By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept

Elizabeth Smart

One day, while browsing in a London bookshop, Elizabeth Smart chanced upon a slim volume of poetry by George Barker – and fell passionately in love with him through the printed word. Eventually they communicated directly and, as a result of Barker’s impecunious circumstances, Elizabeth Smart flew both him and his wife from Japan, where he was teaching, to join her in the United States. Thus began one of the most extraordinary, intense and ultimately tragic love affairs of our time. They never married but Elizabeth bore George Barker four children and their relationship provided the impassioned inspiration for one of the most moving and immediate chronicles of a love affair ever written – ‘By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept’.

Originally published in 1945, this remarkable book is now widely identified as a classic work of poetic prose which, seven decades later, has retained all of its searing poignancy, beauty and power of impact.

Reviews of By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept

  • ‘Like Madame Bovary blasted by lightening … A masterpiece.’ Angela Carter

    ‘At some point every good reader comes across “By Grand Central Station I sat Down and Wept”. And he or she recognises an emotion essential and permanent to us.’ Michael Ondaatje

    ‘A revelation…This short, powerful work has a profound influence on me and was one of the factors that made me want to be a writer.’ Beryl Bainbridge

    ‘I doubt if there are more than half a dozen such masterpieces of poetic prose in the world.’ Brigid Brophy

    ‘Explores a passion between a man and two women, one of them his wife – a love despairing and triumphant upon which the reader may gaze, awed, appalled, or even, perhaps, envious.’ The Times

    ‘Few writers have ever captured the full honesty of what passion means as shockingly and as piercingly as Smart. Today, its force still strikes us hard in the face, a beautiful and bloody blow.’ Lesley McDowell, Independent on Sunday

    ‘Constructed as a single, sustained climax, it is like a cry of ecstasy which, without changing volume or pitch, becomes a cry of agony.’ Spectator

    ‘The emotion, the truth and abject affliction comes through…to move the reader, and even to awe him.’ London Review of Books