Radio 4 by Penelope Lively in children’s book programme Treasure Islands
- In 1984 Rosemary Sutcliff spoke on BBC Radio 3 about the lure of Roman and Celtic Britain
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the guardian newspaper in praise of rosemary sutcliff
Rosemary Sutcliff's 1954 children's classic The Eagle of the Ninth (still in print more than 50 years on) is the first of a series of novels in which Sutcliff, who died in 1992, explored the cultural borderlands between the Roman and the British worlds – "a place where two worlds met without mingling" as she describes the British town to which Marcus, the novel's central character, is posted.
Marcus is a typical Sutcliff hero, a dutiful Roman who is increasingly drawn to the British world of "other scents and sights and sounds; pale and changeful northern skies and the green plover calling". This existential cultural conflict gets even stronger in later books like The Lantern Bearers and Dawn Wind, set after the fall of Rome, and has modern resonance. But Sutcliff was not just a one-trick writer.
The range of her novels spans from the Bronze Age and Norman England to the Napoleonic wars. Two of her best, The Rider of the White Horse and Simon, are set in the 17th century and are marked by Sutcliff's unusually sympathetic (for English historical novelists of her era) treatment of Cromwell and the parliamentary cause. Sutcliff's finest books find liberal-minded members of elites wrestling with uncomfortable epochal changes. From Marcus Aquila to Simon Carey, one senses, they might even have been Guardian readers.