Skip to main content

Vita Sackville-West papers relating to Violet Trefusis

Call Number: GEN MSS 428

Scope and Contents

The Vita Sackville-West Papers Relating to Violet Trefusis document the relationship between Violet Trefusis and Vita Sackville-West. The Papers contain correspondence, writings, photographs and other materials, and have been arranged into three series: Correspondence, Writings, and Additional Materials.

Series I, Correspondence (1910-1925), consists primarily of letters from Violet Trefusis to Vita Sackville-West written during the 1910's and 1920's. The letters illustrate the intensity of Trefusis's involvement in the affair, and describe their time together, their attempts at "escape" or elopement, and the effect of the relationship on Trefusis's life, her marriage to Denys Trefusis, her relationship with her mother, Alice Keppel, and Sackville-West's relationship with her husband, Harold Nicolson. Many of these letters have been published in Violet to Vita: The Letters of Violet Trefusis to Vita Sackville-West, 1910-21, edited by Mitchell A. Leaska and John Phillips (London: Methuen, 1989). Also included in this series are letters from Trefusis to her friend Pat Dansey, letters to Trefusis from Dansey and others, and many letters from Dansey to Vita Sackville-West regarding Trefusis's and Sackville-West's relationship.

Series II, Writings (1905-1921), contains holograph poems and other unidentified writings written by Trefusis and Sackville-West, and one diary kept by Trefusis in May of 1905.

Series III, Additional Materials (1926), contains two photographs of Vita Sackville-West, and a metal bullet of unknown origin.


  • 1905-1926


Language of Materials

Materials in English and French, with some Italian.

Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Box 7: Restricted fragile material. Reference surrogates have been substituted in the main files. For further information consult the appropriate curator.

Conditions Governing Use

The Vita Sackville-West Papers Relating to Violet Trefusis are the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of and purchased from Nigel Nicolson, 1982 and 1986.


2.4 Linear Feet (7 boxes)

Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


Collection contains correspondence, writings and additional materials. Correspondence includes letters written by Violet Trefusis to Vita Sackville-West during the 1910's and 1920's concerning their relationship, Trefusis's feelings towards Sackville-West, and the affair's effects on Trefusis's relationship with her husband, Denys Trefusis, her relationship with her mother, Alice Keppel, and Sackville-West's relationship with her husband, Harold Nicolson. Also included are letters by Trefusis to her friend Pat Dansey, and letters from Pat Dansey to Vita Sackville-West. Writings consist of poems and other writings by Trefusis and Sackville-West, and a diary by Trefusis dated May 1905. Additional materials contain two photographs of Vita Sackville-West and a metal bullet of unknown origin.


Vita Sackville-West and Violet Trefusis (née Keppel) met at a party in the winter of 1905, when Violet was ten and Vita twelve. From the beginning, their relationship was intense, and the constant travels of both families created the necessity of an ongoing and voluminous correspondence (Vita's early letters to Violet were burned by Violet's husband, Denys Trefusis, on their honeymoon).

The friendship became a love affair in 1918, well after Vita's marriage to Harold Nicolson in 1913. Violet herself married Major Denys Trefusis in 1919. Throughout the years 1918 to 1921, the correspondence continued. Violet, who was unhappy in her marriage, often begged Vita to run away with her. They did "elope" briefly to Paris in 1920, but Vita, whose marriage was a happy one, allowed herself to be "rescued" by her husband.

After another trip abroad with Violet in January 1921, Vita chose life with her husband and two sons over life with Violet. Denys Trefusis agreed not to divorce Violet, and she eventually went to live with him in Paris. Violet was forbidden to have any contact with Vita, although letters were exchanged through their mutual confidant, Pat Dansey (who herself became one of Vita's lovers). Slowly, the correspondence came to an end, and aside from a brief meeting at a party in 1924, the two women did not see each other again until 1940, when Violet fled France for England during World War II.

For more detailed biographical information about Violet Trefusis, see the register for the Violet Trefusis Papers (GEN MSS 427).

Guide to the Vita Sackville-West Papers Relating to Violet Trefusis
Under Revision
by Kathryn Rawdon
December 1998
Description rules
Beinecke Manuscript Unit Archival Processing Manual
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository

P. O. Box 208330
New Haven CT 06520-8330 US
(203) 432-2977


121 Wall Street
New Haven, CT 06511

Opening Hours

Access Information

The Beinecke Library is open to all Yale University students and faculty, and visiting researchers whose work requires use of its special collections. You will need to bring appropriate photo ID the first time you register. Beinecke is a non-circulating, closed stack library. Paging is done by library staff during business hours. You can request collection material online at least two business days in advance of your visit, using the request links in Archives at Yale. For more information, please see Planning Your Research Visit and consult the Reading Room Policies prior to visiting the library.