1892 - 1962

“Authority has every reason to fear the skeptic, for authority can rarely survive in the face of doubt.”

 – Vita Sackville-West

English author, poet, and biographer Vita Sackville-West was born into British aristocracy.  An only child, she was devastated when the laws of primogeniture prevented her from inheriting Knole House, the ancestral home given to her forebear by Queen Elizabeth I, because she was not male. Determined to be a successful writer, from 1906-1910 she produced 8 novels and 5 plays. In 1913 she married diplomat Harold Nicholson and moved to Persia before returning to Britain to live in Sissinghurst Castle. The couple had two sons and a strong (if unconventional) marriage given his homosexuality and her intense lesbian relationships, most notably her affairs with BBC department head Hilda Matheson, novelist Violet Keppel Trefusis and literary giant Virginia Woolf. West’s life served as the basis for Woolf’s Orlando, which was described by West’s son Nigel as “the longest and most charming love letter in literature” in his Portrait of a Marriage that chronicled his parent’s marriage as well as his mother’s lesbian relationships.  West’s long narrative poem ‘The Land’ won the Hawthronden Prize (the oldest major British Literary Prize) in 1927; and in 1933 she became the only writer to win it a second time for her Collected Poems. Author of about 50 books, West is best known today for her 17 novels such as Challenge (1923), The Edwardians (1930) and All Passion Spent (1931). A dedicated horticulturalist, West’s long-running weekly gardening column in ‘The Observer’ captured her passion for gardening. Among her many enduring legacies are the lovely gardens she created at Sissinghurst Castle which remain one of the great tourist attractions in England.  In 1946 she was made a Companion of Honour for her services to literature. She died of cancer in 1962 at the age of 70.


Gender Female

Sexual Orientation Bisexual

Gender Identity Cisgender

Ethnicity Caucasian/White

Nations Affiliated United Kingdom Iran

Era/Epoch Jazz Age (1910-1940)

Field(s) of Contribution




Commemorations & Honors

Hawthronden Prize, the Oldest British Literary Prize, for Her Long Narrative Poem "The Land" (1927)

Hawthronden Prize, the Oldest British Literary Prize, for "Collected Poems" (1933)

Bestowed the Order of the Companions of Honour for Services to Literature (1948)


Related Videos


Original Biography Author
Victor Salvo
Biography Edited By
Owen Keehnen
Resources Coordination
Carrie Maxwell