Novel On Yellow Paper
By Stevie Smith
The first novel from Stevie Smith, one of the country's favourite poets, was a runaway bestseller on first publication in 1936. It is as original now as it was then.
Stevie's alter ego Pompey is young, in love and working as a secretary for the magnificent Sir Phoebus Ullwater. In between making coffee and typing letters for Sir Phoebus, Pompey scribbles down - on yellow office paper - her quirky thoughts. Her flights of imagination take in Euripedes, sex education, Nazi Germany and the Catholic Church, shattering conventions in their wake.
Stevie Smith (1902-71) was born Florence Margaret in 1902. She lived in Palmers Green, London, and for much of her life worked, until retirement, as a secretary for the magazine publishers Sir George Newnes and Sir Neville Pearson. When she tried to publish a volume of poems, she was told to 'go away and write a novel'. Novel on Yellow Paper was the result, and it turned her into an instant celebrity. Two further novels (The Holiday and Over the Frontier) followed, but it is her poetry that has secured her legacy. In 1966 she received a Cholmondeley Award and in 1969 was awarded the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry
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- Publication date:
28 Apr 1980
- Page count:
A more individual talent than Stevie Smith's you don't get. An artist of utmost sophistication... Her pre-war Novel on Yellow Paper is an unforgettable work that has nevertheless needed to be rediscovered several times since the day it was first greeted, correctly, as a masterpiece - Clive James, the New Yorker
Virginia Woolf's roving consciousness lies behind the prose in Novel on Yellow Paper, but the tone owes more to Dorothy Parker . . . There are distinct intentions behind Smith's engagingly idiosyncratic manner, and every new reading uncovers further depths. When first published in 1936, it overnight turned Smith into a celebrity. It was swiftly followed by the first two collections of her poetry for which, today, she is better known. But the subversiveness of this novel has never lost its appeal, its greatness lying in its exuberant celebration of the uncircumscribed spirit — Frances Spalding, Independent
Stevie Smith captures, with exquisite stillness and delicacy, all the pains of love — Lee Rourke, The Guardian