Obituary: Sasha Young

Karl Miller
Thursday 24 June 1993 23:02 BST

Sasha Moorsom, writer and artist: born 25 January 1931; author of A Lavender Trip 1976, In the Shadow of the Paradise Tree 1983; married 1960 Michael Young (created 1978 Lord Young of Dartington; one son, one daughter); died 21 June 1993.

Sasha Young was a born organiser, a great arranger, who could scarcely have avoided an acquaintance with public life. But it is also true that she was an artist whose activities were bound up with the domestic settings she devised for herself. Taste, and family, were very important to her. She was devoted to her parents, her brother and sister, her husband and children, to her writings and paintings and furnishings, and to the clothes she wore - Slavic, then Indian in style. She was direct and unassuming, and kind. No one can ever have felt threatened by the work of art which she could sometimes seem to belong to, and to be.

She grew up in Hampshire, and went to Bedales School, near Petersfield, still recognisable in those days as much the same privileged, progressive, bohemian Arcadia that it was at its inception, a place where boys and girls played fiddles, drew flowers and milked cows. She always remained close to her bearded Bedalian father, Raisley Moorsom, whose practice it was to take a train to town from Petersfield, once a week without fail, to change his London Library books and lunch at the Athenaeum. Raisley Moorsom was a reclusive country gentleman of 'Bloomsbury' background who had a keen sense of what was happening in the world, and who may at times have found it quite hard to choose between the rival claims of the public and the private spheres - a Bloomsbury dilemma, perhaps.

At Cambridge, where she read English and acted - a glowing Roxanne to Tony White's Cyrano - she was an undergraduate star, and one Leavisite moralist was troubled by the discovery that this fashionable person had gained a First. After that, she set off to work at the BBC, during the last days of the Third Programme. She did very well there, concerning herself with the poetry of the time - that of Larkin, Hughes and her friend Thom Gunn, among others - and with the culture of France, the writings of Beckett, and the Surrealist plays of Ionesco, one of which she translated.

In 1960, she married Michael Young, the most imaginative and indefatigable, and the most policy-shaping, of British sociologists. Two children were born. Sophie, for several years a Buddhist nun, nursed her during her last illness; Toby, less monastic, is now editor of the Modern Review. Sasha herself was to edit the educational magazine Where?, in parallel with Michael's consumer journal Which?. She continued to write - interesting poems and two interesting novels: A Lavender Trip (1976), which was awarded the Yorkshire Post prize for a first novel, and In the Shadow of the Paradise Tree (1983), which came of a stay in Nigeria. She also took up ceramic sculpture, and exhibited her paintings at Lauderdale House, the communal arts centre in Highgate which she founded and which still flourishes.

One of her last acts was to organise, in the church of St Bartholomew the Great, in Smithfield, a concert in which the music of an old friend, Anthony Scott, was heard. The courage and sweetness of spirit with which she endured her taxing illness were present in this undertaking, as they were on the occasion when she sat up in bed to talk to a visitor, dressed in a gypsy blue gown, panelled and beaded and braided - of a piece with the objects in the room, and with the luxuriance of her Islington trees, sunning themselves at the window. Here was an aspect of the work of art which she had created, and which was never to distract her from the people with whom she shared her life.

(Photograph omitted)

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