Sackville-West, Vita

vita sackville-west

Vita Sackville-West (1892-1962), British poet and novelist, wrote of her life in the Kent countryside. Born at Knole Park, a 365-room ancestral home. Her writing career was launched with the publication of Poems of East and West.

Sackville-West is known for her private life as well; she was bisexual and had many affairs with women, including Virginia Woolf. It’s believed that she was the inspiration for the title character of Woolf’s novel, Orlando.

She enjoyed an open marriage with Harold George Nicolson, a writer, politician, and diplomat who was also bisexual. In creating an unusual family, including two successful sons, Nigel and Benedict, the couple was far ahead of time. She was part of the literary Bloomsbury circle, which included Woolf and her husband, Leonard, as well as E.M. Forster, Lytton Strachey, John Maynard Keynes, and others.

Vita Sackville -West focused mainly on fiction, but also used her considerable passion for gardening to produce essays and columns on the subject. The gardens she and her husband designed at their home, Sissinghurst Castle, are still visited and admired today. The Edwardians and All Passion Spent are arguably her best known works.

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Vita Sackville-West Quotes

VitaSackvilleWest“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 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)

“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.”

Harold Nicolson,Vita Sackville-West, Rosamund Grosvenor& Lionel Sackville-West, 1913
Harold Nicolson,Vita Sackville-West, Rosamund Grosvenor& Lionel Sackville-West, 1913

“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.”

“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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