The Historical Birthday-Tea Party March 9th

Raise your glasses, it’s the birthday of

Vita Sackville-West

9 March 1892 – 2 June 1962 writer, gardener and serial womaniser.

Vita’s relationship with Violet Keppel (later Trefusis) is detailed in Portrait of A Marriage, by her son Nigel Nicholson. They met at school and at one point eloped to France. In her autobiography Violet said of Vita that when they met again for the first time after school

No one had told me that Vita had turned into a beauty. The knobs and knuckles had all disappeared. She was tall and graceful. The profound, hereditary Sackville eyes were as pools from which the morning mists had lifted.

Vita on Violet:

I go down country lanes and meet a sign saying: Beware, unexploded bomb. So I have to go around another way. You are the unexploded bomb to me. You gave me a coal black briquet. It lights up in the flame of love which burns in my heart whenever I think of you. You said it would last for three months, but our love has lasted forty years.

This was not Vita’s only high-profile affair, she also had a long relationship with Virginia Woolf. However she started young and kept at it, her first lover was Rosamund Grosvenor, another school friend,

I don’t remember very clearly, but the fact remains that by the middle of that summer we were inseparable, and moreover were living on terms of the greatest possible intimacy…. 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, but my sense of guilt went no further than that.

Others Vita had affairs with were Muriel Clark-Kerr, Mary Garman,(who wrote of Virginia’s book Orlando

Vita darling you have been so much Orlando to me that how can I help absolutely understanding and loving the book… Through all the slight mockery which is always in the tone of Virginia’s voice, and the analysis etc., Orlando is written by someone who loves you so obviously.)

The list continues: Journalist Evelyn Irons and Hilda Matheson of the BBC. Most of Vita’s affairs were long-lived and she was often keeping more than one lover on her string. She was not averse to flirtations: she kissed Christabel Gertrude Marshall ( known as Christopher St John, lover of Edy Craig) behind Sevenoaks station, and Chris was ‘never the same again.’

I’d be a bit nervous of having Vita to a party, there’s no telling who she’d leave with, but she is magnificently unapologetic, and quite aside from her romantic shenanigins, an innovative gardener and her novels aren’t bad either, I’ve read All Passion Spent and The Easter Party and enjoyed them. So an invitation will go out, but with a secret hope that Ms Sackville-West might decline.

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