Vita Sackville-West

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VSW wrote prolifically and almost obsessively from her childhood in the early twentieth century. She began with poems, plays, and fiction about her family's romantic links to English history. As an adult she used these genres to describe or transform her own complicated love-life: lesbian relationships, triangular relationships, love between masculine women and feminine men. Her best-known poems, The Land and The Garden, create classically-descended georgic from the traditional labour of the Kentish countryside, and the related art of gardening. Many novels (some she called pot-boilers) use conventional style to delineate upper-class society, but she also made forays (first inspired by Virginia Woolf ) into the experimental. She wrote history, biography, travel books, diaries, and letters. She was a popular and productive journalist, both in print and on the radio, whose topics included literature, gardening, and the status of women (though she refused the label of feminist). Her gardening writings and her actual gardens remain her best-known works. Her masterpiece, the Sissinghurst gardens, are the most-visited in Britain.
Three-quarter-length painting of Vita Sackville-West by William Strang, 1918. She is shown from the side but turning her face to the viewer, seated, against a plain wall. She is wearing a yellow skirt, a flowing green jacket, and most strikingly a broad-brimmed red hat over short dark hair. One hand holds a book. Kelvingrove Art Gallery.
"Vita Sackville-West" Retrieved from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Vita_sackville-west.jpg. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0) Public Domain Dedication license. This work is in the public domain.

Milestones

9 March 1892
VSW was born at Knole House, near Sevenoaks in Kent, her family's historic seat.
Nicolson, Nigel, and Vita Sackville-West. Portrait of a Marriage. Futura, 1974.
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1907
VSW began a diary, in code, with the words, I am to restore the fortunes of the family
Nicolson, Nigel, and Vita Sackville-West. Portrait of a Marriage. Futura, 1974.
74
—she had received a pound, her very first earnings, for a poem for the Onlooker.
Nicolson, Nigel, and Vita Sackville-West. Portrait of a Marriage. Futura, 1974.
74
4 September 1921
The first idea for a poem about farming and country labour (The Land) came to VSW when J. C. Squire casually remarked on the dearth of poetry about working life.
Glendinning, Victoria. Vita. Penguin, 1984.
119
30 September 1926
VSW published her georgic poem The Land, in a limited edition with woodcuts by George Plank .
Glendinning, Victoria. Vita. Penguin, 1984.
165
Woolf, Virginia. The Letters of Virginia Woolf. Nicolson, Nigel and Joanne TrautmannEditors , Hogarth Press, 1980.
5: 391n2
16 June 1927
VSW was presented with the Hawthornden Prize (a most establishment
Glendinning, Victoria. Vita. Penguin, 1984.
177
award) for The Land.
Glendinning, Victoria. Vita. Penguin, 1984.
177
18 September 1932
VSW gave a reading of The Land at the Barn Theatre at Smallhythe, run by Edith Craig and Christopher St John .
Glendinning, Victoria. Vita. Penguin, 1984.
251
February 1961
VSW published her final novel, No Signposts in the Sea, dedicated to Edie Lamont .
Glendinning, Victoria. Vita. Penguin, 1984.
398-9
The British National Bibliography. Council of the British National Bibliography; British Library, Bibliographic Services Division, 1950.
2 June 1962
VSW died at Sissinghurst, Kent, from stomach cancer.
Glendinning, Victoria. Vita. Penguin, 1984.
403-4
Nicolson, Nigel, and Vita Sackville-West. Portrait of a Marriage. Futura, 1974.
236
Matthew, Henry Colin Gray, Brian Harrison, and Lawrence Goldman, editors. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

Biography

VSW used both Julian and David as names under which she passed as male. She also used these names in correspondence with her female lovers.
Glendinning, Victoria. Vita. Penguin, 1984.
95, 196
VSW was usually referred to formally as the Honourable (on account of her father's baronetage). After Harold Nicolson received the Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order in 1953, however, they became Sir Harold and Lady Nicolson. VSW detested being called Lady Nicolson, both because the award was not quite what she would have wished for her husband, and because she hated being known by her married name.
Glendinning, Victoria. Vita. Penguin, 1984.
375