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  • Published: 30 March 2021
  • ISBN: 9781784876722
  • Imprint: Vintage Classics
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 176
  • RRP: $26.00

Vita and Virginia

Love Letters




The radical, relatable, and playful love story between two extraordinary twentieth-century writers, revealed in selected letters and diary entries.

‘I am reduced to a thing that wants Virginia. I composed a beautiful letter to you in the sleepless nightmare hours of the night, and it has all gone. I just miss you, in a quite simple desperate human way.’

In 1922, the relatively unknown writer Virginia Woolf met the popular author, aristocrat – and notorious Sapphist – Vita Sackville-West. Virginia didn’t think much of Vita’s conversation, but she did think very highly of her legs. In her diary she wrote: ‘But could I ever know her?’ It was to be the start of nearly twenty years of correspondence, flirtation, literary inspiration, and deep friendship. Virginia would write her most playful novel, Orlando, for and about Vita, and their close bond would end only with Virginia’s tragic death in 1941.

Here is the true love story of Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West, told through selected letters and diary entries, allowing us to hear these women’s complex and constantly changing feelings for each other in their own words. Passionate, witty, and lyrical, their writing gives us a vivid sense of their extraordinary lives: from Vita’s travels across the globe with her foreign diplomat husband, to Virginia’s gossip about parties with the Bloomsbury set; from their shared love of dogs and gardens, to their grief and fear as war breaks out across Europe.

These letters bring to life a relationship that – even a hundred years later – feels radical, relatable, and vital.

With an original introduction by Alison Bechdel, author of Fun Home and creator of the 'Bechdel Test'.

  • Published: 30 March 2021
  • ISBN: 9781784876722
  • Imprint: Vintage Classics
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 176
  • RRP: $26.00

About the authors

Vita Sackville-West

Vita Sackville-West was born in 1892 at Knole in Kent, the only child of aristocratic parents. In 1913 she married diplomat Harold Nicolson, with whom she had two sons and travelled extensively before settling at Kent’s Sissinghurst Castle in 1930, where she devoted much of her time to creating its now world-famous garden. Throughout her life Sackville-West had a number of other relationships with both men and women, and her unconventional marriage would later become the subject of a biography written by her son Nigel Nicolson. Though she produced a substantial body of work, amongst which are writings on travel and gardening, Sackville-West is best known for her novels The Edwardians (1930) and All Passion Spent (1931), and for the pastoral poem The Land (1926), which was awarded the prestigious Hawthornden Prize. Sackville-West died on 2 June 1962 at her Sissinghurst home, aged seventy.

Virginia Woolf

Date: 2004-06-24Virginia Woolf was born in London in 1882. After her father's death in 1904 Virginia and her sister, the painter Vanessa Bell, moved to Bloomsbury and became the centre of ‘The Bloomsbury Group’. This informal collective of artists and writers exerted a powerful influence over early twentieth-century British culture.

In 1912 Virginia married Leonard Woolf, a writer and social reformer. Three years later, her first novel The Voyage Out was published, followed by Night and Day (1919) and Jacob's Room (1922). Between 1925 and 1931 Virginia Woolf produced what are now regarded as her finest masterpieces, from Mrs Dalloway (1925) to The Waves (1931). She also maintained an astonishing output of literary criticism, short fiction, journalism and biography. On 28 March 1941, a few months before the publication of her final novel, Between the Acts, Virginia Woolf committed suicide.

Virginia Woolf is now recognized as a major twentieth-century author, a great novelist and essayist and a key figure in literary history as a feminist and a modernist. Born in 1882, she was the daughter of the editor and critic Leslie Stephen, and suffered a traumatic adolescence after the deaths of her mother, in 1895, and her step-sister Stella, in 1897, leaving her subject to breakdowns for the rest of her life. Her father died in 1904 and two years later her favourite brother Thoby died suddenly of typhoid.

With her sister, the painter Vanessa Bell, she was drawn into the company of writers and artists such as Lytton Strachey and Roger Fry, later known as the Bloomsbury Group. Among them she met Leonard Woolf, whom she married in 1912, and together they founded the Hogarth Press in 1917, which was to publish the work of T. S. Eliot, E. M. Forster and Katherine Mansfield as well as the earliest translations of Freud. Woolf lived an energetic life among friends and family, reviewing and writing, and dividing her time between London and the Sussex Downs. In 1941, fearing another attack of mental illness, she drowned herself.

Her first novel, The Voyage Out, appeared in 1915, and she then worked through the transitional Night and Day (1919) to the highly experimental and impressionistic Jacob's Room (1922). From then on her fiction became a series of brilliant and extraordinarily varied experiments, each one searching for a fresh way of presenting the relationship between individual lives and the forces of society and history. She was particularly concerned with women's experience, not only in her novels but also in her essays and her two books of feminist polemic, A Room of One's Own (1929) and Three Guineas (1938).

Her major novels include Mrs Dalloway (1925), the historical fantasy Orlando (1928), written for Vita Sackville-West, the extraordinarily poetic vision of The Waves (1931), the family saga of The Years (1937), and Between the Acts (1941). All these are published by Penguin, as are her Diaries, Volumes I-V, and selections from her essays and short stories.

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