When the Sitwell family is mentioned, most people think of its most famous members: the siblings Edith (1887–1964), Osbert (1892–1969), and Sacheverell (1897–1988), “a delightful but deleterious trio,” in the words of Edmund Gosse, glittering masters of self-advertisement who challenged Bloomsbury as arbiters of taste during the 1920s and ’30s and went on grabbing the aesthetic limelight right up until their triumphant tours of the United States in the 1940s and ’50s, where they went, like Oscar Wilde before them, to preach the gospel of Art and Beauty and to earn a few Yankee dollars in the process. According to Evelyn Waugh, they “radiated an aura of high spirits, elegance, impudence, unpredictability, above all of sheer enjoyment. They declared war on dullness.”

But there were other Sitwells, Desmond...

 

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