Sunday 16 November 2008


May Sarton: painted in 1937, photographed in 1992

Decide to reread all May Sarton's journals, beginning with the iconic Journal of a Solitude. It doesn't disappoint. Memory plays tricks, though. I had the journals down as all of a piece: limpid, vigorous, poetic dispatches from old age, and am shocked to realise she wrote Journal of a Solitude twelve years before its first UK publication in 1985. She was 58, scarcely older than I am now.


Lorianne said...

Oh, I love May Sarton. Her home in Nelson is only about 20 minutes from Keene, you know: something that shocked me when I first realized it. Somehow, I'd imagined her solitude as happening somewhere much further away.

I'm curious: why not re-read her journals chronologically, starting with Plant Dreaming Deep, which describes how she came to Nelson?

Lorianne said...

(It's none of my business, of course: when I first read her journals, I read them out of order, too. I'm just curious since I've always told myself I should re-read them all in order.)

Dale said...


Sky said...

I loved reading them in order, too, but I only did that after I read them somewhat out of order. My introduction to her was through House By the Sea, when she had moved from Nelson, NH to York, Maine and was living at Wild Knoll.

May and I corresponded for 10 years before her death. My heart would always skip a beat when I found a letter from her in my mailbox. :) I looked forward to the beautiful Christmas cards she sent, also, which would always consisit of a poem she had written and lovely artwork done by New England artists. I have one done in broadside format by a friend of May's, matted and framed in our office.

There is a fabulous book, Dear Juliette, of her letters to Juliette Huxley, edited by Sussan Sherman. May had hoped to edit this book herself but wanted to protect Juliette's privacy and died before she could complete and release such a book. (Juliette died in Sept '94; May died in July '95.) May, lovers with both Juliette and her husband, Julian, had a very complex relationship with Juliette from 1936 forward. After many years with no communication, they saw each other a few years before they died on a couple of occasions when May flew to London.

What a wonderful surprise to see this photo here tonight and to be reminded. Enjoy your reading!

Jean said...

Lorianne, I know - in Journal of a Solitude she keeps popping down to Keene to go shopping! And I remember very well reading your blogpost about visiting her grave in Nelson, as I was already such a fan of hers.

I began with JoaS just because it was the easiest to get hold of. Not all May Sarton's books are in print in the UK - she's not all that well known here, only to feminists really. It was the then radical feminist Women's Press that first published JoaS in the UK, a long time after she wrote it, as I mentioned. Others of the journals have also been published here since, but not systematically and not all are still in print, though you can get them by searching around on line, and I can also get US editions on line of course.

Sky, how wonderful to know that you knew her! I love how small the world becomes, across both space and time, through our links on the Internet. I will look for Dear Juliette.

Anonymous said...

I spent most of this past weekend
in bed with the flu, luxuriating with the new "Words for Wind' colle
ection of Eliz Bishop/Robt Lowell
correspondence. Which led me back
to the earlier collection of Bishop's own letters, which led me
to numerous exchanges with May
Sarton (mostly circa '48 to '58 or

And now Jean--love these threads

Lorianne said...

Well, if you ever need American editions, let me know: it would be easy enough for me to find & send them to you.

I keep meaning to re-visit Sarton's grave in nice weather since it was very GRAY and wintry the time I was there...

Jean said...

Thanks Lorianne, that's very kind of you! :-) No problem to get most US editions here these days from online sellers, even usually without overseas shipping costs. It's just a bit slower. But if there's anything I really can't get, I'll let you know.