Vita Sackville-West and A Sense of Place

A search for a sense of place and a longing for home permeates the life and writing of Vita Sackville-West. Born in 1892 at Knole, a Jacobean palace and treasure house, she died 70 years later at Sissinghurst, only 31 miles from where she was born.

Vita’s writings—more than 13 novels and 11 books of poetry—chronicle a remarkable life that spanned the gilded Edwardian era, two World Wars and the dawn of a more democratic age. Throughout her works she revealed stories about her tempestuous love life and the saga of the Sackville family which she described as ‘a race too prodigal, too amorous, too weak, too indolent, and too melancholy; in short, a rotten lot, and nearly all stark staring mad’. An obsession with her ancestry and with Knole, the 365-room house in which she grew up but which she did not, as a woman, inherit, came to dominate her life. In her writing she often talked about the legacy denied to her and longingly described places that fostered a sense of human attachment and belonging. These thoughts also were immortalized in Orlando, the novel written by Vita’s lover Virginia Woolf to Vita, to console her for her disinheritance.

When Vita left Knole, she moved to Sissinghurst, a castle ruin and tumbledown farm. Over the next 30 years, she and her husband Harold Nicolson transformed Sissinghurst into one of England’s finest gardens: featuring ambitious garden rooms, a respected plant collection with 200 varieties of roses, and a famous White Garden. Despite her feelings about Knole, Sissinghurst (now owned by the National Trust) is arguably Vita’s greatest creation and most enduring legacy and remains a major influence on horticultural thought and practice.

In this lecture, writer Robert Sackville-West, a cousin of Vita, the current incumbent of Knole and 7th Baron Sackville, will describe Vita Sackville-West’s life and work and take you on a visual tour of the places that were important to her and influenced her writing.

Robert Sackville-West, 7th Baron Sackville

Robert Sackville-West, 7th Baron Sackville, studied history at Oxford University and went on to work in publishing. He now chairs Knole Estates, the property and investment company that, in parallel with the National Trust, runs the Sackville family’s interests at Knole.

Vita’s desk in the Writing Room in the Tower at Sissinghurst Castle Garden, near Cranbrook, Kent. Vita Sackville-West used this room to write her books, poetry and gardening articles.


Wednesday, March 15 | 6:00 p.m. (ET)

The General Society Library,

20 W. 44th Street, NYC (Bet. 5th and 6th)

Reception following lecture

$35 members; $40 non-members and guests

Tickets available for purchase at the door or call  212-480-2889 Ext: 200


From Thursday, March 16th to Thursday, March 30th 

Rent the recorded lecture to watch at your leisure

$25 members; $30 non-members

Register to Rent

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