bisexuality for everyone, or: the vita sackville-west story
Vita Sackville-West: Violet, Virgina, and all the others
Marriage is one of those things that just fascinates me, particularly as marriage equality becomes more and more of a reality (yay). I don’t really see the appeal of a piece of paper saying that I’m essentially contractually bound to someone, on pain of losing tons of cash in a divorce. Still, I expect I’ll do it, partially because—in America, at least—marriage on paper brings a lot of legal advantages that I’d like to indulge in, and partially because I like me-centric parties. Also I’m really into wedding dresses. And wedding cake.
Still, what makes marriage so special? Legal marriage. Because, in a sense, isn’t anyone who commits to one’s partner “married”? (Not that marriage equality isn’t important, because everyone should have the same legal rights no matter what the gender of their partner.) But yeah. What I’m getting at is “Portrait of a Marriage” by Vita-Sackville West (via her personal journals and writings) and her son, Nigel Nicolson. The marriage in question? That of Vita and Nigel’s father, Harold Nicolson. They were both rather upper-crust, rather snobby (particularly in Vita’s case) and rather rich. They were also—both–rather bi.
Rosamund Grosvenor was born in September 1888. She was educated at Helen Wolff’s school for girls, in Park Lane. Other pupils at the school were Violet Keppel and Vita Sackville-West. While at school she began an affair with Vita, who was 4 years her junior. Rosamund wrote to Vita: “Promise not to sit next to me tomorrow. It is not that I don’t love you being near me, but that I cannot give my attention to the questions, I am - otherwise engrossed." Vita recorded in her diary "What a funny thing it is to love a person as I love Roddie (Rosamund)”.
Later she wrote: “Oh, I dare say I realized vaguely that I had no business to sleep with Rosamund, and I should certainly never have allowed anyone to find it out”. Vita admitted that the relationship was “almost entirely physical, as to be frank, she always bored me as a companion.
Under pressure from her mother, Victoria Sackville-West, Vita became engaged to the diplomat Harold Nicholson. He became concerned about her relationship with Rosamund. He was puzzled by Rosamund’s subservient attitude to Vita. He mentioned this in a letter to Vita, who replied: "It is a pity and rather tiresome. But doesn’t everyone want one subservient person in your life? I’ve got mine in her. Who is yours? Certainly not me!”
Vita later wrote in her autobiography: “It did not seem wrong to be… engaged to Harold, and at the same time so much in love with Rosamund… Our relationship (with Harold Nicholson) was so fresh, so intellectual, so unphysical, that I never thought of him in that aspect at all…. Some were born to be lovers, others to be husbands, he belongs to the latter category.”
In 1910 Rosamund went to stay with Vita Sackville-West in Monte Carlo. Vita later recalled that “Rosamund was… invited by mother, not by me; I would never have dreamt of asking anyone to stay with me; I would never have dreamt of asking anyone to stay with me; even Violet had never spent more than a week at Knole: I resented invasion. Still, as Rosamund came, once she was there, I naturally spent most of the day with her, and after I had got back to England, I suppose it was resumed. I don’t remember very clearly, but the fact remains that by the middle of that summer we were inseparable, and moreover were living on terms of the greatest possible intimacy…. Oh, I dare say I realized vaguely that I had no business to sleep with Rosamund, and I should certainly never have allowed anyone to find it out, but my sense of guilt went no further than that.”
Rosamund became jealous of Vita’s relationships with Harold Nicholson, Violet Keppel and Muriel Clark-Kerr, the sister of Archibald Clark-Kerr. Rosamund wrote to Vita: “Oh my sweet you do know don’t you. Nothing can ever make me love you less whatever happens, and I really think you have taken all my love already as there seems very little left." After one love-making session she wrote: "My sweet darling… I do miss you darling one and I want to feel your soft cool face coming out of that mass of pussy fur like I did last night.”
According to Nigel Nicolson: “Her (Vita) mother’s fastidiousness and her father’s reluctance to discuss any intimate subject with her deepened her sexual isolation. With Rosamund she tumbled into love, and bed, with a sort of innocence. At first it meant little more to her than cuddling a favourite dog or rabbit, and later she regarded the affair as more naughty than perverted, and took great pains to conceal it from her parents and Harold, fearing that exposure would mean the banishment of Rosamund.”
Rosamund eventually realised that there was no future in her relationship with Vita and she became engaged to a 38 year old army officer, Reginald Raikes. She eventually married Captain Jack Lynch in 1924.
Rosamund Grosvenor Lynch was among those killed on 30th June, 1944, when a V1 Flying Bomb fell on Aldwych. A few days later, Vita Sackville-West wrote: “It has saddened me rather, that somebody so innocent, so silly and so harmless should be killed in this idiotic and violent way.”