The Phoenix, by Sylvia Townsend Warner


Sylvia Townsend Warner’s satirical tale of crass commercialism and casual animal cruelty first appeared in her collection The Cat’s Cradle Book in 1940.

Warner was an independent-minded woman, a feminist and lesbian, before either of these was fashionable. In her 1926 novel Lolly Willowes, about a similarly independent-minded woman of middle age who moves to an English country town to take up the practice of witchcraft:

That’s why we become witches: to show our scorn of pretending life’s a safe business, to satisfy our passion for adventure. It’s not malice, or wickedness – well, perhaps it is wickedness, for most women love that – but certainly not malice, not wanting to plague cattle and make horrid children spout up pins and – what is it? – “blight the genial bed.” (…) One doesn’t become a witch to run around being harmful, or to run around being helpful either, a district visitor on a broomstick. It’s to escape all that – to have a life of one’s own, not an existence doled out to by others.

The Phoenix, by Sylvia Townsend Warner {11:05}

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