Sackville-West, Vita

vita sackville-west

Vita Sackville-West (1892-1962), English born poet and novelist, wrote of her life in the Kent countryside. Her first novel was published in 1909 when she was only seventeen years old. Sackville-West is known for her private life as well; she was bisexual and had many affairs with women, including Virginia Woolf. She enjoyed an open marriage with Harold George Nicolson, a writer and politician who was also bisexual. In creating an unusual family, including two successful sons, Nigel and Benedict, the couple was far ahead of time.

Vita Sackville -West focused mainly on fiction, but also put her passion for  gardening into essays and columns. The gardens she and her husband designed at their home, Sissinghurst Castle, are still visited and admired today.

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Vita Sackville-West Quotes

“Among the many problems which beset the novelist, not the least weighty is the choice of the moment at which to begin his novel.”

“I have come to the conclusion, after many years of sometimes sad experience, that you cannot come to any conclusion at all.” (In Your Garden Again, 1953)

“There is nothing more lovely in life than the union of two people whose love for one another has grown through the years, from the small acorn of passion, into a great rooted tree.”

“It is no good my telling you. One never believes other people’s experiencem and one is only very gradually convinced by one’s own.” (The Edwardians, 1930)

“Women, like men, ought to have their youth so glutted with freedom they hate the very idea of freedom.” (Letter to her husband Harold Nicolson, June 1, 1919; published in Harold and Vita (1992)

“The writer catches the changes of his mind on the hop. Growth is exciting; growth is dynamic and alarming. Growth of the soul, growth of the mind.”

“It isn’t that I don’t like sweet disorder, but it has to be judiciously arranged.”

“It is incredible how essential to me you have become. I suppose you are accustomed to people saying these things. Damn you, spoilt creature; I shan’t make you love me any the more by giving myself away like this — But oh my dear, I can’t be clever and stand-offish with you: I love you too much for that. Too truly. You have no idea how stand-offish I can be with people I don’t love. I have brought it to a fine art. But you have broken down my defences. And I don’t really resent it.” (Letter to Virginia Woolf, January 21, 1926; published in Love Letters : A Romantic Treasury, 1996)

“It is quite true that you have had infinitely more influence on me intellectually than anyone, and for this alone I love you.” (Letter to Virginia Woolf, January 29, 1927; published in Granite and Rainbow : The Hidden Life of Virginia Woolf, 2000)

“Days I enjoy are days when nothing happens,
When I have no engagements written on my block,
When no one comes to disturb my inward peace,
When no one comes to take me away from myself
And turn me into a patchwork, a jig-saw puzzle,
A broken mirror that once gave a whole reflection,
Being so contrived that it takes too long a time
To get myself back to myself when they have gone.” (Vita and Virginia : The Work and Friendship of V. Sackville-West and Virginia Woolf, 1993)

“A man and his tools make a man and his trade.” (“A Saxon Song”, 1923)

“A man and his loves make a man and his life.” (“A Saxon Song”, 1923)

“Nothing shows up the difference between the things said or read, so much as the daily experience of it.”

“What is beautiful is good, and who is good will soon be beautiful.”

“Travel is the most private of pleasures. There is no greater bore than the travel bore. We do not in the least want to hear what he has seen in Hong Kong.”

“It is necessary to write, if the days are not to slip emptily by. How else, indeed, to clap the net over the butterfly of the moment? For the moment passes, it is forgotten; the mood is gone; life itself is gone.”

“It is very necessary to have makers of beauty left in a world seemingly bent on making the most evil ugliness” (Country Notes, 1940)

“Authority has every reason to fear the skeptic, for authority can rarely survive in the face of doubt.”

“Of course I have no right whatsoever to write down the truth about my life involving as it naturally does the lives of so many other people, but I do so urged by a necessity of truth-telling, because there is no living soul who knows the complete truth; here, may be one who knows a section; and there, one who knows another section: but to the whole picture not one is initiated.” (Autobiographical sketch, July 23, 1920; published in Portrait of a Marriage : Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson, 1998)

“It is necessary to write, if the days are not to slip emptily by. How else, indeed, to clap the net over the butterfly of the moment? for the moment passes, it is forgotten; the mood is gone; life itself is gone. That is where the writer scores over his fellows: he catches the changes of his mind on the hop.Growth is exciting; growth is dynamic and alarming. Growth of the soul, growth of the mind; how the observation of last year seems childish, superficial; how this year — even this week — even with this new phrase — it seems to us that we have grown to a new maturity. It may be a fallacious persuasion, but at least it is stimulating, and so long as it persists, one does not stagnate. I look back as through a telescope, and see, in the little bright circle of the glass, moving flocks and ruined cities.” (Twelve Days, 1928)

“Damn you, spoilt creature; I shan’t make you love me any the more by giving myself away like this.” (The Letters of Vita Sackville-West and Virginia Woolf, 2001)

“I suppose the pleasure of the country life lies really in the eternally renewed evidences of the determination to live. That is a truism when said, but anything but a truism when daily observed. Nothing shows up the difference between the thing said or read, so much as the daily experience of it.”

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