Judd (More Lasting Than Brass, 2004) offers a real-life epistolary tale of a bizarre literary love triangle.
In the 1930s, three well-educated women—English novelist Sylvia Townsend Warner, English poet Valentine Ackland and American heiress-turned–activist/writer Elizabeth Wade White—became tangled up in one another’s lives. When White met Warner in New York City in 1929, White was 12 years Warner’s junior and struggling to free herself from the expectations of her wealthy conservative family. Warner fostered an intimate, impassioned and largely epistolary friendship with White; Warner’s lifelong lover, the boldly androgynous Ackland, corresponded with White as well. However, when the philandering Ackland took the inexperienced White as her lover, the three women found themselves caught in a web of conflicting desires. Until 1950, White would periodically return to England (leaving another companion behind) and take up with the two women—relegating Warner to the spare bedroom. Judd’s book is a straightforward biographical account set against the backdrop of mid-20th-century political unrest; all three women campaigned for the Loyalist cause during the Spanish Civil War. Much of the text consists of the women’s correspondence and, less frequently, their journals; these are true treasures, as Warner, Ackland and White were all superb writers. The book might have focused a bit more on their riveting interpersonal dramas, but Judd commits to telling their full stories faithfully, even to the most quotidian detail. Their missives about politics, their literary and artistic friends, and even the behaviors of their beloved pet cats are as finely wrought as their heartfelt notes on their romantic complications.
A detailed biography that offers valuable insight into the lives of three accomplished women.