Sackville-West, Vita (1892–1962) By Randall, Bryony
Vita Sackville-West was a poet, prose writer, and gardener. Much of her work was significantly informed by her close identification with the English landscape, in particular her ancestral home Knole, and Sissinghurst Castle in Kent where she lived from 1930. She is the only author to have won the Hawthornden literary prize twice, first for her long poem The Land (1926), and then for her Collected Poems (1933). Her best-known novels are The Edwardians (1930) and All Passion Spent (1931). She also wrote two classic pieces of travel writing on Iran, Passenger to Teheran and Twelve Days: An Account of a Journey across the Bakhtiari Mountains of South-western Persia 1926 and 1927) based on her visits to and travel with her husband Harold Nicolson, a diplomat; her biographical publications include works on Joan of Arc and Aphra Behn. She is now best known as the model for the eponymous hero/heroine of Virginia Woolf’s 1928 novel Orlando, a work described by Sackville-West’s son Nigel Nicolson as “the longest and most charming love-letter in literature,” although in her lifetime she was a more popular writer than Woolf.