Virginia and Vita

 Virginia to Vita (9 Oct 27):  “You know that bloody book which Dadie and Leonard extort, drop by drop, from my breast?  Fiction, or some title to that effect [Phases of Fiction].  I couldn’t screw a word from me; and at last dropped my head in my hands:  dipped my pen in the ink, and wrote these words, as if automatically, on a clean sheet:  Orlando: A Biography.  No sooner had I done this than my body was flooded with rapture and my brain with ideas. . . .  But listen; suppose Orlando turns out to be Vita; and its all about you and the lusts of your flesh and the lure of your heart . . . ---suppose there’s the kind of shimmer of reality which sometimes attaches to my people. . . .  I admit, I should like to untwine and twist again some very odd incongruous strands in you.”

Virginia’s diary, 22 Oct 27:  “I am writing Orlando half in a mock style very clear and plain, so that people will understand every word.  But the balance between truth and fantasy must be careful.  It is based on Vita, Violet Trefusis, Lord Lascelles, Knole, etc.

[From A Portrait of a Marriage by Vita’s son Nigel Nicolson]:

The effect of Vita on Virginia is all contained in Orlando, the longest and most charming love letter in literature, in which she explores Vita, weaves her in and out of the centuries, tosses her from one sex to the other, plays with her, dresses her in furs, lace and emeralds, teases her, flirts with her, drops a veil of mist around her, and ends by photographing her in the mud at Long Barn, with dogs, awaiting Virginia’s arrival next day. (225)

[On Vita’s response to Orlando]:  She loved it.  Naturally she was flattered, but more than that, the novel identified her with Knole for ever.  Virginia by her genius had provided Vita with a unique consolation for having been born a girl, for her exclusion from her inheritance, for her father’s death earlier that year.  The book, for her, was not simply a brilliant masque or pageant.  It was a memorial mass.  (231)

Her friendship was the most important fact in Vita’s life, except Harold, just as Vita’s was the most important in Virginia’s, except Leonard, and perhaps her sister Vanessa. . . .  Their marriages were alike in the freedom they allowed each other, in the invincibility of their love, in its intellectual, spiritual and nonphysical base, in the eagerness of all four of them to savor life, challenge convention, work hard, play dangerously with the emotions--and in their solicitude for each other. . . .  There was no jealousy between the Woolfs and the Nicolsons, because they had arrived independently at the same definition of “trust.”  (225)

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