Stevie Smith, who passed on in 1971, was the gifted eccentric best known nowadays for Glenda Jackson's memorable portrayal of her in a current film - and , perhaps, for these simple, unnerving lines of poetry: ''I was much further out than you thought/ And not waving but drowning.''
This generous miscellany includes a large number of her spare, deceptively plainspoken verses, songs of loneliness and despair compounded of nursery rhymes , jingles, limericks, and other seemingly unsuitable forms.
Smith's disarming directness produced only occasional successes in fiction. Of the stories included here only ''A Day at the Seaside'' is of much interest. But the directness greatly enlivens her letters and personal essays - especially the marvelous ''Syler's Green,'' a rich memoir of her childhood. It's the special achievement of this fine collection that, without ever exaggerating her cautiously limited talent, it amply demonstrates the range, intelligence, and warmth of Stevie Smith's work.