I long for vigour and clear thought, but only meet with chaos

Vita Sackville-West in 1926
Photographer unknown

When she wrote the following diary entry, English author, poet, and garden designer Vita Sackville-West was 28. Living in Long Barn, Kent, with her husband and fellow writer, Harold Nicolson, she was nearing the end of an intense, two-year romance with Violet Keppel, with whom she had recently spent a final few weeks in France that signaled the end of their entanglement. With so much on her mind, work was proving especially difficult. Two years later, she would meet Virginia Woolf, beginning a famous affair that would inspire Woolf’s novel Orlando and result in an enduring connection, as well as a lasting impact on each other’s literary works.

The Diary Entry

May 5. Long Barn. I don’t know what’s the matter with me. I think I’ve got softening of the brain. I’ve been sitting all day in front of a barely begun review of some book, reading over & over again the few sentences I had written, not taking them in in the very least—oh wind, come & blow away the clouds! I smoke endless cigarettes, which help to addle my brain. I long for vigour and clear thought, but only meet with chaos. How I envy H. his clear-cut intellect!

I must shake myself out of this inertia. I wish I was poor, dirt poor, miserably poor, and obliged to work for my daily bread or go without. I need a spur. I am a rotten creature.

… Later, made myself finish the review.

Further Reading

In 2002, a selection of Vita’s diary entries were reprinted in Vita Sackville-West: Selected Writings, a fantastic collection edited by Mary Ann Caws that also includes entries from Vita’s Dream Book, some of her letters, and various other pieces of writing, as the title would suggest.

Diary entry reprinted here by kind permission of Mary Ann Caws.

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