Victoria Mary Sackville-West, (1892 – 1962), usually known as Vita Sackville-West, was an English poet, novelist, and garden designer. A successful and prolific novelist, poet, and journalist during her lifetime—she was twice awarded the Hawthornden Prize for Imaginative Literature: in 1927 for her pastoral epic, The Land, and in 1933 for her Collected Poems—today she is chiefly remembered for the celebrated garden at Sissinghurst she created with her diplomat husband, Sir Harold Nicolson. She is also remembered as the inspiration for the androgynous protagonist of the historical romp, Orlando: A Biography by her famous friend and admirer, Virginia Woolf, with whom she had a brief affair.
Sackville-West was a writer and author of novels. The Edwardians (1930) and All Passion Spent (1931) are perhaps her best-known novels today. In the latter, the elderly Lady Slane courageously embraces a long suppressed sense of freedom and whimsy after a lifetime of convention. This novel was dramatized by the BBC in 1986 starring Dame Wendy Hiller. Her science-fantasy Grand Canyon (1942) is a “cautionary tale” (as she termed it) about a Nazi invasion of an unprepared United States. The book takes an unsuspected twist, however, that makes it something more than a typical invasion yarn.
In 1947 Sackville-West was made a Companion of Honour for her services to literature. The same year she began a weekly column in The Observer called “In your Garden”. In 1948 she became a founder member of the National Trust’s garden committee.
She is less well known as a biographer. The most famous of those works is her biography of Saint Joan of Arc in the work of the same name. Additionally, she composed a dual biography of Saint Teresa of Ávila and Thérèse of Lisieux entitled The Eagle and the Dove, a biography of the author Aphra Behn, and a biography of her maternal grandmother, the Spanish dancer known as Pepita.
Sackville-West’s long narrative poem, The Land, won the Hawthornden Prize in 1927. She won it again, becoming the only writer to do so, in 1933 with her Collected Poems.