SIR OSBERT SITWELL, British author born (d. 1969); English writer. His elder sister was Dame Edith Sitwell and his younger brother was Sir Sacheverell; like them he devoted his life to art and literature. The Sitwells – Edith, Sacherverell and Osbert – represented everything that was oh-so-modern to English dandies of the 1920s. Their essays, particularly those by Osbert, are rich in discussions of archaeology, architecture, music, painting and the reverie evoked by names and places. Their charm, culture, and urbanity are recorded in Osbert’s multi-volume reminiscences of their patrician family and estate. Downton Abbey come to life.

Photographs of the Sitwells – particularly of Edith in her bizarre hats, all chosen for effect – are likely to put off the uninitiated from reading them. Drama critic James Agate’s affectionate remark should be taken under advisement: “The Sitwells are artists pretending to be asses.” Noel Coward’s 1923 satire on the Sitwells – in which the sister of the “Swiss Family Whittlebot” intones, “Life is essentially a curve and Art is an oblong within that curve. My brothers and I have been brought up on Rhythm as other children are brought up on Glaxo – resulted in a feud that lasted throughout the lifetimes of the four. Osbert’s great love affair with David Horner (“his great love”) is documented in John Pearson’s joint biography, The Sitwells.