Isle of Lesbos : Letters & Journals : Violet Trefusis' Letters


Letters from Violet Trefusis to Vita Sackville-West

Violet Trefusis and Vita Sackville-West met in school, when Violet was ten and Vita was twelve. There was an instant attraction between the two girls that later developed into a passionate love affair that peaked from 1917 to 1920.

While both women acknowledged that their erotic and emotional attractions were to women, for reasons of societal, family, and economic pressures, both married. Vita married Harold Nicolson, a diplomat and writer, in 1913. Her relationship with Harold, while not passionate, was loving and respectful. Harold (latently homosexual himself) knew of Vita's affairs with women, though he was uncomfortable with the intensity and possessiveness that later developed in her relationship with Violet.

Violet reluctantly married Denys Trefusis 1919. She wrote many letters to Vita stating how much she despised her husband and only wanted to be with Vita. Denys and Violet's relationship was stormy; it lasted ten years, until his death.

Only Violet's letters to Vita are available; Denys burned Vita's letters during a particularly turbulent point in the marriage.

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Violet was sixteen at the time she wrote this letter...

I am in the act of asking myself if I ought to reply to your question? A question furthermore most indiscreet and which merits a sharp reprimand. Reply, don't reply, reply! Oh to the devil with discretion!

Well, you ask me pointblank why I love you....I love you, Vita, because I've fought so hard to win you.... I love you, Vita, because you never gave me back my ring. I love you because you have never yielded in anything;' I love you because you never capitulate. I love you for your wonderful intelligence, for your literary aspirations, for your unconscious (?) coquetry. I love you because you have the air of doubting nothing! I love in you what is also in me: imagination, the gift for languages, taste, intuition and a host of other things.....

I love you, Vita, because I've seen your soul.

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Men tilich, it was Hell leaving you today. God how I adore you and want you. You can't know how much. ... Last night was perfection. ... I am so proud of you, my sweet, I revel in your beauty, your beauty of form and feature. I exult in my surrender, today, not always though. Darling, had your novel been in French, it must inevitably have been christened 'Domptée'. [Mastered]

Mitya, I miss you so -- I don't care what I say -- I love belonging to you -- I glory in it, that you alone ... have bent me to your will, shattered my self-possession, robbed me of my mystery, made me yours, yours, so that away from you I am nothing but a useless puppet! an empty husk. Alushka need not have been ashamed of being Dmitri's mistress ... on the contrary! ...

What do I care what I say to you? I have, if anything, added a few 'curtains' to my manners for other people's benefit, but for you there are no curtains, not even gossamer ones! I exult in the knowledge of how little we have in common with the world.....

Your Lushka

BURN THIS! Promise.

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July 22, 1918

... For 16 nights I have listened expectantly for the opening of my door, for the whispered 'Lushka' as you entered my room, and tonight I am alone. What shall I do? How can I sleep? ... I don't want to sleep, for fear of waking up, thinking you near by my side, and stretching out my arms to clasp -- emptiness!

Mitya, do you remember this?

All that I know of love I learned of you,
And I know all that lovers can know,
Since passionately loving to be loved
The subtlety of your wise body moved
My senses to a curiosity
And your wise heart adorned itself for me.
Did you not teach me how to love you, how
To win you, how to suffer for you now
Since you have made, as long as life endures,
My very nerves, my very senses, yours?
I suffer for you now with that same skill
Of self-consuming ecstasy, whose thrill
(May Death some day the thought of it remove!)
You gathered form the very hands of Love.

... I think you now do realize that this can't go on, that we must once and for all take our courage in both hands, and go away together. What sort of a life can we lead now? Yours, an infamous and degrading lie to the world, officially bound to someone you don't care for, perpetually with that someone, that in itself constitutes an outrage to me, being constantly watched and questioned, watched to see if the expected reaction is not taking place, questioned to make quite sure there is no one else!

I, not caring a damn for anyone but you, utterly lost, miserably incomplete, condemned to leading a futile, purposeless existence, which no longer holds the smallest attraction for me...

A cheery picture, isn't it? And you know how true it is. At all events, I implore you to run the H.N. [Harold Nicolson, Vita's husband] fiction to death. It is the only thing that can save us, the only thing that will ensure peace for both of us.

En attendant, I think 'there is a lot to be said for being (temporarily) dead'. Mitya, what stabs me like a knife is to remember you here in this room watching the last things being packed preparatory to going away with you, a fortnight ago. When I think of that and you waiting for me on the stairs, I feel quite faint from the pain of it all. My God, how exultant we were! And now, 'la vie est devenue cendre dans son fruit'. [life now has ashes in the fruit.] There is nothing to look forward to, nothing.

I never thought I would (or could) love like this....

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I want you every second and every hour of the day, yet I am being slowly and inexorably tied to somebody else.... Sometimes I am flooded by an agony of physical longing for you...a craving for your nearness and your touch. At other times I feel I should be quite content if I could only hear the sound of your voice. I try so hard to imagine your lips on mine. Never was there such a pitiful imagining....Darling, whatever it may cost us, tiri chinday [Vita's mother] won't be cross with you anymore. I suppose this ridiculous engagement will set her mind at rest....

Nothing and no one in the world could kill the love I have for you. I have surrendered my whole individuality, the very essence of my being to you. I have given you my body time after time to treat as you pleased, to tear in pieces if such had been your will. All the hoardings of my imagination I have laid bare to you. There isn't a recess in my brain into which you haven't penetrated. I have clung to you and caressed you and slept with you and I would like to tell the whole world I clamour for you.... You are my lover and I am your mistress, and kingdoms and empires and governments have tottered and succumbed before now to that mighty combination -- the most powerful in the world.

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Where to Learn More

  • Violet Trefusis, Violet to Vita: The Letters of Violet Trefusis to Vita Sackville-West, Mitchel A.Leaska and John Phillips, editors (Penguin Books, Great Britain, 1989)

  • Phillippe Jullian, John Phillips (Contributor), Violet Trefusis; A Biography, Including Correspondence with Vita Sackville-West (Harcourt Trade Publishers, 1985)

  • Philippe. Jullian, The Other Woman : A Life of Violet Trefusis, Including Previously Unpublished Correspondence With Vita Sackville-West

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