Header overlay
Coppery haws and scarlet hips | The girl who grew up to be Rosemary Sutcliff

Coppery haws and scarlet hips | The girl who grew up to be Rosemary Sutcliff

‘One winter afternoon a little girl and her mother went walking in the cold on Tooting Bec Common. Every bramble leaf was trimmed with frost as white as ermine. The mother took a needle and a length of black cotton from her handbag and, as the girl later remembered, “gathered and strung me an enchanted fiery necklace of coppery haws and scarlet hips”.

The girl grew up to be Rosemary Sutcliff, the author of The Eagle of the Ninth, a tale of Roman Britain, and many other beloved children’s books . . . If Sutcliff was late to learn to read – she was nine – then this was entirely her mother’s fault. Elizabeth read aloud beautifully, never tired of it and “never, from the first, read anything that she could not enjoy herself”. Sutcliff was raised on Beatrix Potter, A. A. Milne, Charles Dickens, Robert Louis Stevenson, Hans Christian Andersen, Kenneth Grahame, Rudyard Kipling, the myths of Greece and Rome (in an unexpurgated edition which her mother expurgated on the hoof) and the Saxon, Norse and Celtic legends. Elizabeth loved historical novels – “history of any kind, though her view of it was always the minstrel’s view rather than the historian’s”.

Sutcliff became bard and scholar. A little learning is a useful thing but she never let pedantry or high-table disputation get in the way of an adventure. The Eagle of the Ninth was published in 1954 and its successors The Silver Branch and The Lantern Bearers over the following four years. A generation of classicists, historians and archaeologists owe their start to Sutcliff.’

Laura Freeman, The Times

We much enjoyed reading Slightly Foxed contributor Laura Freeman’s spread on Rosemary Sutcliff in The Times a few weekends ago. We feel bound to confess that the article was inspired by another publisher’s forthcoming paperback edition of Blue Remembered Hills but, as Laura herself wrote as a footnote to her piece, ‘I feel a sneak for saying it but this isn’t the prettiest of editions and there is a nicer one published by Slightly Foxed in clothbound covers.’ ‘Either way’, she goes on to say, ‘Blue Remembered Hills is a perfect period piece: beautifully written, brave, forbearing and sublimely entertaining.’

If you’ve not yet added our Plain Foxed Edition of Blue Remembered Hills to your collection and are feeling inspired to do so, please click here to buy the book, or click here to read SF Editor Hazel’s preface to the book. Further down this page, you’ll find links to browse and buy our handsome limited-edition reissues of seven of Sutcliff’s best-loved Roman and post-Roman novels, each bound in cloth and hand-numbered inside.

With best wishes, as ever, from the SF staff

Jess, Isabel, Rebecca, Izzy & Jennie

Click here to view the newsletter

Comments & Reviews

Leave a comment

Sign up to our e-newsletter

Sign up for dispatches about new issues, books and podcast episodes, highlights from the archive, events, special offers and giveaways.