Portrait of a Marriage

Portrait of a Marriage : Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson

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The classic story of the relationship between Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson, and a unique portrait of the Bloomsbury Group. The marriage was that between the two writers, Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson and the portrait is drawn partly by Vita herself in an autobiography which she left behind at her death in 1962 and partly by her son, Nigel. It was one of the happiest and strangest marriages there has ever been. Both Vita and Harold were always in love with other people and each gave the other full liberty 'without enquiry or reproach', knowing that their love for each other would be unaffected and even strengthened by the crises which it survived. This account of their love story is now a modern classic.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 224 pages
  • 128 x 196 x 20mm | 258.55g
  • Orion Publishing Co
  • Phoenix (an Imprint of The Orion Publishing Group Ltd )
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 12
  • 1857990609
  • 9781857990607
  • 86,441

Review Text

One cannot underestimate or overlook the tasteful, sometimes elegant, romantic and wayward elements which are variously and signally a part of this memoir of Nigel Nicolson's parents - the gifted and prominent V. (Vita) Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson. And even where one might attempt to avert one's eyes from Shakespeare's "greatest scandal waits on greatest state," one cannot dismiss it out of hand particularly since Vita's imperious mother was involved in the most notorious trial of Edwardian society. But the primary story here - one third of which was written in Vita's hand and left locked in a Gladstone bag, two thirds of which consists of her son's amplification thereof - deals with her love for another woman, Violet. This was prefaced by a girlhood affair with the duller Rosamund and followed by a more discreet friendship with Virginia Woolf who modeled Orlando on Vita - that "most charming love letter in literature." The liaison with Violet (which included a period when Vita appeared as "Julian" both in fact and in the novels she wrote) lasted some three years and is filled with a turbulent urgency on both sides, ending with a scene - closer to French comedy than tragedy - when both husbands came to reclaim their wives. None of this will or did diminish the fact that the Nicolsons achieved a marriage of great mutuality and serene permanence for 49 years in spite of "her muddles" and "his fun" - they were both homosexual from the start. Indeed before she married him, Vita spoke of Harold as "unalterable, perennial and best" just as he proved to be. Nicolson's book is then much more than this episode - in recording it Vita said "I swore I would shirk nothing" and her mother called it "quite like a sensational novel" - as he retraces, revises and illumines the family history throughout. Vita also said that this story "assumed an audience" - surely it will now be affirmed. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

About Nigel Nicolson

Nigel Nicolson is the son of the politician, diarist and biographer Harold Nicolson, and the poet and writer Vita Sackville-West who restored Sissinghurst Castle in Kent, now a property of the National Trust. The family were close friends with Virginia and Leonard Woolf. Nicolson was the co-founder of Weidenfeld & Nicolson, was a Conservative MP in the 1950s and is the author of fifteen previous books.show more

Rating details

1,730 ratings
4.06 out of 5 stars
5 35% (597)
4 43% (743)
3 19% (321)
2 3% (49)
1 1% (20)
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