02 November 2011

a Dr.'s doctorate

'Did I tell you that on the 7th of May, I shall be no longer Miss Sitwell, but Doctor Sitwell? I am being given an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters (Litt.D.) and shall from then onwards call myself and be called Dr. Sitwell, in order to keep the nasty little boys who are still attacking me in order.' -so wrote Edith Sitwell to friend and love of her life-scorned, artist Pavlik Tchelitchew

Another honorary doctorate in February made her Dr. Dr. Sitwell.
The Doctor preferred Miss Edith Sitwell, D. Litt, D.Litt, D.Litt. (her third coming from Oxford in 1951.)

'The great thing would be, I should always advised my patients to do exactly as they like-which would result in an almost immediate cure.'

So on and so on til - with the fifth doctorate in 1963- they were less thrilling, the Doctor was now a Dame.

Allen Tanner r.,  Edith center, Pavlik l. -the younger years

Initially Pavlik embraced Edith's new DR., but soon the novelty and the  continued honors wore thin. There was a touch of the green eyed in Titch. His envy was more than jealousy, but a permeating melancholy that would escalate into genuine illness. Edith tried to console him writing: 'But are the crowds- the huge crowds-that pass by your pictures- mot more honouring that a Doctorate? I think so.'
The Doctor tried to reassure the artist- were there a DR. for painting he should have it.

Tchelitchew's Hide and Seek, painted in 1940 to 1942-was on exhibit at the Modern Museum of Art in 1942. Edith was dying to see it. She wrote-laying it on thickly for ego's sake: 'It makes everything I passed (pictures)... look trivial and petty, with no vision behind. I reverence you.'

 Edith standing  by Tchelitchew's painting of her
Their courtly love conducted years over the ocean, would fail the test miserably by 1948 when Edith traversed the Atlantic to spend time in the States-in celebration of her literary successes-which were coming left and right- but first and foremost to see her beloved.

 Edith in her red turban-Pavlik has little good to say about it.

Pavlik had coordinated Edith's wardrobe-in his eyes it failed miserably and Edith was miserable with their lack of intimacy and stricken with lumbago. The DR. needed TLC and the artist was the last to administer it. Tchelitchew was racked with jealousy- his growing mental illness skewing his world and brandishing all his insecurities- Dr. Sitwell became his target.
It did not end well-but love affairs seldom do.



  1. Hmmm, I may have gone with D. Litt(superscript)5

    And it's a lovely portrait in red.

  2. I have been following your blog, I receive it by email, for some time. I have wanted to comment and thank you for the longest time. Your posts are always interesting and entertaining and you choose topics which peak my interest. Thank you for this joy.
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