Victoria Mary Sackville-West (1892 to 1962)
William Strang [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Vita was born at Knole House, Kent, into an aristocratic family. She was home educated, in the main, and became a poet, novelist, biographer, travel writer, critic, historian and garden designer; a very impressive CV. She married Harold Nicolson in 1913 when she was 21 and they had an open marriage, each having same sex relationships. They had two sons, Nigel and Benedict.
As a woman, Vita couldn’t inherit Knole House when her father died and it passed in to the hands of a male cousin, Charles. In the 1930s Vita and Harold bought Sissinghurst Castle where Vita created the beautiful, and famous, gardens. In the 1940s, Vita had a weekly column in The Observer entitled In Your Garden. The castle and gardens are now managed by the National Trust but it was Vita’s original garden design that provided inspiration for Virginia Woolf’s Orlando.
Vita’s novels include The Edwardians, a Bildungsroman centred around the aristocracy of the early 1900s and All passion Spent. More to add to my reading list!
It was in the 1920s that Vita became close to Virginia. Leonard knew about their affair but he never objected as all he wanted was for Virginia to be happy. Though Vita’s relationship with Virginia didn’t last more than a few years, they remained friends until Virginia’s death in 1941.
Vita was also a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, a Companion of Honour and a Justice of the Peace for Kent.
A Companion of honour is a reward for outstanding achievement in the arts, literature, music, science, politics, industry and religion. Vita is in good company with Steven Hawking, Dame Judi Dench and David Hockney.
Vita died at Sissinghurst, at the age of 70 in 1962.