Something to Hide

The Life of Sheila Wingfield, Viscountess Powerscourt

By: Penny Perrick

Publication Date: February 2007

(1 customer review)


A fascinating portrait of a neglected poet and memoirist whose colourful and complicated life brought her into contact with some of the major literary figures of early twentieth-century Ireland. Sheila Wingfield (1906-1992), Anglo-Jewish heiress and ‘poetess wife’ of the last Powerscourt to live on that estate, did not fit easily into any of the worlds she inhabited. In conflict with her ancestry and her responsibilities as Viscountess Powerscourt, Sheila Wingfield struggled with the demons of alcohol, drugs, illness and conflicted relationships. Deeply private, she remained passionately committed to her writing – a committment that isolated her from those around her. A selection of her poetry features in an appendix.

Penny Perrick’s biography of Sheila Wingfield balances playful storytelling with serious analysis. Drawing on letters, memoirs, diaries and interviews, Something to Hide introduces a neglected poet whose life gives a new perspective to twentieth-century Ireland.

‘A riveting portrait of a gifted poet – a contentious woman and the gilded worlds she moved in, yet never belonged to.’ – Edna O’Brien

‘This is a deceptively intelligent book, never inaccessible, showing exceptional empathetic understanding… At the heart of it all, there’s Wingfield, who, above all else, lived and breathed poetry. The torture and strife it caused her, mentally and physically, is addictive reading for anyone who struggles with the fine balance of trying to make art and trying to live well.’ The Irish Times


PENNY PERRICK was a fashion editor for Vogue, a columnist on The Sun and The Times and a fiction editor for The Sunday Times. She is also a novelist and now lives in the west of Ireland.


1 review for Something to Hide

  1. Lilliput Press

    “There are people who consider women’s misfortunes–or even misdoings, as in ‘he coerced her into kidnapping/beating/neglecting that child’–the result of victimisation by men. They would adore a brief description of this poet’s life: Forbidden to read as a child, she was not allowed by her husband to frequent literary circles. Despite this, despite wretchedly ill health, despite no one understanding her, she rose at 3:00 each morning to write poetry. Those same people would probably not much like this book.

    Wingfield did have an awful childhood, primarily because her mother was a ghastly parent (just as Wingfield would prove to be). She was indeed expected to lead the life of her set–the hunt, dances, cleverness not allowed here–but was soon old enough and rich enough to live as she pleased had she wanted to. Her husband’s prohibition was one of Wingfield’s many lies. Her illness was at the very least in part psychosomatic, not helped by her ingestion of drink and downers. The victims in this book were the spouse and offspring. Well-researched, well-written, and more sympathetic to Wingfield than I’ve implied. It’s helpful as well that a selection of Wingfield’s poems is included. Great book for a rainy afternoon.” MONICA

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Weight 0.5 kg
Dimensions 234 × 156 mm
Publication Date

February 2007


Paperback, 256pp