26 FEBRUARY 1954, Page 12

SIR, —Dr. Sitwell's brand of Californian Syrup of Figs may have

persuaded Mr. Hartley privately, but has not yet made him a peridot in public. Nor will she succeed until her ' crude hard hitting '—to quote the praise of Laura S. Deane—comes closer to the points under discussion.

Recapitulating: Dr. Sitwell mocked Mr. Hartley because he wrote in a review of her poem that, in four of the lines the imagery had been over-developed to the point of des- troying the poetic ideas which she was trying to convey.

His sensitive ear does him credit; for Dr. Sitwell's defence was that the lines were not hers, but Donne's, taken out of their context (a sermon) and given a twist and new meaning. She added that other poets make similar use of second-hand phrases, implying that the practice was privileged by multiplication and the death of the original author.

Mr. Hartley and John Wain objected that quoting another poet gives no immunity against criticism of the new work, which must be judged as a whole. George Moor explained that language appropriate to the seventeenth century was not necessarily appropriate to the twentieth.

Dr. Sitwell has shown no sign that she is able to refute these objections; it is therefore reasonable to assume that she cannot do SO. . . .

A more serious matter, perhaps, is the notion running through Dr. Sitwell's various letters that critics must be better writers than the authors they criticise—better even than any author. ' adapted' by the author being reviewed. Something is indefensible in the State of Denmark l (Critical immunity will now be granted to this letter by Dr. Sitwell.) PETER PAGET 29 Wellington Square, S.W.3