Portrait of a Marriage

“Now that I know everything,
I love her more,
as my father did,
because she was tempted,
because she was weak.
She was a rebel…
rejecting the conventions
that marriage demands
exclusive love,
and that women
should love only men,
and men only women…

she may have been mad,
as she later said,
but it was a magnificent folly.

She may have been cruel,
but it was cruelty
on a heroic scale.

How can I despise
the violence
of such a passion?

How could she regret
that the knowledge of it
should reach the ears
of a new generation,
one so infinitely
more compassionate
than her own?”


So wrote Nigel Nicolson of his mother, Vita Sackville-West, in reaction to her confession — an attempt to purge her mind and heart of a love for another woman — written in 1920, when she was 28 and in the eighth year of her marriage to Harold Nicolson.


Portrait of a Marriage by Nigel Nicolson, 1974
Painting: Shoshana Kertesz




~ by eaesthete on 01/16/10.

10 Responses to “Portrait of a Marriage”

  1. How magnificent…I absolutely loved this post …thank you

  2. how passionate……

  3. I adore Vita and Portrait of a Marriage was a simply fascinating read.

  4. There is a list that I keep in my head loosely titled “Great and Fabulous Women in History Whom I Never Had the Chance to Meet”. I’m certain most readers of EA have a similar list. Well, the Hon. Vita Sackville-West is certainly on it, as well as COUNTLESS others. Oh, where is the nearest time-travel machine……

  5. Portrait of a Marriage – one of my favourite books. I hadn’t seen this painting however for which, thanks. The production values, the insights, the sheer lush variety of your blog make it a very nice treat.

  6. “… a magnificent folly…” If I had it to do all over again, might’ve been the title of my blog. Or a biography.

    Interesting post as I know almost nothing of her. Mrs. E. has read a biography. I’ve yet to get there. This peaks my interest.

  7. I can’t remember exactly when I read it but it was my favourite book of that year

  8. […] Portrait of a Marriage « The Errant Æsthete […]

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