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Posts Tagged ‘Harold Nicolson’

sissinghurst nyt screenshotThe New York Times special fall travel section of Oct. 6 asks the question, “Can a modern family make a home among hordes of tourists under the watchful eye of England’s National Trust?”

Adam Nicolson, provides an answer. He discusses Sissinghurst in Kent, the gardens lovingly created by his grandparents, Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson, and how things went for him, his wife and their two daughters when they moved in to the National Trust “home” in 2004.

It did not go well. The new setup was something of a shock. We had moved into a museum: our dogs not allowed in the garden, being shouted at by gardeners if they did wander in; our children not allowed near the greenhouses; our cars to be parked in exactly prealigned ways; instructions that we were not to have parties on the weekends – Adam Nicolson in the NYT.

Nicolson writes about the struggle to create the “placeness” inherent in the Sissinghurst of his childhood, along with the “fug of beauty” that made the site so memorable.

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The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin is a fictional account of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, whoaviator's wie chose for much of her life to sacrifice her own interests in order to be “the aviator’s wife.”

In the novel, the Lindberghs attend a reception at which Amelia Earhart is present.  Anne Morrow Lindbergh is an accomplished pilot in her own right, but Earhart dismissed AML in the following exchange as a mere wife, “a sweet little thing:”

“That’s a very pretty frock.” Her voice sounded brighter, more musical; more suited to the nursery than to the airfield.

“Thank you.”

“Tell me, Anne, have you ever read A Room of One’s Own?”

I gasped, then laughed out loud. Was she serious? I could see by the earnest look on Amelia Earhart’s face that she was.

“Excuse me?” I asked politely.

“Virginia Woolf’s latest. You should read it sometime. It was written for someone like you.”

…I smiled up at the Great Aviatrix, so earnestly boyish, so fiercely alone.

“Thank you for the suggestion, Amelia. I’m always looking for something new to read, you know. I had no idea you were so well read.”

Apparently this exchange, or something close to it, really took place. In fact Anne Morrow Lindbergh knew Woolf’s work well. Her 1955 Gift from the Sea has been compared to A Room of One’s Own and is in part a response to it, adopting and developing many of the same ideas in her ruminations. While women need to have time to themselves, she adds that, “Solitude alone is not the answer to this; it is only a step toward it, a mechanical aid, like the ‘room of one’s own’ demanded for women, before they could make their place in the world. … The room of one’s own, the hour alone are now more possible in a wider economic class than ever before. But these hard-won prizes are insufficient because we have not yet learned how to use them.”

Cover of "Gift from the Sea: 50th Anniver...

Cover via Amazon

She later cites a passage from The Waves, saying “I always liked that Virginia Woolf hero who meets middle age admitting: ‘Things have dropped from me. I have outlived certain desires …’” and goes on to quote from Bernard’s monologue in her own reflections on aging.

It comes full circle, as Woolf read Mrs. Lindbergh too. In 1932, after the trauma of their son’s kidnapping and death, the Lindberghs rented Long Barn from Harold Nicolson and Vita Sackville-West to get away from the publicity. Nicolson later visited them when they’d moved back to the U.S. and brought Woolf a copy of AML’s book, North to the Orient, in which she mentions reading The Years. In a diary entry in August 1935, Woolf considers writing about “Mrs L.”

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