In 1922 Virginia Woolf and Victoria Mary Sackville-West met at a dinner party. After inviting Victoria (better known as Vita) to publish her work through Hogarth Press, a correspondence was born that later blossomed into friendship, followed by an affair between the two women. Even after their intimacy had faded, the two remained close friends.
Born Adeline Virginia Stephan, in London, 1882, she led an early life that fluctuated between bucolic and tormented, surviving many family members and being sexually assaulted by two of her half brothers. She eventually married Leonard Woolf in 1912 and by 1917 the two had begun their own publishing house, putting to print works penned by Virginia and Vita, but also bringing the UK’s first book edition of T.S. Elliot’s The Wasteland to press.
Virginia became enamored with Vita’s aristocratic blood and intelligent mind, although she often found herself concerned over their differing ages. Nonetheless, they kept up a wonderful correspondence and their friendship continued until Virginia’s famed suicide in 1941.
For this poem I used lines from both their letters, as well as entries from Virginia’s diary.
The lustre of your presence bewitches me
In the sleepless, nightmare hours of the night
I’ll tell you all the things I have in my head, millions, myriads
pink glowing, grape clustered, pearl hung…
In a quite simple human desperate way
I’ll never fathom you
You have broken down my defenses
You have given me such happiness…
Walk in the garden by the moonlight
You’re mystical, serene, intriguing
I am reduced to a thing that wants
The unreality of your mind
Their affair comes across as romantic, tender. Nights spent with yellow wine on the quiet banks of rivers, the stars reeling overhead. And the words! The words spoken that only their ears will have ever heard. We have their letters, though, like a thinly veiled promise of something more.
For this weeks post I visited the ever lovely Wikipedia, which, by the way, is excepting donations right now, and if you like freedom of information, it would be a nice thing to give towards. Also, The Virginia Woolf Blog and 50 Greatest Love Letters of All Time, edited by David H. Lowenherz.