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Vita Longa

Mary-Kay Wilmers, 1 December 1983

VitaThe Life of V. Sackville-West 
by Victoria Glendinning.
Weidenfeld, 430 pp., £12.50, September 1983, 0 297 78306 8
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... her real name was Christabel Marshall. We know how she felt about the object of her passion, Vita Sackville-West, because she kept a ‘love-journal’ in Vita’s honour. Miss Sackville-West, who had recently (and most unusually) been abandoned by another woman, allowed Miss St ...

Two Poems

Claire Crowther, 1 November 2007

... Once Troublesome Let them call her a wicked old woman! She knew she was no such thing. Vita Sackville-West, All Passion Spent It isn’t New Year yet so Happy What? Till then, it’s Boxing Day every morning. Empty bags hang off the radiators. Chilly: hot                       cold                                  Cordelia position ...

A Tale of Three Novels

Michael Holroyd: Violet Trefusis, 11 February 2010

... as much romance into my life as she has had in hers,’ Violet wrote in the summer of 1918 to Vita Sackville-West. She had begun to squeeze a very indiscreet romance with Vita into her own life. The girls’ passion for each other was to be the subject of an early novel by ...

Bloody Horse

Samuel Hynes, 1 December 1983

Roy Campbell: A Critical Biography 
by Peter Alexander.
Oxford, 277 pp., £12.50, March 1981, 0 19 211750 5
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The Selected Poems of Roy Campbell 
edited by Peter Alexander.
Oxford, 131 pp., £7.50, July 1982, 9780192119469
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... Neglected Poets, along with many whom, in his day, he despised: Humbert Wolfe, for example, and Vita Sackville-West and Edward Shanks. Can it be that he belongs in such forgotten company? Is his a just neglect? Reading the life, one must conclude that if he indeed had a genuine poetic gift, he had other qualities of mind and character that worked ...

A Bride for a Jackass

Christopher de Bellaigue: Vita in Persia, 25 March 2010

Twelve Days in Persia 
by Vita Sackville-West.
Tauris Parke, 142 pp., £9.99, August 2009, 978 1 84511 933 1
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... Nineteen twenty-seven was a fine year to be Vita Sackville-West. She was 35, attaining what her son would call her ‘tumultuous maturity’, besieged by lovers. Her elegy to Kentish life, The Land, had won the Hawthornden Prize, and she was hesitantly revising her earlier, somewhat churlish opinions of her own talent ...

At the NPG

Jean McNicol: ‘Virginia Woolf’, 11 September 2014

... presumably not the one Woolf was wearing when she went to see the latest Stravinsky ballet with Vita Sackville-West just before she visited Garsington, ‘a sort of top-hat made of straw with two orange feathers like Mercury’s wings’, Sackville-West wrote to her husband, Harold Nicolson. It ‘pleased Virginia ...

One of the Pyramids of Egypt

Ruth Bernard Yeazell: Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, 27 May 1999

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu: Comet of the Enlightenment 
by Isobel Grundy.
Oxford, 680 pp., £30, April 1999, 0 19 811289 0
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... of Women” ’. Woolf may have intended her mock-biography as an affectionate portrait of Vita Sackville-West, but Isobel Grundy is surely right in thinking that these episodes in Orlando’s career were primarily inspired by the life and letters of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. Of course Lady Mary was not herself Britain’s Ambassador to the ...

Poor Harold

C.H. Sisson, 3 December 1981

Harold Nicolson: A Biography. Vo. II: 1930-1968 
by James Lees-Milne.
Chatto, 403 pp., £15, October 1981, 0 7011 2602 7
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... his airs, and not a little because of them, it was to this public that Nicolson, like his consort Vita Sackville-West, was really attuned, and the Thirties were the great age of the middlebrow. If James Lees-Milne has a fault as Nicolson’s biographer, it is one which is understandable in a friend of his subject’s and of the family – that of being ...

Landlord of the Moon

David Craig: Scottish islands, 21 February 2002

Sea Room: An Island Life 
by Adam Nicolson.
HarperCollins, 391 pp., £14.99, October 2001, 0 00 257164 1
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... came to the islands in 1946 as guests of Nicolson’s father, Nigel (son of Harold Nicolson and Vita Sackville-West). They lasted a night. Wakened by noisy rats, they screamed. Nigel would have to row them back out to a fishing boat in the morning. But he had forgotten to tie up his dinghy, which had drifted out and shattered on the rocks: ‘Nigel ...


Robert Blake, 18 December 1980

Harold Nicolson: A Biography: Vol. 1, 1886-1929 
by James Lees-Milne.
Chatto, 429 pp., £15, November 1980, 0 7011 2520 9
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Harold Nicolson Diaries 1930-1964 
by Stanley Olson.
Collins, 436 pp., £9.50, October 1980, 0 00 216304 7
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... success, it cannot be regarded as anything but a disaster in terms of Nicolson’s public career. Vita Sackville-West was the daughter of Lord Sackville. Had she been a boy, she would have inherited Knole, one of the most famous country houses in England, together with the estates entailed in the male line upon her cousin Eddy. She bitterly resented this ...

Squidging about

Caroline Murphy: Camilla and the sex-motherers, 22 January 2004

Camilla: An Intimate Portrait 
by Rebecca Tyrrel.
Short Books, 244 pp., £14.99, October 2003, 1 904095 53 4
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... side, Camilla’s relatives are racier still. Her great-aunt was Violet Trefusis, the lover of Vita Sackville-West. Even better, her great-grandmother, Alice Keppel, was Edward VII’s official mistress. It may be more than mere chance that the role of maîtresse-en-titre to the Prince of Wales runs in the family. Tyrrel says that, as a child, Camilla ...

A Very Smart Bedint

Frank Kermode: Harold Nicolson, 17 March 2005

Harold Nicolson 
by Norman Rose.
Cape, 383 pp., £20, February 2005, 0 224 06218 2
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... which, with all the attendant volumes of correspondence and diaries, made Harold Nicolson and Vita Sackville-West more famous for their unusual private lives than for their works. A benefit offered by this new biography is that all that gossip has to take its place along with the non-marital rest of a life that was certainly full. Its subject was an ...


Jason Harding: George Moore, 21 September 2000

George Moore, 1852-1933 
by Adrian Frazier.
Yale, 604 pp., £29.95, May 2000, 0 300 08245 2
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... of his own voice. ‘Never did anyone talk such nonsense as George,’ Virginia Woolf wrote to Vita Sackville-West in 1926. A large part of the problem was Moore’s summary dismissal of contemporaries such as Hardy, James and Conrad. Jealous of his literary fame, Moore was aptly described by Joseph Hone as ‘the least catholic of critics’. It is ...

From culture to couture

Penelope Gilliatt, 21 February 1985

The ‘Vogue’ Bedside Book 
edited by Josephine Ross.
Hutchinson, 256 pp., £9.95, October 1984, 0 09 158520 1
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The Art of Zandra Rhodes 
by Anne Knight and Zandra Rhodes.
Cape, 240 pp., £18, November 1984, 0 395 37940 7
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... and Writers is first-rate and reads as though it had been written as a series, though it wasn’t. Vita Sackville-West, for instance, on ‘What do women readers look for?’ (1923), not afraid to be anti-feminist – no one represented in this book is – and very funny about women’s insistence on the human; Elizabeth Taylor on Ivy Compton-Burnett ...

Exotic Bird from Ilford

Robert Baird: Denise Levertov, 25 September 2014

Denise Levertov: A Poet’s Life 
by Dana Greene.
Illinois, 328 pp., £22.99, October 2012, 978 0 252 03710 8
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A Poet’s Revolution: The Life of Denise Levertov 
by Donna Krolik Hollenberg.
California, 515 pp., £30.95, April 2013, 978 0 520 27246 0
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Collected Poems 
by Denise Levertov.
New Directions, 1063 pp., £32.99, December 2013, 978 0 8112 2173 3
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... first collection, The Double Image, which appeared in 1946, earned an appreciative mention from Vita Sackville-West in the Observer, and attracted the attention of Kenneth Rexroth, who chose to include her work in an anthology he was assembling. In the course of their correspondence Rexroth became infatuated with Levertov, even though she was 17 years ...

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