Born in 1909, she was the daughter of the Governor of South Australia (1922-27) Lt.-Gen. Sir (George) Tom Molesworth Bridges by his wife Janet Florence Menzies, and was the great-niece of the poet laureate (1913-30), Robert Bridges.
She met James Lees-Milne, who became her second husband, during World War II while she was engaged in an affair with the arts patron Winnaretta de Polignac. By 1949 they were in love, but from the outset the relationship was not without complications. She had been married since 1933 to Anthony Freskin Charles Hamby Chaplin, who would in 1949 become the 3rd Viscount Chaplin, and had one daughter, (Oenone) Clarissa, born in 1934. At one point the Chaplins, Lees-Milne, and Anthony Chaplin's girlfriend Hon. Rosemary Lyttelton all lived in the same house. Lord and Lady Chaplin divorced in 1950, whereupon the viscount married Rosemary Lyttleton (by whom he later had two daughters).
She and Lees-Milne were candid with each other about their true sexual nature, and they did not generally hide their affairs from one another. During the 1930s James Lees-Milne had been the lover of Harold Nicolson, husband of the writer Vita Sackville-West who was herself noted for her high-profile lesbian affairs. Both Harold and Vita acted as witnesses at the Lees-Milnes' wedding (also present was James' former lover the composer Lennox Berkeley and Berkeley's wife Freda). Vita Sackville-West's former lover Violet Trefusis had been the long-term lover of Princess de Polignac, and in turn in the 1950s Sackville-West became involved in a love affair with Alvilde Lees-Milne (who tried to conceal the fact from her husband).
Photograph of Ralph Jarvis, Randolph Spencer Churchill, Diana Mitford, Tom Mitford, Diana Spencer Churchill, and James Lees-Milne, 1927, From: James Lees-Milne papers, 1907-1997, Beinecke Library, Object ID: 2007219
Alvilde Chaplin was a British gardening and landscape expert. She met James Lees-Milne, who became her second husband, during WW II, while she was involved with Winnaretta Singer, who died in 1943, and married to Anthony Freskin Charles Hamby Chaplin, 3rd Viscount Chaplin. Lees-Milne had loved Tom Mitford at Eton, and was devastated when Tom was killed in action in Burma in 1945. Lord and Lady Chaplin divorced in 1950, whereupon the viscount married Rosemary Lyttleton. During the 1930s, Lees-Milne was involved in an affair with Harold Nicolson, the husband of the writer Vita Sackville-West, who, in the 1950s became involved with Alvilde.
In later written accounts James Lees-Milne said that he and his wife enjoyed an active sexual relationship prior to their marriage, but less so afterwards. In 1955, Alvilde embarked on the affair with Sackville-West; they were semi-discreet but the affair was well known within their social circle. When in the late 1950s Lees-Milne began a - mostly platonic - affair with a younger man the marriage became stormy, predominantly as a result of Alvilde's jealousy (she was prone to spying on him, even to the extent of steaming open his letters and listening to his telephone conversations).
In 1961 Alvilde Lees-Milne purchased Alderley Grange, near the western edge of Cotswolds. The marriage survived, principally because they spent a good deal of time apart. Alvilde made a garden at Alderley which would later draw widespread admiration; she subsequently became a much sought-after garden designer, her clients including the Queen of Jordan, Valery Giscard-d'Estaing, and Mick Jagger at his manoir in France. She published a variety of best-selling books on gardening and, latterly, interiors.
By the late 1960s Alvilde and Lees-Milne had reached a more settled point in their marriage. They became a more devoted couple, living together but still largely pursuing separate lives.
In 1974 Alvilde decided that Alderley Grange was too much for them. She sold the property and the couple moved to a flat in Lansdown Crescent, Bath. It was soon realised that the place was too cramped. In 1975 they moved to the 17th century Essex House on the Badminton estate of the Duke of Beaufort, renting the property at the considerate suggestion of their close friend David Somerset, the duke's nephew and heir.
By this stage in their lives they were devoted to one another, despite the fact that at the age of 70 James conceived a romantic (but platonic) relationship with a man of 25; this caused considerable strain to their marriage and led to a permanent rift between Alvilde and Rosamond Lehmann. In 1992 Alvilde became seriously ill, and Lees-Milne devoted the next two years of his life to caring for her. She died suddenly in 1994, James Lees-Milne having found her collapsed on the pathway of their Badminton home. Her death left him deeply depressed.
Evelyn Graham Irons (June 17, 1900 – April 3, 2000) was a Scottish journalist, the first woman war correspondent to be decorated with the French Croix de Guerre.
Irons's relationship with the writer Vita Sackville-West was well-known - months before her death, an Evening Standard headline identified her as the "war correspondent who broke Vita's heart" - but the romance was brief.
According to biographer Victoria Glendinning, in 1931 Irons went as editor of the Daily Mail women's page to interview Sackville-West at Sissinghurst where she was designing and shaping the famous gardens. Sackville-West was married to Harold Nicolson ( and had already had several extra marital including Violet Trefusis ), while Irons was involved with Olive Rinder. As if this were not complex enough, Rinder also became a lover of Sackville-West, forming a menage a trois during 1932 that ended when Irons met a fellow journalist, Joy McSweeney.
Sackville-West's 1931 love poems are addressed to Irons, though the "more erotic ones" were never published. Irons and Sackville-West remained lifelong friends who "corresponded warmly".
In 1935, Irons won the Royal Humane Society's Stanhope Gold Medal "for the bravest deed of 1935". She "rescued a woman from drowning under very courageous circumstances at Tresaith Beach, Cardiganshire." It was the first time the medal had been awarded to a woman.
Irons and McSweeney lived together until McSweeney's death in 1978. Irons died in Brewster, N.Y., on April 3, 2000, at the age of 99, two months short of her 100th birthday.
Sir Harold George Nicolson KCVO CMG (21 November 1886 – 1 May 1968) was an English diplomat, author, diarist and politician. He was the husband of writer Vita Sackville-West, their unusual relationship being described in their son's book, Portrait of a Marriage.
Nicolson was born in Tehran, Persia, the younger son of diplomat Arthur Nicolson, 1st Baron Carnock. He was educated at Wellington College and Balliol College, Oxford.
In 1909 he joined HM Diplomatic Service. He served as attaché at Madrid from February to September 1911, and then Third Secretary at Constantinople from January 1912 to October 1914. During the First World War, he served at the Foreign Office in London, during which time he was promoted Second Secretary. As the Foreign Office's most junior employee, it fell to him in August 1914 to hand Britain's revised declaration of war to the German ambassador in London. He served in a junior capacity in the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, for which he was appointed Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) in the 1920 New Year Honours.
Promoted First Secretary in 1920, he was appointed private secretary to Sir Eric Drummond, first Secretary-General of the League of Nations, but was recalled to the Foreign Office in June 1920.
From left to right: Harold Nickolson, Vita Sackville-West, Rosamund Grosvenor, Lionel Sackville-West, 1913
Vita Sackville-West (March 9, 1892 – June 2, 1962) was an English author, poet & gardener. She won the Hawthornden Prize in 1927 & 1933. She was famous for her exuberant aristocratic life, strong marriage (although she and her husband, Harold Nicolson, were both bisexual), her passionate affair with novelist Virginia Woolf, and Sissinghurst Castle Garden, which she and Nicolson created at Sissinghurst. Sir Harold George Nicolson KCVO CMG was an English diplomat, author, diarist and politician.
In 1925, he was promoted Counsellor and posted to Tehran as Chargé d'affaires. However, in Summer 1927 he was recalled to London and demoted to First Secretary for criticising his Minister, Sir Percy Loraine, in a dispatch. He was posted to Berlin as Chargé d'affaires in 1928. He was promoted Counsellor again, but resigned from the Diplomatic Service in September 1929.
From 1930 to 1931, Nicolson wrote for the Evening Standard, but found it increasingly tedious.
In 1931, he joined Sir Oswald Mosley and his recently formed New Party. He stood unsuccessfully for Parliament for the Combined English Universities in the general election that year and edited the party newspaper, Action. He ceased to support Mosley when the latter formed the British Union of Fascists the following year.
Nicolson entered the House of Commons as National Labour Member of Parliament (MP) for Leicester West in the 1935 election. In the latter half of the 1930s he was among a relatively small number of MPs who alerted the country to the threat of fascism. More a follower of Anthony Eden in this regard than of Winston Churchill, he nevertheless was a friend (though not an intimate) of Churchill, and often supported his efforts in the Commons to stiffen British resolve and support rearmament.
He became Parliamentary Secretary and official Censor at the Ministry of Information in Churchill's 1940 wartime government of national unity, serving under Cabinet member Duff Cooper for approximately a year until he was asked by Churchill to leave his position; thereafter he was a well-respected backbencher, especially on foreign policy issues given his early and prominent diplomatic career. From 1941 to 1946 he was also on the Board of Governors of the BBC. He lost his seat in the 1945 election. Having joined the Labour Party, he stood in the Croydon North by-election in 1948, but lost once again.
In 1913, he married the writer Vita Sackville-West, who encouraged his literary ambitions. He published a biography of French poet Paul Verlaine in 1921, to be followed by studies of other literary figures such as Tennyson, Byron, Swinburne and Sainte-Beuve. In 1933, he wrote an account of the Paris Peace Conference entitled Peacemaking 1919.
Nicolson and his wife practiced what today would be called an open marriage. They each had a number of same-sex affairs, and once Harold had to follow Vita to France, where she had "eloped" with Violet Trefusis, to try to win her back. However, they remained happy together – in fact, they were famously devoted to each other, writing almost every day when they were separated, for example, because of long diplomatic postings abroad. Eventually, he gave up diplomacy, partly so they could live together in England. They had two sons, Nigel, also a politician and writer, and Benedict, an art historian.
In the 1930s, he and his wife acquired and moved to Sissinghurst Castle, near Cranbrook in Kent, the county known as the garden of England. There they created the renowned gardens that are now run by the National Trust.
After Nicolson's last attempt to enter Parliament, he continued with an extensive social schedule and his programme of writing, which included books, book reviews, and a weekly column for The Spectator. He was appointed Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (KCVO) in 1953, as a reward for writing the official biography of George V, which had been published in the previous year.
His younger son, the publisher and writer Nigel Nicolson, published works by and about his parents, including Portrait of a Marriage (frankly covering his parents' bisexuality), their correspondence, and Nicolson's diary. The latter is one of the pre-eminent British diaries of the 20th century and an invaluable source on British political history from 1930 through the 1950s, particularly in regard to the run-up to World War II and the war itself: Nicolson served in high enough echelons to write of the workings of the circles of power and the day-to-day unfolding of great events from, as it were, a medium distance. (His fellow parliamentarian Robert Bernays aptly characterized Nicolson as being "...a national figure of the second degree.") It is perhaps his diary, of all of his voluminous oeuvre, for which Harold Nicolson will be most remembered, as the author was variously an acquaintance, associate, friend, or intimate to such figures as Ramsay MacDonald, David Lloyd George, Duff Cooper, Charles de Gaulle, Anthony Eden and Winston Churchill, along with a host of literary and artistic figures.
Nicolson is also remembered for his 1932 novel "Public Faces," the first book foreshadowing the nuclear bomb. A fictional account of British national policy in 1939, it tells how Britain's secretary of state tried to keep world peace, even with the Royal Air Force aggressively brandishing rocket airplanes and an atomic bomb. In today's terms, it was a multi-megaton bomb, and the geology of the Persian Gulf played a central role, but on the other hand, Nicolson never foresaw Hitler.
There is a brown "blue plaque" commemorating him and Vita Sackville-West on their house in Ebury Street, London SW1.
(George) James Henry Lees-Milne (born Wickhamford, Worcestershire 6 August 1908 – died Tetbury, Gloucestershire 28 December 1997) was an English writer and expert on country houses. He was an architectural historian, novelist, and a biographer. He is also remembered as a diarist.
Lees-Milne was born into a prosperous manufacturing family on 6 August 1908 in Wickhamford, Worcestershire. He attended Lockers Park School in Hertfordshire, Eton, and Oxford University. From 1931 to 1935, he was Private Secretary to George Lloyd, 1st Baron Lloyd of Dolobran.
In 1936 he was appointed secretary of the Country Houses Committee of the National Trust. He held that position until 1950, apart from a period of military service from 1939–1941. During that time he was a regular contributor to the Trust's member newsletter, penning various features. He was instrumental in the first large-scale transfer of country houses from private ownership to the Trust. After resigning his full-time position in 1950, he continued his connection with the National Trust as a part-time architectural consultant and member of committees.
Lees-Milne was visiting Diana Mosley when King Edward VIII abdicated. His visit there was to examine the seventeenth-century house she and her husband Sir Oswald Mosley were then renting; he recorded later how he and Diana (her husband was in London) had listened to the King's broadcast abdication speech with tears running down their faces. He had loved her brother Tom Mitford at Eton, and was devastated when Tom was killed in action in Burma in 1945.
He married Alvilde, Viscountess Chaplin, née Bridges, a prominent gardening and landscape expert, in 1951. Alvilde Lees-Milne died in 1994. Both Lees-Milne and Alvilde were bisexual, and for a period Alvilde had lesbian affairs with Vita Sackville-West and Winnaretta Singer, among others.
After thirteen years living at Alderley Grange, Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire and a brief sojourn in Bath, he and Alvilde resided after 1974 at Essex House on the Badminton estate, also in Gloucestershire, while he worked most days in William Thomas Beckford's library at Lansdown Crescent. He was a Founding Trustee of the Beckford's Tower Trust, established in 1977 to preserve and maintain the building and its collection for public benefit.
He was a friend of many of the most prominent British intellectual and social figures of his day, including Nancy Mitford, Harold Nicolson—about whom he wrote a two-volume biography—Deborah Mitford, and Cyril Connolly.
From 1947 Lees-Milne published a series of architectural works aimed primarily at the general reader. He was also a diarist, and his diaries were published in many volumes and were well received, in later years attracting a cult following. His other works included several biographies and an autobiographical novel.
In 1993 Lees-Milne was offered a CBE in the New Year's Honours, but declined it.
Lees-Milne died in hospital at Tetbury on 28 December 1997. His ashes, together with those of his wife, Alvilde, were scattered in the grounds of Essex House.
A series of three plays inspired by Lees-Milne's diaries—Sometimes into the Arms of God, The Unending Battle and What England Owes—were broadcast by the BBC in July 2013.
Leonard Sidney Woolf (/ˈwʊlf/; 25 November 1880 – 14 August 1969) was an English political theorist, author, publisher and civil servant, and husband of author Virginia Woolf.
Woolf was born in London, the third of ten children of Solomon Rees Sidney Woolf (known as Sidney Woolf), a barrister and Queen's Counsel, and Marie (née de Jongh). His family was Jewish. After his father died in 1892 Woolf was sent to board at Arlington House School near Brighton, Sussex. From 1894 to 1899 he attended St Paul's School, and in 1899 he won a classical scholarship to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was elected to the Cambridge Apostles. Other members included Lytton Strachey, John Maynard Keynes, GE Moore and EM Forster. Thoby Stephen, Virginia Stephen's brother, was friendly with the Apostles, though not a member himself. Woolf was awarded his BA in 1902, but stayed for another year to study for the Civil Service examinations.
In October 1904 Woolf moved to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) to become a cadet in the Ceylon Civil Service, in Jaffna and later Kandy, and by August 1908 was named an assistant government agent in the Southern Province, where he administered the District of Hambantota. Woolf returned to England in May 1911 for a year's leave. Instead, however, he resigned in early 1912 and that same year married Virginia Stephen (Virginia Woolf).
Together Leonard and Virginia Woolf became influential in the Bloomsbury group, which also included various other former Apostles.
Virginia Woolf was an English writer, and one of the foremost modernists of the 20th century. She married writer Leonard Woolf on August 10, 1912.The couple shared a close bond. Indeed, in 1937, Woolf wrote in her diary: "Love-making—after 25 years can't bear to be separate ... you see it is enormous pleasure being wanted: a wife. And our marriage so complete." Virginia committed suicide by drowning at the age of 59. Leonard died in 1969 from a stroke and was cremated with his ashes being buried beneath an elm tree in his beloved garden at Monk's House, with his wife's ashes, in Rodmell, Sussex.
In December 1917 Woolf became one of the co-founders of the 1917 Club, which met in Gerrard Street, Soho.
After marriage, Woolf turned his hand to writing and in 1913 published his first novel, The Village in the Jungle, which is based on his years in Sri Lanka. A series of books followed at roughly two-yearly intervals.
On the introduction of conscription in 1916, during the First World War, Woolf was rejected for military service on medical grounds, and turned to politics and sociology. He joined the Labour Party and the Fabian Society, and became a regular contributor to the New Statesman. In 1916 he wrote International Government, proposing an international agency to enforce world peace.
As his wife began to suffer from mental illness Woolf devoted much of his time to caring for her (he himself suffered from depression). In 1917 the Woolfs bought a small hand-operated printing press and with it they founded the Hogarth Press. Their first project was a pamphlet, hand-printed and bound by themselves. Within ten years the Press had become a full-scale publishing house, issuing Virginia's novels, Leonard's tracts and, among other works, the first edition of T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land. Woolf continued as the main director of the Press until his death. His wife's mental problems continued, however, until her suicide in 1941. Later Leonard fell in love with a married artist, Trekkie Parsons.
In 1919 Woolf became editor of the International Review. He also edited the international section of the Contemporary Review from 1920 to 1922. He was literary editor of The Nation and Atheneum, generally referred to simply as The Nation, from 1923 to 1930), and joint founder and editor of The Political Quarterly from 1931 to 1959), and for a time he served as secretary of the Labour Party's advisory committees on international and colonial questions.
In 1960 Woolf revisited Sri Lanka and was surprised at the warmth of the welcome he received, and even the fact that he was still remembered. Woolf accepted an honorary doctorate from the then-new University of Sussex in 1964 and in 1965 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. He declined the offer of CH in the Queen's Birthday honours list in 1966.
Among his nine siblings, Bella Woolf was also an author.
Woolf died on 14 August 1969 from a stroke. He was cremated and his ashes were buried alongside his wife's beneath an elm tree in his beloved garden at Monk's House, Rodmell, Sussex. The tree subsequently blew down and Woolf's remains have since been marked by a bronze bust.
His papers are held by the University of Sussex at Falmer.
Adeline Virginia Woolf (25 January 1882 – 28 March 1941) was an English author, essayist, publisher, and writer of short stories, regarded as one of the foremost modernist literary figures of the twentieth century. (Picture: Virginia Woolf by George Charles Beresford)
During the interwar period, Woolf was a significant figure in London literary society and a member of the Bloomsbury Group. Her most famous works include the novels Mrs Dalloway (1925), To the Lighthouse (1927) and Orlando (1928), and the book-length essay A Room of One's Own (1929), with its famous dictum,
"A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction."Virginia Woolf was born Adeline Virginia Stephen in London in 1882 to Sir Leslie Stephen and Julia Prinsep Stephen (née Jackson).
Virginia's father, Sir Leslie Stephen (1832–1904), was a notable historian, author, critic and mountaineer. He was the editor of the Dictionary of National Biography, a work which would influence Woolf's later experimental biographies.
Virginia's mother Julia Stephen (1846–1895) was a renowned beauty, born in India to Dr. John and Maria Pattle Jackson. She was also the niece of Julia Margaret Cameron née Pattle, the famous photographer. Julia moved to England with her mother, where she served as a model for Pre-Raphaelite painters such as Edward Burne-Jones.
Woolf was educated by her parents in their literate and well-connected household at 22 Hyde Park Gate, Kensington. Her parents had each been married previously and been widowed, and, consequently, the household contained the children of three marriages. Julia had three children by her first husband, Herbert Duckworth: George, Stella, and Gerald Duckworth. Leslie first married Harriet Marian (Minny) Thackeray (1840–1875), the daughter of William Thackeray, and they had one daughter: Laura Makepeace Stephen, who was declared mentally disabled and lived with the family until she was institutionalised in 1891. Leslie and Julia had four children together: Vanessa Stephen (1879), Thoby Stephen (1880), Virginia (1882), and Adrian Stephen (1883).
Sir Leslie Stephen's eminence as an editor, critic, and biographer, and his connection to William Thackeray, meant that his children were raised in an environment filled with the influences of Victorian literary society. Henry James, George Henry Lewes, and her honorary godfather, James Russell Lowell, were among the visitors to the house. Julia Stephen was equally well connected. Descended from an attendant of Marie Antoinette, she came from a family of beauties who left their mark on Victorian society as models for Pre-Raphaelite artists and early photographers, including her aunt Julia Margaret Cameron who was also a visitor to the Stephen household. Supplementing these influences was the immense library at the Stephens' house, from which Virginia and Vanessa were taught the classics and English literature. Unlike the girls, their brothers Adrian and Julian (Thoby) were formally educated and sent to Cambridge, a difference which Virginia would regret. The sisters did, however, benefit indirectly from their brothers' Cambridge contacts, as the boys brought their new intellectual friends home to the Stephens' drawing room.
According to Woolf's memoirs, her most vivid childhood memories were not of London but of St. Ives in Cornwall, where the family spent every summer until 1895. The Stephens' summer home, Talland House, looked out over Porthminster Bay, and is still standing today, though somewhat altered. Memories of these family holidays and impressions of the landscape, especially the Godrevy Lighthouse, informed the fiction Woolf wrote in later years, most notably To the Lighthouse.
The sudden death of her mother in 1895, when Virginia was 13, and that of her half-sister Stella two years later, led to the first of Virginia's several nervous breakdowns. She was, however, able to take courses of study (some at degree level) in Greek, Latin, German and history at the Ladies’ Department of King’s College London between 1897 and 1901, and this brought her into contact with some of the early reformers of women’s higher education such as Clara Pater, George Warr and Lilian Faithfull (Principal of the King’s Ladies’ Department and noted as one of the Steamboat ladies). Her sister Vanessa also studied Latin, Italian, art and architecture at King’s Ladies’ Department.
The death of her father in 1904 provoked her most alarming collapse and she was briefly institutionalised. Modern scholars (including her nephew and biographer, Quentin Bell) have suggested her breakdowns and subsequent recurring depressive periods were also influenced by the sexual abuse to which she and her sister Vanessa were subjected by their half-brothers George and Gerald Duckworth (which Woolf recalls in her autobiographical essays A Sketch of the Past and 22 Hyde Park Gate).
Throughout her life, Woolf was plagued by periodic mood swings and associated illnesses. Though this instability often affected her social life, her literary productivity continued with few breaks throughout her life.
After the death of their father and Virginia's second nervous breakdown, Vanessa and Adrian sold 22 Hyde Park Gate and bought a house at 46 Gordon Square in Bloomsbury.
Woolf came to know Lytton Strachey, Clive Bell, Rupert Brooke, Saxon Sydney-Turner, Duncan Grant, Leonard Woolf, John Maynard Keynes, and Roger Fry, who together formed the nucleus of the intellectual circle of writers and artists known as the Bloomsbury Group. Several members of the group attained notoriety in 1910 with the Dreadnought hoax, which Virginia participated in disguised as a male Abyssinian royal. Her complete 1940 talk on the Hoax was discovered and is published in the memoirs collected in the expanded edition of The Platform of Time (2008). In 1907 Vanessa married Clive Bell, and the couple's interest in avant garde art would have an important influence on Woolf's development as an author.
Virginia Stephen married writer Leonard Woolf on the 10th August, 1912. Despite his low material status (Woolf referring to Leonard during their engagement as a "penniless Jew") the couple shared a close bond. Indeed, in 1937, Woolf wrote in her diary: "Love-making – after 25 years can’t bear to be separate ... you see it is enormous pleasure being wanted: a wife. And our marriage so complete." The two also collaborated professionally, in 1917 founding the Hogarth Press, which subsequently published Virginia's novels along with works by T.S. Eliot, Laurens van der Post, and others. The Press also commissioned works by contemporary artists, including Dora Carrington and Vanessa Bell.
The ethos of the Bloomsbury group encouraged a liberal approach to sexuality, and in 1922 she met the writer and gardener Vita Sackville-West, wife of Harold Nicolson. After a tentative start, they began a sexual relationship, which, according to Sackville-West, was only twice consummated. In 1928, Woolf presented Sackville-West with Orlando, a fantastical biography in which the eponymous hero's life spans three centuries and both genders. Nigel Nicolson, Vita Sackville-West's son, wrote "The effect of Vita on Virginia is all contained in Orlando, the longest and most charming love letter in literature, in which she explores Vita, weaves her in and out of the centuries, tosses her from one sex to the other, plays with her, dresses her in furs, lace and emeralds, teases her, flirts with her, drops a veil of mist around her".] After their affair ended, the two women remained friends until Woolf's death in 1941. Virginia Woolf also remained close to her surviving siblings, Adrian and Vanessa; Thoby had died of an illness at the age of 26.
After completing the manuscript of her last (posthumously published) novel, Between the Acts, Woolf fell into a depression similar to that which she had earlier experienced. The onset of World War II, the destruction of her London home during the Blitz, and the cool reception given to her biography of her late friend Roger Fry all worsened her condition until she was unable to work. On 28 March 1941, Woolf put on her overcoat, filled its pockets with stones, and walked into the River Ouse near her home and drowned herself. Woolf's body was not found until 18 April 1941. Her husband buried her cremated remains under an elm in the garden of Monk's House, their home in Rodmell, Sussex.
In her last note to her husband she wrote:
"Dearest, I feel certain that I am going mad again. I feel we can't go through another of those terrible times. And I shan't recover this time. I begin to hear voices, and I can't concentrate. So I am doing what seems the best thing to do. You have given me the greatest possible happiness. You have been in every way all that anyone could be. I don't think two people could have been happier 'til this terrible disease came. I can't fight any longer. I know that I am spoiling your life, that without me you could work. And you will I know. You see I can't even write this properly. I can't read. What I want to say is I owe all the happiness of my life to you. You have been entirely patient with me and incredibly good. I want to say that – everybody knows it. If anybody could have saved me it would have been you. Everything has gone from me but the certainty of your goodness. I can't go on spoiling your life any longer. I don't think two people could have been happier than we have been. V."
Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway is, in many ways, the perfect modern novel. Or, a novel born of modernity, and perfectly expressive of modernity. I've reread my copy of Mrs. Dalloway so many times that it's fallen apart. The prose is deceptively casual, a style that would be characterized as "stream of consciousness" yet, unlike Faulkner's work, a stream that's layered yet accessible. What Mrs. Dalloway seems to offer are a series of short characterizations. But Woolf's technique is so blended with sensibility or impulse, that she creates pieces that become greater than the sum of the whole. --Tomas Mournian
A Room of One's Own has been described by some as a feminist tract, but it never felt stuffily political in my opinion. I must have skipped an introduction when I read it, because I didn't realize the book is based on a series of college lectures given by Ms. Woolf. I suppose I was thrown by the fact that, she compiled the lectures and published them as told by a fictional narrator. According to Wikipedia, "By taking on different identities, the narrator transcends one single voice and consequently she makes herself a force to be reckoned with." Scared of her. lol. --Aaron Fricke
Orlando is a classic in so many ways, the history behind this book makes the meaning and the layers even more eloquent and opens up a whole new world of interpretation. Essentially a love letter to one of Woolf’s partners, Vita Sackville-West, Orlando is a coded lesbian romance. Orlando is a nobleman who simply decides through his own will that he will never grow old. He moves through the centuries, has many romances and even changes sex, becoming the Lady Orlando. It was because of the gender-bendering and ‘fantastical’ elements that Woolf could, at the time, explore gender and sexuality in a way that had never been done before. It is a brilliant work that should be read by everybody. --Sean KennedyThe Hon Victoria Mary Sackville-West, Lady Nicolson, CH (9 March 1892 – 2 June 1962), best known as Vita Sackville-West, was an English author, poet and gardener. She won the Hawthornden Prize in 1927 and 1933. She was famous for her exuberant aristocratic life, her strong marriage (although she and her husband Harold Nicolson were both bisexual), her passionate affair with novelist Virginia Woolf, and Sissinghurst Castle Garden, which she and Nicolson created at Sissinghurst.
Vita Sackville-West was born at Knole House near Sevenoaks Kent, the only child of Lionel Edward Sackville-West, 3rd Baron Sackville and his wife Victoria Sackville-West, who were cousins. Her mother was the natural daughter of Lionel Sackville-West, 2nd Baron Sackville. Christened "Victoria Mary Sackville-West", she was known as "Vita" throughout her life, to distinguish her from her mother.
The Sackville family custom of following the Salic rules of agnatic male primogeniture prevented Vita from inheriting Knole on the death of her father. The house was bequeathed instead by her father to his younger brother Charles Sackville-West, 4th Baron Sackville. The loss of Knole would affect her for the rest of her life; of the signing in 1947 of documents relinquishing any claim on the property, part of its transition to the National Trust, she wrote that "the signing... nearly broke my heart, putting my signature to what I regarded as a betrayal of all the tradition of my ancestors and the house I loved."
Vita's portrait was painted by Hungarian-born portrait painter Philip de Laszlo in 1910, when she was seventeen. She thought it made her look like a vacuous Edwardian aristocrat, and kept it in her attic throughout her life.
Portrait of Violet Trefusis by Sir John Lavery, 1919
Violet Trefusis was a writer and socialite. She was the daughter of Alice Keppel, a mistress of King Edward VII. She is chiefly remembered for her lesbian affair with the poet Vita Sackville-West. The affair was featured in novels by both parties, and also in Virginia Woolf's Orlando: A Biography. When she was 10, Violet met Vita (who was two years older) for the first time. Despite Vita and Violet’s marriages, they remained close until 1921, with a lot of passion and jealousy in the middle.
by Philip de Laszlo, 1910
In 1913, at age 21, Vita married the 27 year-old writer and politician Harold George Nicolson (21 November 1886 – 1 May 1968), nicknamed Hadji, the third son of British diplomat Arthur Nicolson, 1st Baron Carnock (1849–1928). The couple had an open marriage. Both Sackville-West and her husband had same-sex relationships, as did some of the people in the Bloomsbury Group of writers and artists, with many of whom they had connections.
These affairs were no impediment to the closeness between Sackville-West and Nicolson, as is seen from their almost daily correspondence (published after their deaths by their son Nigel), and from an interview they gave for BBC radio after World War II. Harold Nicolson gave up his diplomatic career partly so that he could live with Sackville-West in England, uninterrupted by long solitary postings to missions abroad.
Following the pattern of his father's career, Harold was at different times a diplomat, journalist, broadcaster, Member of Parliament, and author of biographies and novels. The couple lived for a number of years in Cihangir, Constantinople and were present, in 1926, at the crowning of Rezā Shāh, in Tehran, then Persia. They returned to England in 1914 and bought Long Barn, in Kent, living there from 1915 to 1930. They employed the architect Edwin Lutyens to make many improvements to the house.
The couple had two children: Nigel (1917–2004), a well known editor, politician, and writer, and Benedict (1914–1978), an art historian. In the 1930s, the family acquired and moved to Sissinghurst Castle, near Cranbrook, in Kent. Sissinghurst had once been owned by Vita's ancestors, which provided a natural dynastic attraction to her following the loss of Knole. There the couple created the famous gardens that are now run by the National Trust.
Vita's first close friend was Rosamund Grosvenor (London, England, September 1888-30 June 1944), who was 4 years Vita's senior. She was the daughter of Algernon Henry Grosvenor, (1864–1907), her grandfather being Robert Grosvenor, 1st Baron Ebury. Vita met Rosamund at Miss Woolf's school in 1899, when Rosamund had been invited to cheer Vita up while her father was fighting in the Boer war. Rosamund and Vita later shared a governess for their morning lessons. As they grew up together, Vita fell in love with Rosamund, whom she called 'Roddie' or 'Rose' or 'the Rubens lady'. Rosamund, in turn, was besotted with Vita. "Oh, I dare say I realized vaguely that I had no business to sleep with Rosamund, and I should certainly never have allowed anyone to find it out," she admits in her journal, but she saw no real conflict: "I really was innocent."
Lady Sackville, Vita's mother, invited Rosamund to visit the family at their villa in Monte Carlo; Rosamund also stayed with Vita at Knole, at Rue Lafitte, and at Sluie. During the Monte Carlo visit, Vita wrote in her diary, " I love her so much ". Upon Rosamund's departure, Vita wrote, "Strange how little I minded [her leaving]; she has no personality, that's why." Their secret relationship ended in 1913 when Vita married. Rosamund died in 1944 during a German V1-rocket raid.
The same-sex relationship that had the deepest and most lasting effect on Sackville-West's personal life was with the novelist Violet Trefusis, daughter of the Hon. George Keppel & his wife, Alice Keppel, a mistress of King Edward VII. They first met when Vita Sackville-West was 12 and Violet was 10, and attended school together for a number of years.
The relationship began when they were both in their teens. Both later married, she and Trefusis had eloped several times from 1918 on, mostly to France, Sackville-West dressing as a man when they went out (as had the French writer Baroness Dudevant, Amandine Aurore Lucie Dupin, a.k.a. George Sand, (1804–1876), had done with ailing younger Polish musician Frederic Chopin, (1810–1849), some 100 years earlier, when residing as a couple, 1838 - early 1839, with her own 2 children, on the island of Majorca, Spain).
The affair ended badly, with Trefusis pursuing Sackville-West to great lengths until Sackville-West's affairs with other women finally took their toll.
The two women had made, apparently, a bond to remain faithful to one another, meaning that although both women were married, neither could engage in sexual relations with her own husband. Sackville-West heard allegations that Trefusis had been involved sexually with her own husband, indicating she had broken their bond, prompting her to end the affair. By all accounts, Sackville-West was by that time looking for a reason for breaking up the relationship, and used this as justification. Despite the rift the two women were devoted to one another, and deeply in love, and continued to have occasional liaisons for a number of years afterwards, but never rekindled the affair.
Vita's novel Challenge also bears witness to this affair: Sackville-West and Trefusis had started writing this book as a collaborative endeavor, the male character's name, Julian, being Sackville-West's nickname while passing as a man. Her mother, Lady Sackville, was the illegitimate Anglo-Spanish daughter of the 2nd Lord Sackville, Lionel, married to a cousin, Vita's father, the third Lord Sackville, found the portrayal obvious enough to refuse to allow publication of the novel in England; but her own son Nigel Nicolson, (1973, p. 194), however, praises her: "She fought for the right to love, men and women, rejecting the conventions that marriage demands exclusive love, and that women should love only men, and men only women. For this she was prepared to give up everything… How could she regret that the knowledge of it should now reach the ears of a new generation, one so infinitely more compassionate than her own?"
The affair for which Sackville-West is most remembered was with the prominent writer Virginia Woolf in the late 1920s. Woolf, sister of Vanessa Bell, both daughters of Leslie Stephen, founder of the Dictionary of National Biography, wrote one of her most famous novels, Orlando, described by Sackville-West's son Nigel Nicolson as "the longest and most charming love-letter in literature", as a result of this affair.
Unusually, the moment of the conception of Orlando was documented: Woolf writes in her diary on 5 October 1927: "And instantly the usual exciting devices enter my mind: a biography beginning in the year 1500 and continuing to the present day, called Orlando: Vita; only with a change about from one sex to the other" (excerpt from her diary published posthumously by her husband Leonard Woolf).
Vita Sackville-West also had a passionate affair between 1929 and 1931 with Hilda Matheson, head of the BBC Talks Department. "Stoker" was the pet name given to Hilda by Sackville-West during their liaison. (Picture: Hilda Matheson by Howard Coster, 1920s)
In 1931 Sackville-West became involved in a menage a trois with journalist Evelyn Irons, who had interviewed her after her novel The Edwardians became a bestseller, and Irons's lover Olive Rinder.
She was also romantically involved with her sister-in-law Gwen St. Aubyn, Mary Garman and others not listed here.
The Edwardians (1930) and All Passion Spent (1931) are perhaps her best known novels today. In the latter, the elderly Lady Slane courageously embraces a long suppressed sense of freedom and whimsy after a lifetime of convention. This novel was faithfully dramatized by the BBC in 1986 starring Dame Wendy Hiller.
Sackville-West's science-fantasy Grand Canyon (1942) is a "cautionary tale" (as she termed it) about a Nazi invasion of an unprepared United States. The book takes an unsuspected twist, however, in that makes it something more than a typical invasion yarn.
In 1947 Sackville-West was made a Companion of Honour for her services to literature. The same year she began a weekly column in The Observer called "In your Garden". In 1948 she became a founder member of the National Trust's garden committee.
She is less well known as a biographer, and the most famous of those works is her biography of Saint Joan of Arc in the work of the same name. Additionally, she composed a dual biography of Saint Teresa of Ávila and Therese of Lisieux entitled The Eagle and the Dove, a biography of the author Aphra Behn, and a biography of her own grandmother, the Spanish dancer known as Pepita., the mother of many children by British diplomat and second Lord Sackville, Lionel Sackville-West, (1829–1908), as stated extensively above, running by 2010 at some 11 editions in English. For instance, the 1985 edition by Telegraph Books, (ISBN 9780897607858). The first edition was Doubleday Publishers, 1937. There was another by Amereon, date unknown, (ISBN 9780848811501).
Her long narrative poem, The Land, won the Hawthornden Prize in 1927. She won it again, becoming the only writer to do so, in 1933 with her Collected Poems.
Sissinghurst Castle is now owned by the National Trust, given by Sackville-West's son Nigel in order to escape payment of inheritance taxes. Its gardens are famous and remain the most visited in all of England.
A recording was made of Vita Sackville-West reading from her poem The Land. This was on four 78rpm sides in the Columbia Records 'International Educational Society' Lecture series, Lecture 98 (Cat. no. D 40192/3).
A plaque on their house in Ebury Street, London SW1, commemorates her and Harold Nicolson.
Burial: St Michael and All Angels Churchyard, Withyham, East Sussex, England. Plot: Family Crypt.
Violet Trefusis née Keppel (6 June 1894 – 29 February 1972) was an English writer and socialite. She is most notable for her lesbian affair with Vita Sackville-West, which was featured under disguise in Virginia Woolf's Orlando: A Biography. In this romanticized biography of Vita, Trefusis appears in it as the Russian princess Sasha. (P: ©Jacques-Emile Blanche (1861-1942)/NPG 5229. Violet Trefusis, 1926 (©4))
Born Violet Keppel, she was the daughter of Alice Keppel, a mistress of King Edward VII of the United Kingdom, and her husband, the Hon. George Keppel, a son of an Earl of Albemarle. Her biological father, however, was considered by members of the Keppel family to be William Beckett, subsequently 2nd Baron Grimthorpe, a banker and MP for Whitby.
Trefusis lived her early youth in London, where the Keppel family had a house in Portman Square. When Trefusis was four years old, Alice Keppel became the favorite mistress of Albert Edward (Bertie), the Prince of Wales, who became King Edward VII on 22 January 1901. He paid visits to the Keppel household in the afternoon around tea-time (while her husband, who was aware of the affair, was conveniently absent), on a regular basis till the end of his life in 1910. In 1900 Violet's only sibling, Sonia, was born.
Orlando: A Biography was not the only account of the love affair between Violet and Vita, which appears in reality to have been very much more strenuous than Woolf's enchanting account: both in fiction (Challenge by Sackville-West and Trefusis, Broderie Anglaise a roman à clef in French by Trefusis) and in non-fiction (Portrait of a Marriage by Sackville-West with extensive "clarifications" added by her son Nigel Nicolson) further parts of the story appeared in print.
There are still the surviving letters and diaries written by the partakers in the plot. Apart from those of the two central players, there are records from Alice Keppel, Victoria Sackville-West, Harold Nicolson, Denys Trefusis and Pat Dansey. The Yale University Library-Collection contains correspondence, writings and other materials by or related to Violet Trefusis. The correspondence consists chiefly of approximately 500 letters from Trefusis to John Phillips written in the 1960s. Also included are letters to Trefusis from her mother, Alice Keppel, her sister, Sonia Keppel, and several governmental departments in France and England concerning Trefusis's re-entry into France after World War II, and her nomination to the Légion d'honneur. Writings include holograph and typescript drafts of Trefusis' memoirs, novels, plays and other writings. Other materials include a miniature case portrait of Trefusis as a child, and an album containing photographs of friends of the Keppels, taken by George Keppel between 1924-1939 at the family's Villa dell'Ombrellino in Florence, including many members of European nobility and royalty.
Probably the most conclusive overview of the whole story can be found in Diana Souhami's Mrs Keppel and her Daughter.
Trefusis's fantasy - of romantic love lived to the fullest in an accepting social context - were not to come true. The more traditional concept of an upfront marriage with hidden extramarital adventures to complete it—as it had been lived by Mrs Keppel, and would continue to be lived by Sackville-West and Harold—proved immensely stronger for many years to come.
An essential difference between Mrs Keppel and Sackville-West seems to be that Mrs Keppel made a trade of never distressing her lovers (and their marriages), thus advancing her family socially and financially, while Sackville-West caused broken hearts more than once: for her marriage was rather the refuge she could always come back to after periods of abandonment.
As a side-note it might appear not so surprising that, notwithstanding some general changes in social context by that time, the inherent unresolved tensions of all three models (of Trefusis, Mrs Keppel and Sackville-West) - including mothers taking sides in view of a socially acceptable solution—reappeared in the Diana–Camilla–Charles triangle.
The two former lovers met again in 1940 when the war had forced Trefusis to come back to England. They continued to keep in touch and send each other affectionate letters.
From 1923 on, Trefusis was one of the many lovers of the Singer sewing machine heiress Winnaretta Singer, daughter of Isaac Singer and wife of the homosexual Prince Edmond de Polignac, who introduced her to the artistic beau-monde in Paris. Trefusis conceded more and more to her mother's model of being "socially acceptable" but, at the same time, not wavering on her sexuality.
Singer, as Sackville-West had, dominated the relationship, though apparently to mutual satisfaction. The two were together for many years and seemed to have had a healthy and happy relationship. Trefusis's mother, Alice Keppel, did not object to this affair, most likely because of the wealth and power of Singer and the fact that Singer carried on the affair in a much more disciplined way. Trefusis seemed to prefer the role of submissive and therefore fit well with Singer, who was typically dominant and in control in her relationships. Neither was completely faithful during their long affair; but, unlike her affair with Sackville-West, this seemed to have had no negative effect on their relationship.
In 1924, Mrs Keppel bought L'Ombrellino, a large villa overlooking Florence, where Galileo Galilei had once lived. After her parents' death in 1947, Trefusis would become the chatelaine of L'Ombrellino, till the end of her life.
In 1929, Denys Trefusis died, completely estranged from his seemingly unfeeling wife. After his death, Violet published several novels, some in English, some in French, that she had written in her medieval "Tour" in Saint-Loup-de-Naud, Seine-et-Marne, France - a gift from Winnaretta.
During the Second World War, in London, Violet participated in the broadcastings of La France Libre, which earned her a Légion d'Honneur after the war.
Nancy Mitford said that Violet's autobiography should be titled Here Lies Violet Trefusis, and partly based the character of "Lady Montdore" in Love in a Cold Climate on her.
François Mitterrand, who later became President of the French Republic in 1981, in his chronicle "La Paille & le Grain" mentions his friendship with Violet Trefusis under the 2nd of March 1972, when he received "the telegram" informing of her death. He goes on discussing how before Christmas 1971, he went to Florence to visit her as he knew she was in her last months of life and spent a dinner with Violet Trefusis and Lord Frank Ashton-Gwatkin who was a member of the British Government at the beginning of the 2nd World War, at her house in Florence.
Violet died at L'Ombrellino on the Bellosguardo. Her ashes were placed at Florence on the I Allori cemetery and a part in Saint-Loup-de-Naud in the monks refectory near her tower. Afterwards her ashes at Saint-Loup-de-Naud were dispensed in her Florentine garden she had had at Saint-Loup-de-Naud.
Burial: Cimitero Evangelico degli Allori, Florence, Toscana, Italy
Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time by Elisa Rolle
Paperback: 760 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (July 1, 2014)
CreateSpace Store: https://www.createspace.com/4910282
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Days of Love chronicles more than 700 LGBT couples throughout history, spanning 2000 years from Alexander the Great to the most recent winner of a Lambda Literary Award. Many of the contemporary couples share their stories on how they met and fell in love, as well as photos from when they married or of their families. Included are professional portraits by Robert Giard and Stathis Orphanos, paintings by John Singer Sargent and Giovanni Boldini, and photographs by Frances Benjamin Johnson, Arnold Genthe, and Carl Van Vechten among others. “It's wonderful. Laying it out chronologically is inspired, offering a solid GLBT history. I kept learning things. I love the decision to include couples broken by death. It makes clear how important love is, as well as showing what people have been through. The layout and photos look terrific.” Christopher Bram “I couldn’t resist clicking through every page. I never realized the scope of the book would cover centuries! I know that it will be hugely validating to young, newly-emerging LGBT kids and be reassured that they really can have a secure, respected place in the world as their futures unfold.” Howard Cruse “This international history-and-photo book, featuring 100s of detailed bios of some of the most forward-moving gay persons in history, is sure to be one of those bestsellers that gay folk will enjoy for years to come as reference and research that is filled with facts and fun.” Jack Fritscher
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