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THE MAHOGANY TABLE

SYLVIA TOWNSEND WARNER

Dinesh Syaqil Seyna Munee

Sylvia Townsend Warner (1893-1978)

Sylvia Townsend Warner was a highly individual writer of novels, short stories and poems. She contributed short stories to the New Yorker for more than forty years, translated Proust's Contre Saint-Beuve into English, wrote a biography of the novelist T.H.White and a guide to Somerset.

Born in 1893, Sylvia was the only child of Harrow School housemaster George Townsend Warner (remembered as a brilliant teacher) and his wife, Nora. After an unsuccessful term at kindergarten she was educated at home. Sylvia was an accomplished musician, and it is said that the outbreak of War in 1914 alone prevented her from going abroad to study composition under Arnold Schoenberg. In 1917, she joined the Committee preparing the ten volumes of Tudor Church Music published by Oxford University Press between 1922 and 1929.

Tall, thin and bespectacled, Sylvia was a disappointment to her mother, with whom she had an uneasy relationship. After her mother's remarriage (George Townsend Warner died suddenly in 1916) matters improved, but mother and daughter were never to be close.

Along with Tomlin and the writer David Garnett, Sylvia Townsend Warner was instrumental in the publication of Theodore's novels and short stories which had languished unseen for years. First to be published was "The Left Leg", three stories dedicated to his trinity of supporters. Powys and Warner became great friends and for a time there was almost a "school" of Chaldon writers, quirky, droll and rustic, which included Sylvia's novel "Mr Fortune's Maggot", Garnett's "The Sailor's Return" and many of Powys's short stories.

Also in Chaldon, at Theodore Powys's house, Sylvia first met the poet Valentine Ackland. When in 1930 she bought "the late Miss Green's cottage" opposite the village inn, she invited Valentine to live there. So began a love affair which lasted until Valentine's death from breast cancer in 1969. The couple's joint collection of poems "Whether a Dove or Seagull" was published in 1933.

In 1935, Sylvia and Valentine became committed members of the Communist Party, attending meetings, fund-raising and contributing to left-wing journals. They twice visited Spain during the Civil War. Their lives at this time and most of their writings - like Warner's "After the Death of Don Juan" - were charged with politics.

In 1937 the two women moved to a house on the river at Frome Vauchurch in Dorset. Here Sylvia produced many of her most important works, including "The Corner That Held Them", (1948) set in a medieval East Anglian nunnery. Valentine met with less success in her own painstakinglysustained career. After her death, Sylvia published a collection of her poems, "The Nature of the Moment". Sylvia lived on for another nine years, dying on May Day, 1978. The couple's ashes lie buried under a single stone in Chaldon churchyard.

The Mahogany Table


This story is about Miss Letitia Foley an old lady who lives all by herself. Before this she was accompanied by her cat, Dinah. But Dinah had grew old and died. Miss Foley had a twin sister, Cecily. Cecily had died in a road accident. Cecily is the one that had insisted on taking the mahogany table after their parents were dead. They lived together in a small villa.

Cecily met Dexter and plan to moved out for California with him. Letitia get to keep the mahogany table with her. During their childhood, they had always played houses under the table. Living all alone by herself, the wisps of the past recurred regularly in her mind. Based on this short story they are four literary criticisms that had been learnt. The theories are social, post modernism, cultural and history.

Literary Criticism
The first theory is social literary criticism. In this short story, there are four social class. The first one is between human and animal. Miss Foley had a cat named Dinah. Dinah had grew old and died. Miss Foley didnt want to replace Dinah since she too was growing old and wondering what would happen to a cat who might outlive her would have been painful.

Second social class is between human and nature. She had a small well-flowered garden in front of her house. Miss Foley had a similar prudent decision about her garden with her cat. She went to the local builder, she wanted the garden levelled and put under concrete. The next social class is neighbourhood. Mrs. Carrington came over to visit Miss Foley. She kept on praising Miss Foley saying that Miss Foley is marvellous. Mrs. Carrington had always been worried of her because she was old and lived alone.

The last social class in this short story is family. Letitia Foley had a twin sister named Cecily Foley. They lived together in a small villa after their parents death. They took along with them the mahogany table to their small villa. Cecily later on met Dexter in 1918. He was a Californian, large and polite. Cecily moved out from the house and left Letitia all alone. Cecily and Dexter had a child together but sadly soon after that, Cecily was killed in a road accident. Sylvia Townsend had put a few social interaction between two different things such as human and animal in this short story.

The second literary criticism that can be found in this short story is post modernism. Everyday Miss Foley would listen to the weather forecast and the news. The third literary criticism is cultural literary criticism. The furniture in the house was inherited. The furniture was antique. There was also another furniture in their house, the tallboys. But the twins brought the mahogany table with them when they moved out to a small villa.

Last literary criticism found in the short story is historical literary criticism. Miss Foleys past had recurred to her regularly. She remembered the time when Cecily ever said that Identical twins always quarrel. Think of Jacob and Esau. although Cecily is gone but the word stayed and Letitia accepting them in her depth of sleep. This shows that Miss Foley had never forget the past and memories live on.

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