Behind the Mask: The Life of Vita Sackville-West

By Matthew Dennison

A fantastic new biography of Vita Sackville-West, the twentieth century aristocrat, literary megastar, dedicated spouse, recognized lover of Virginia Woolf, recluse, and iconoclast who defied categorization.

In this beautiful new biography of Vita Sackville-West, Matthew Dennison's Behind the Mask lines the triumph and contradictions of Vita's impressive lifestyles. His narrative charts a desirable path from Vita's lonely adolescence at Knole, via her affectionate yet ‘open' marriage to Harold Nicolson (during which either husband and spouse energetically pursued gay affairs, Vita so much famously with Virginia Woolf), and during Vita's literary successes and disappointments, to the recognized gardens the couple created at Sissinghurst. The e-book tells how, from her privileged international of the aristocracy, Sackville-West introduced her penchant for dress, play-acting and uprising to the inventive leading edge of contemporary Britain. Dennison is the acclaimed writer of many books together with a biography of Queen Victoria.
Here, within the first biography to be written of Vita for thirty years, he unearths the full tale and will get at the back of ‘the attractive masks' of Vita's public achievements to bare a regularly character which heroically resisted compromise on each point. Drawing on wideranging assets and the huge letters that sustained her marriage, this can be a compelling tale of affection, loss and jealousy, of high-life and coffee issues, of binding affection and illicit ardour – a portrait of a unprecedented, 20th-century life.

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Against this Lionel used to be peaceful, uncommunicative, too well mannered for histrionics: the extra Victoria railed, the extra Lionel retreated at the back of a carapace of excellent manners and watery dislike, etc and on. Like Evelyn Jarrold short of reassurance from Miles Vane-Merrick in relations historical past, ‘the extra she observed that she was once making herself a nuisance, the extra of a nuisance she made herself’. 137 regardless of their shut blood dating, the Sackville-Wests have been remarkably ill-suited. For ten years, starting round 1899, they now not scrupled to cover their ameliorations. Vita witnessed this breakdown. She absorbed a hugely distorted suggestion of marriage at a time whilst she was once insufficiently emotionally mature to set it in context or to realize the weird starkness of her mom and dad’ incompatibility. as an alternative she struggled to arrive an answer via writing. In in the back of the masks, written among November 1909 and March 1910, her heroine renounces the fellow she loves in an effort to keep away from the coruscating results of marriage: ‘It is healthier for us to reside aside and love one another all our lives, than to marry and quarrel after a number of months. ’138 The extremes in her mom and dad’ behaviour prompt to Vita an oversimplified equation of Englishness and equanimity on Lionel’s half and Victoria’s Spanish blood and emotional misrule, in addition to a version of marriage within which love used to be doomed to fail. more and more she would select accountable Victoria. As certainly one of her later fictional heroines states, ‘I hate loss of keep watch over … I hate those who permit themselves move. ’139 The cave in of her mom and dad’ marriage used to be one issue which confident Vita of her personal ‘duality’: that her nature mixed conflicting components or ‘sides’, the English and the Spanish, which either demanded pride. She imagined these parts as opposites and consequently irreconcilable: propriety pitched opposed to protest, conformity opposed to self, kindness opposed to cruelty, ‘a unfastened spirit or a prisoner’;140 or, as Violet Keppel defined it to Vita, purity and gravity at the one hand, dominance, sensuousness and brutality at the different. An inward fight alongside those strains is frequently a part of the adventure of starting to be up. Vita by no means totally outgrew it simply because she looked it as a quirk of her heredity instead of a passing section; it extra advanced her transition from adolescence to maturity. In her first released novel, background, of 1919, she investigated an identical dichotomy within the personality of Ruth, a model of herself. Ruth is ‘cursed with a twin nature, the only coarse and unbridled, the opposite gentle, traditional, functional, motherly, subtle …’. 141 one other of her heroines likens such polarities to the 2 halves of an apple: ‘Was it very unlikely ever to maintain the apple entire? ’ she asks herself, ‘a globe to carry whole within the hand? ’142 For Vita, the ‘coarse and unbridled’ aspect of her nature was once every piece as beautiful as its extra sophisticated contrary. at the eve of her first stopover at to Spain in 1913, a trip that took her from Madrid south to Granada, she wrote to her good friend Irene Lawley: ‘I am going to SPAIN … If I write approximately it, my hand starts to shake, and my hair piles itself up at the best, like below a mantilla, with a comb, all of its personal accord.

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