Vita Sackville- West and Harold Nicholson

Watching Downton Abbey made me think of Harold Nicholson and Vita Sackville-West,one of the most fascinating and exciting couples who ever lived, their lives starting in the Edwardian age and then moving on into our own. Long before that ugliest of words, celebrity, was ever in common usage, and without ever seeking any sort of publicity they lived out a life as scandalous as anything the modern tabloids could ever hope for.

She was the offspring of a great aristocratic family, the Sackvilles, was draw to writing and in due course started to move in the literary circles of her day, inevitably brushing shoulders with the Bloomsbury Group. Virginia Woolf was entranced by her (they may or may not have had a lesbian affair) and her book Orlando is based on that infatuation. Harold was a diplomat and political diarist who appeared to have know everyone of political and social consequence, and to have been present at virtually every major political event of the last hundred years. They married despite he being pray to the love that dare not speak its name and she having similar inclinations. Soon after they were married she embarked on a string of Sapphic affairs, the most notorious being with Violet Trefusis, and at its height the two women were travelling round Europe dressed as young men with Harold following in hot pursuit. In due course things settled, though each continued to have occasional erotic holidays with their own sex.

Despite all this, their absolute devotion to each other was never in doubt, and this is evidenced by libraries worth of their letters to each other, each a model of passion, love and erudition and a rebuke to every straccato text message sent today.

He is mainly known for his diaries and political commentaries, and she the handful of books she wrote, but their joint legacy is far greater than these. Between them they created the wonderful gardens at Sissinghurst Castle, universally acknowledged to be amongst the most important and beautiful in the world. They drip with perfume and romance and I recall a female lover of mine remarking as we walked through that it was a garden designed for kissing in, and I think she had it about right.

I suppose that where I am going with all this is to say that it is not necessary to be conventional in either one’s daily habits or in ones sexuality to make a life that is worth while, nor is it impossible to create something of lasting pleasure. Just go on remembering that when reading some of my more wicked postings.
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