Once a Wood, Always a Wood: Woodland, witchery and rewilding in Sylvia Townsend Warner’s Lolly Willowes

Helena K. Bacon

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This article will read Sylvia Townsend Warner’s Lolly Willowes (1926), which sees spinster aunt Laura escape the strictures of middle-class urban domesticity and move alone to the Chilterns, where she discovers that she is a witch and makes a deal with the Devil, within the specific context of its historical moment and geography, and suggests ways it points towards our own moment also. Utilising current ecocriticism alongside notions of enchantment and countryside histories, it will suggest that in Warner’s novel, we can see the beginnings of contemporary ecological concerns modelled, along with methods to address these concerns also, depicted through Laura’s idiosyncratic relationship with the Devil and the woodland he lives in; through this, Townsend Warner implies that passivity, gentility and mutuality are key modes of human interaction with the natural world, given the novel’s implication that trees are our past, present and future, always waiting to take hold again.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)169-180
Number of pages12
JournalGreen Letters: Studies in Ecocriticism
Issue number2: Enchanted Environments
Early online date20 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022


  • Townsend Warner
  • Woodland
  • ecocriticism
  • ecology
  • rewilding
  • witchcraft

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