THE LETTERS OF VITA SACKVILLE-WEST TO VIRGINIA WOOLF by Louise & Mitchell A. Leaska--Eds. DeSalvo

THE LETTERS OF VITA SACKVILLE-WEST TO VIRGINIA WOOLF

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Thanks to Victoria Glendinning's Vita (1983), Nigel Nicolson's Portrait of a Marriage, and the busy-Woolf-iana business, no one will find any surprises in this collection of Vita's letters to Virginia, 1923-1941--amplified by about 175 excerpts from Virginia's 400 letters (printed in toto elsewhere) to ""Dearest Creature."" Still, Vita/Virginia scholars and aficionados may want to browse here, especially since Glendinning's treatment of the affair/friendship, though full, was less than satisfying. As in Glendinning's version, the most absorbing, intriguing material relates to Woolf's portrait of Vita as Orlando--with Vita ""thrilled and terrified"" at the idea, later humbled and moved to tears, but made uneasy too. Elsewhere, despite an occasional passionate phrase (""I am reduced to a thing that wants Virginia""), Vita is a less romantic, more consciously literary correspondent than Virginia--finding passion with other women, venerating Virginia rather than adoring her, reporting singlemindedly on her own writing projects. . . and taking greatest pleasure in VW's intellectual regard. (""I blushed with pleasure because you liked what I wrote about Tolstoy."") And, while less revealing than Virginia, Vita is also a less inspired stylist when touching on the non-intimate matter of frequent correspondence: travels in Europe and the Middle East, literary/social acquaintances, gardening, family. Too much of the Vita/Virginia relationship lies between the lines (or between the letters) for this to be an involving epistolary chronicle; but, with conscientious (occasionally romanticized) annotations, these letters do add some detail and psychological color to the now-familiar story of brief romance followed by years of loving friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 24th, 1984
Publisher: Morrow