VIOLET TO VITA: The Letters of Violet Trefusis to Vita Sackville-West by Mitchell A. & John Phillips--Eds. Leaska

VIOLET TO VITA: The Letters of Violet Trefusis to Vita Sackville-West

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Frustrated love; hopeless separation,"" the theme that Trefusis called her ""Scottish heritage"" in her novel Echo (reviewed above), exploring her love affair with Vita Sackville-West, is also the theme of these letters. Daughter of Alice Keppel, charming legendary mistress of Edward VII, Violet (compensating for her emotionally deprived childhood, according to the editors) fell in love with Vita, who, in spite of periodic elopements and promises of fidelity, remained a devoted wife to Harold Nicolson and became the mother of two sons. Violet, as the eternal feminine, cultivated a passive role, pleasure-seeking and victimized, while Vita assumed the masculine role, cross-dressing in public, fulfilling Violet's preference for a ""fierce,"" ""brutal,"" ""carnal,"" and ""unscrupulous scoundrel,"" a ""Prince of Romance."" Written between their flights to Paris or Monte Carlo, as Violet and Vita were pursued by frantic mothers and husbands (Violet married Denys Trefusis along the way), the letters alternately insult Vita for her irresolution and betrayal when she returned to her family and idealize her as a ""bird of paradise""; they express the anguish, jealousy, desolation, and ecstasy--all the variations of obsessive love--that was for Violet--rich, spoiled, and protected--her whole occupation. Violet writes with amazing wit, intelligence, intensity, and in five languages including Gypsy, radiating an imagination and spontaneity that baffle her editors, who appear intent on regularizing, ordering, and clarifying ""1600 holograph sheets"" now in the Beinecke Library (Yale), on punctuating, cross-referencing, and adding what Vita called ""the squalor of dates."" The introduction also contains a heavy-handed Freudian interpretation for why Violet loved Vita: the reader needs instead a cultural and historical context explaining the significance of the affair in terms of the great lives with which they were associated such as Virginia Woolf and Sir Winston Churchill, from whom Violet learned that WWI had ended.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1990
ISBN: 0140157964
Publisher: Viking