by Stevie Smith
Florence Margaret Smith (1902-1971), known to friends and readers as Stevie Smith, was a highly witty English writer, most famous for her perceptive, clever little poems (often accompanied by amusing pen and ink drawings) – and to a lesser extent, her idiosyncratic novels.
Me Again, first published in 1984, brings together many of her lesser known essays, short stories, reviews and poems on subjects ranging from the seaside and very naughty children to religion, loneliness and death – the latter subject recurring frequently throughout her work.
This volume is amusingly eccentric, frequently mischievous and utterly English, in a very Middle-Class, mid twentieth century sort of way. Of particular fun is her 1959 foreword to a picture book, entitled Cats in Colour, in which she describes the pampered felines as “catsy-watsies”, and concludes that: “It is an amiable part of human nature, that we should love our animals; it is even better to love them to the point of folly, than not to love them at all.”
Included are many personal letters to friends, publishers and literary acquaintances – lively and conversational in style . I was also delighted to find that one of her most loved poems (and my personal favourite): Not Waving But Drowning, is included in a piece called Too Tired for Words from 1956.
All in all this is a wonderful addition to the Smith oeuvre, which throws light on her self-contained life and unique personality. The various compositions do, however, vary in quality (though none could be described as ‘poor’), and should ideally be read alongside (or after having explored) her magnificent poetry collections and unique novels – especially Novel on Yellow Paper (1936).