I’ve been researching and writing a short paper on Violet Trefusis over the last few weeks– and since this is a paper about Trefusis as an eccentric figure, I’ve had to do a lot of reading about her affair with Vita Sackville-West. I’ve thoroughly immersed myself in the literature, reading Nigel Nicholson’s Portrait of a Marriage, Victoria Glendinning’s Vita, Philippe Jullian’s Violet Trefusis, as well as Trefusis’s own memoir, Don’t Look Round, her letters to and from Vita, her novels Broderie Anglaise and Echo, and Vita’s novel Challenge. It really is a fascinating story, their affair– it culminated in the two women eloping to France together with their husbands in hot pursuit by two-seater airplane, and all this has made for great reading.
However, I’ve been having so much fun researching that I haven’t wanted to stop long enough to write the paper. So I was overjoyed today to find the perfect way to procrastinate, one which allowed me to forestall writing under the guise of conducting additional research: while trolling YouTube I found the 1992 BBC mini-series "Portrait of a Marriage," based on Vita’s son Nigel’s book, which stars Janet McTeer (who sounds incredibly, and appropriately so, like Tilda Swinton in the film adaptation of Orlando) and Cathryn Harrison.
I’m up to Part 3 but I’ve taken a break because I do have to finish this paper, mini-series or not. Here is Part 1, to get you started– let me know if you end up watching it! Truly, this is just about the dorkiest way for a Woolf fan to geek out– I kept getting excited when I recognized settings like Vita’s tower at Sissinghurst or the "cartoon gallery" at Knole– and it even features cross-dressing lesbians dancing the Charleston in Paris. What more could you want?
Incidentally, in case you’re interested, Violet comes from a long line of famous mistresses, being the daughter of Alice Keppel, the mistress of Edward VII (who put the "Edward" in Edwardian), and the great-aunt of Camilla Parker Bowles.