Posts Tagged ‘disability’

Portrait of Rosemary Sutcliff by Mark Gerson

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

Rosemary Sutcliff in a poprtrait at The National Portrait Gallery

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

Read Full Post »

Cover of 2012 Sword at Sunset by Rosemary Sutcliff  published by Atlantic BooksChristina Hardyment’s life of Thomas Malory was  published by HarperCollins. In 2012 she reviewed a 50th anniversary re-publication of Rosemary Sutcliff’s bestseller Sword at Sunset—an Arthurian era novel—which was, in 1963 when it was first published, “firmly announced to be for adults, and given the (for their time) graphic and violent scenes of sex and slaughter, it deserved to be.”

Rosemary Sutcliff is most famed for The Eagle of the Ninth, but there was much more to her than that. In the 1950s, historically-minded children found her books a magic carpet into the past. I began with Brother Dustyfeet (1952) and The Armourer’s House (1951), and never looked back an insatiable interest in history has remained the backbone of my life.

Sword at Sunset is, unusually for Rosemary Sutcliff, is a story told in the first person. Artos becomes the High King of Britain but his fate has been written ever since he was drugged and seduced by his half-sister Ygerna. Their child Medraut becomes a boy filled with hate by his mother.

…(Sutcliff) drew as much upon the archaeology of Celtic and Saxon Britain as on the ancient legends in Malory’s Morte D’Arthur and Guest’s Mabinogion. She also admired T. H. White’s four idiosyncratic Arthurian novels (now known as The Once and Future King), and the intensity with which she inhabits the mind of her hero Artos has echoes of White’s extraordinary characterisation of Arthur. ‘I have never written a book that was so possessive,’ Sutcliff said in an interview in 1986. ‘It was almost like having the story fed through me’. Writing as a man possessed her; afterwards, ‘I had great difficulty getting back into a woman’s skin.’

Her narrative amazes in the sheer vigour of its visualisation and its sure sense of purpose. Lanterns, sunsets, fires, the aurora borealis and other manifestations of light recur: Artos is holding back the coming of the dark long enough for there to be hope that the civilised light that was Rome will survive to be adopted by its conquerors. Battles are heart-stopping, tense and unpredictable, winter weather effects are frostbite-inducing, and Artos’s travels across Britain are confidently mapped …

No-one would dream from reading Sword at Sunset and Sutcliff’s other action-packed, fast-moving tales of Roman and Celtic warriors that she remained severely crippled all her life with the juvenile arthritis she contracted as a very small child. Once one is aware of this, a recurring theme of incapacitating wounds is better understood; as is the important role she gives to the hounds and horses in which she found such consolation.

Press cuttings about historical novel Sword at Sunset by Rosemary Sutcliff in 1963

Press cuttings in 1963 on Sword at Sunset, bestselling Arthurian novel by Rosemary Sutcliff (1920-92)


Read Full Post »

Ave! The Oxford University I, too, am Oxford  initiative

I too am Oxford

Oxford University (Press) published, St Johns College visiting author Rosemary Sutcliff was left with significant physical disabilities from childhood Still’s disease. She surely would have been very supportive of the “I, too, am Oxford” initiative.

Our project was inspired by the recent ‘I, too, am Harvard’ initiative. The Harvard project resonated with a sense of communal disaffection that students of colour at Oxford have with the University. The sharing of the Buzzfeed article ‘I, too, am Harvard’ on the online Oxford-based race forum, ‘Skin Deep’, led to students quickly self-organising a photoshoot within the same week.   (more…)

Read Full Post »

Princeton Professor Michael Graziano writes movingly about his six-year-old son who “was removed from school as a danger to others. His crime? (Apraxia) A disability you could find in any classroom”. He set me thinking about Rosemary Sutcliff’s disability – much rarer I think, not found in any classroom – and her experience of school and life.

Two Tweets about Rosemary Sutcliff disability

Rosemary was crippled (her word) at the age of three. She had Still’s disease – a form of arthritis – which left her needing many painful operations both as a child and adult. As an adult, she could only walk in her own home by shuffling along with one walking-stick; outside she had to use a wheelchair. Indeed, I used to  drive her wheelchair on our visits and trips together, delighting as any small boy might in speed, weaving in and out of lines of people, sometimes tipping her accidentally into flower beds!

She was in and out of school in her young childhood because she was in and out of hospital. She had to live much of her time in a wicker spinal basket. In her autobiography Blue Remembered Hills she wrote that her “spinal carriage was rather like a wicker coffin”.

Spinal carriage similar to Rosemary Sutcliff's


Read Full Post »

Historian, writer and journalist  Christina Hardyment reflected on Sword at Sunset by Rosemary Sutcliff in response to the anniversary edition of  Sutcliff’s Arthurian adult novel – an ‘odd one out’.

Rosemary Sutcliff is most famed for The Eagle of the Ninth, but there was much more to her than that. In the 1950s, historically-minded children found her books a magic carpet into the past. I began with Brother Dusty-feet (1952) and The Armourer’s House (1951), and never looked back an insatiable interest in history has remained the backbone of my life.

In 1954, The Eagle of the Ninth introduced Marcus Flavius Aquila, a young Roman who chooses to stay in Britain after the legions leave. Seven subsequent books follow his family’s fate, usually directly. The odd book out is the fifth, Sword at Sunset, now published in a new edition to celebrate its 50th birthday. In 1963, it was firmly announced to be for adults, and given the (for their time) graphic and violent scenes of sex and slaughter, it deserved to be.


Read Full Post »

Rosemary Sutcliff contracted juvenile arthritis at a very early age. Speaking to Roy Plomley on Desert Island Discs she spoke of how she was moved around, in a spinal carriage.

A spinal carriage… was rather like a wicker coffin. It was very uncomfortable and you lay flat out in this thing and of course all you could see were the branches of the trees or the roofs of the houses going by overhead and it was extremely boring. With any luck you were allowed perhaps to sit up on the way home from a walk.

A Spinal Carriage

Read Full Post »

Sandra Garside-Neville has written an insightful appreciation of Rosemary Sutcliff. She notes that as a child Rosemary Sutcliff had Still’s Disease, a form of juvenile arthritis, and spent much of her youth in hospital for painful operations. Drawing on Rosemary’s own autobiography, she also notes that as a very young girl, the arsenic in Rosemary’s medicine caused her to hallucinate: she saw a panther, wolves and snakes despite not knowing what they were. Years later, she came across them in Kipling’s books.

Another effect of illness that Garside-Neville draws attention to was that Rosemary Sutcliff spent much time sitting still looking, rather than moving around and investigating which meant that she developed an acute eye for observation. In fact, again as Garside-Neville points out, author Alan Garner has commented that children’s authors often have two things in common – they were deprived of the usual primary schooling, and they were ill and left to their own company. Certainly true of Sutcliff.

Read Full Post »

Yesterday I met an engaging and inspiring young teenager, Henry Pickering, packing purchases for customers at the farm shop in Market Harborough, as part of a fund raising initiative for CP Sport. He has cerebral palsy, but I discovered in conversation that he is a dedicated, ambitious, swimmer. I suspect he is as talented as he was modest. I asked him if he was any good, and learned that he aims to compete in the paralympics in eight or even possibly four years time. An adult from CP Sport endorsed how realistic at least the eight year aim was. Henry made it very easy and very enjoyable to put some money in the collecting bucket. But he also set me thinking about transcending ‘disability’, and thus of course about Rosemary Sutcliff. She would have urged Henry on, although I got the strong feeling that he needed no urging!

I recall that she wrote in the catalogue for an exhibition some  thirty years ago: “Dear (Able-Bodied) Reader, if ever in Athens or Tooting or Timbuktu, you find yourself about to take refuge in the ‘does he take sugar’ approach to someone disabled, do think again”.

Career-wise, I’m one of the lucky ones. My job, as a writer of books, is one of the few in which physical disability presents hardly any problems. I would claim that it presents no problems at all but my kind of book needs research, and research is more difficult for a disabled person. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Imogen Russell Williams wrote last year that “for me the nonpareil of children’s historical fiction remains Rosemary Sutcliff”:

Historical fiction for adults ranges in stature from the Booker-winning to the bodice-ripping – scholarly rambles or gleeful romps through a past animated, elucidated, or (at worst) knocked together into an unconvincing stage set by the writer’s imagination. The label carries its own baggage, however; like “crime”, or “fantasy”, sticking “historical” before “fiction” might, for some snobbish and deluded readers, require an “only” to complete the description.

It’s my feeling that historical fiction for children suffers less from the snootiness sometimes attracted by grown-up writing in the genre, perhaps because the educational cachet outweighs the sense that a “made-up” book is less worthwhile than a collection of primary sources. Certainly the best historical fiction of my childhood has remained with me, (more…)

Read Full Post »

Lovel, the crippled hero of Rosemary Sutcliff‘s The Witch’s Brat, is driven from his village in a shower of stones after his grandmother’s death. (The) novel (is) … crammed with careful period detail and research, the painstaking catalogues of herb-lore brought grippingly to life by the characters to whom they bring such danger.

via The enchantments of witch fiction | guardian.co.uk.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,039 other followers