Read The Edwardians by Vita Sackville-West Juliet Nicolson Online


At nineteen, Sebastian is a duke and heir to a vast country estate. A deep sense of tradition binds him to his inheritance, though he loathes the social circus he is a part of. Deception, infidelity and greed hide beneath the glittering surface of good manners. Among the guests at a lavish party are two people who will change Sebastian's life: Lady Roehampton, who will iniAt nineteen, Sebastian is a duke and heir to a vast country estate. A deep sense of tradition binds him to his inheritance, though he loathes the social circus he is a part of. Deception, infidelity and greed hide beneath the glittering surface of good manners. Among the guests at a lavish party are two people who will change Sebastian's life: Lady Roehampton, who will initiate him in the art of love; and Leonard Anquetil, a polar explorer who will lead Sebastian and his free-spirited sister Viola to question their destiny.A portrait of fashionable society at the height of the era, THE EDWARDIANS revealed all that was glamorous about the period - and all that was to lead to its downfall. First published in 1930, it was Vita Sackville-West's most successful book....

Title : The Edwardians
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ISBN : 9780860683599
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 285 Pages
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The Edwardians Reviews

  • Jeffrey Keeten
    2019-06-03 03:53

    “It is no good my telling you. One never believes other people's experiences and one is only very gradually convinced by one's own.” Sebastian is nineteen years old, dashingly handsome, and the heir to a vast and beautiful country estate called Chevron. Edward the Caresser, eldest son of Victoria, is on the throne of England. It is 1905, and the grim days of World War One are still unrealized. As a member of the Upper Classes and a regular at any gala event in Edwardian high society, Sebastian is the perfect age in the perfect era. His role in life has been preordained. Sebastian takes as his lover a friend of his mother, the Lady Sylvia Roehampton. She is, despite her age, still considered the most beautiful jewel in English society. ”Sebastian was intensely aware of her quality as she strolled beside him; her quality of a beautiful woman exquisitely finished, with a perfect grasp on life, untroubled, shrewd, mature, secret, betraying her real self to none.”To be seen with the most dashing young man in London enhances her already glittering reputation, and for him to be seen with Sylvia only makes the most eligible bachelor more entrancing. You would think that if anyone would be appalled at this spectacle it would be his mother Lucy, but she takes a very practical view of the matter. ”She was quite content that Sebastian should become tanned in the rays of Sylvia’s Indian summer.”She expects Sylvia to keep her head and advance the bedsheet knowledge of her son and not do something as insane as to fall in love with him. He could fall in love with her, but she could not do the same. The balances are teetering in the relationship, but the final blow to this “suitable” arrangement comes from Lord Roehampton, who doesn’t find it...well... suitable at all. It turns into a sticky wicket.Sebastian meets a man at one of his mother’s parties by the name of Leonard Anquetil, who is invited as a peculiar person of personal accomplishment. He is a famous explorer who has conquered jungles and lived to tell about it. ”There was no mistaking that strange countenance, pitted with the blue gunpowder, scarred by the sword-cut; a countenance sallow and sarcastic between the two black puffs of hair.” Anquetil has no title or inherited money. He is a self-made man in the best possible fashion. Sebastian had never met anyone like him. Anquetil is the temptation. He is the father figure who could make a better man of Sebastian, but he would have to give up his life at Chevron to go adventuring with Anquetil. Despite his superficial existence, I can’t help liking Sebastian because of his love for the family estate. It is real. He doesn’t weigh it to see what it is worth. He looks upon the beauty and the people with true love and affection. This is certainly Vita Sackville-West peering through her character’s eyes for a moment. She never inherited her family estate at Knole House, and for the rest of her life she pined for the person she was when she lived there. Portrait of Vita Sackville-West by William Strang.Sebastian knows he will never find another to match Sylvia, so he tries romancing a series of very different women. There is Theresa, the Doctor’s wife, whom he is sure he can woo with the glamor of his life that she admits to be so enamored with, but despite his most charming efforts, she proves obstinate in maintaining her faithfulness to her husband. There is a pretty estate girl who is ushered off stage by his mother once things start to look serious. He finds a bohemian girl by the name of Phil ,who sees the world and her place in it with clearer eyes than Sebastian. ”With her black hair cut square; her red, generous mouth; her thick white throat; and brilliant colours; especially when she crouched gipsy-like, over her guitar.”He asks her if she would marry him. She laughs at his naivete. As crazy as it seems to even consider marrying a coarse girl several class rungs below him, he is just trying desperately to escape his predestination. He can’t help but ask himself, isn’t there more than this? And then Anquetil reappears.So who is this Vita Sackville-West?Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West in 1933.Vita Sackville-West had an open marriage with the writer and politician Harold Nicolson. They were both bi-sexual and had numerous affairs during their marriage. The most famous of these affairs was between Vita and Virginia Woolf. Woolf wrote the book Orlando and based the main character on Vita. This book was what Vita’s son Nigel called ”The longest and most charming love letter in the history of literature.”This book, The Edwardians, came out in 1930 and was published by the Woolf owned Hogarth Press. It was a smashing success. The world was mired in a recession, and the book hearkened back to better days. It was selling 800 copies a day and by the end of six months had sold over 20,000 copies. The Edwardian age was long passed, and people were looking back at that last extravagant age as a time that would never come again. It might seem odd that the lower classes were so fascinated with the upper classes during a time of economic struggle, but if we don’t know about such people and the lives they lead, how can we dream? Part of the restored gardens at Sissinghurst.Sackville-West never did recover her family estate, but she did buy the moldering remains of Sissinghurst, an estate that used to belong to another ancestor long before. The money from the success of this book helped to restore it to better than its former glory. I have recently read a biography of Edward the VII called The Heir Apparent: A Life of Edward VII, the Playboy Prince so there was certainly some added enjoyment for me when Edward, known as Bertie, would be seen loitering at one of these high society events. The people reading this book in 1930 would have recognized many of the thinly disguised, real life people used as characters in this novel. In the front of the book, Sackville-West states: ”No character in this book is wholly fictitious.”Oh Vita, you naughty, naughty girl.If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.comI also have a Facebook blogger page at:

  • MaryannC.Book Fiend
    2019-06-18 01:06

    My first ever Vita Sackville-West book and it wont be my last(I have another lined up for reading). This earns a place in my all-tme favorites, a novel that peers into the lives of the old aristocrats known as The Edwardians. Because V.Sackville-West came from this sort of background I felt like I was getting an inside look into this world ruled by class,society,the fashionable, the haughty and the snobbish of this wonderful era. I absolutely love this book and I recommend it to everyone who is a fan of Downton Abbey and the like.

  • Jane
    2019-06-11 03:12

    History records that Vita Sackville-West wrote ‘The Edwardians’ on holiday, targeting popular success. Her book was a huge hit, it was adapted for the stage, it was translated into several languages, but neither its author or its publisher saw it as having any claim to literary greatness.They were probably right, but it is a lovely entertainment that captures a particular time and a particular class wonderfully well.The author wrote what she knew, and at the very beginning of the book she notes that:“No character in this book is wholly fictitious.”If you have knowledge of her and her circle you will appreciate that; and understand that she is looking back at the world that she grew up in, comparing it with the world that her mother knew and the very different world that her children knew; and knowing that, while she loved it dearly, it was fatally flawed.But it doesn’t matter if you know nothing at all, because the book is such a lovely period piece.The story opens in 1905, with Sebastian, the nineteen year-old Duke of Chevron ascending to the roof of his country home to escape the guests at his mother’s house party. She loves society, while Sebastian isn’t quite sure how he feels. He is drawn to the glamour of his mother’s social set, but he can’t help being aware of how shallow their lives and their values really are.His estate, Chevron, is a working estate, and Sebastian loved everything he can see and hear from his high vantage point.“The whole community of the great house was humming at its work. In the stables, men were grooming horses; in the ‘shops’, the carpenters plane sent the wood-chips flying, the diamond of the glazier hissed on the glass; in the forge, the hammer rang in the anvil, and the bellows windily sighed … Sebastian heard the music and saw the vision. It was a tapestry that he saw, and heard the strains of a wind orchestra.”It had been that way for hundreds of years, with sons following their fathers into the shops to learn a trade, and with positions within the house filled by the daughters and nieces of those already employed; with staff claiming – and constrained by – their inheritance just as much as the family they served.All of this is so vividly evoked, and the early chapters are rich with details of the life of the house, the party arrangements, the family, and a veritable army of servants.One of the weekend visitors to Chevron, Leonard Antequil, didn’t belong to that world; but his adventurous life, including a winter spent alone in a snow hut in the Arctic Circle, and had brought him fame and made him a very desirable guest for the fashionable set.It may not have occurred to the other guests that he was there as the result of his own of his efforts while they were there only by chance of birth or marriage. Or that he thought little of them.One night Sebastian invited him up onto the roof, and he spoke to him openly and honestly, sensing his dissatisfaction and urging him to recognise the limitations of his lifestyle and to consider breaking with tradition.“Very well, if you want the truth, here it is. The society you live in is composed of people who are both dissolute and prudent. They want to have their fun, and they want to keep their position. They glitter on the surface, but underneath the surface they are stupid – too stupid to recognise their own motives. They know only a limited number of things about themselves: that they need plenty of money, and that they must be seen in the right places, associated with the right people. In spite of their efforts to turn themselves into painted images, they remain human somewhere, and must indulge in love-affairs, which are sometimes artificial, and sometimes inconveniently real. Whatever happens the world must be served first.”Sebastian is torn between his deep love of his home and his knowledge of the truth of Antequil’s words.The arguments are beautifully expressed and perfectly balanced.Sebastian regretfully declines Antequil’s invitation to accompany him on his next trip; but he never forgets their conversation.He is seduced by an older woman, a society beauty of his mother’s generation; when their affair is ended by an ultimatum from her husband he drifts into a shallow life as a man about time; and then he draws a middle-class doctor’s wife into his life, and makes the mistake of inviting her to Chevron ….“He had tried the most fashionable society, and he had tried the middle-class, and in both his plunging spirit had got stuck in the glue of convention and hypocrisy.”All of this says much about Sebastian’s world; but it isn’t quite as engaging as those early chapters about life at the family estate.Meanwhile, the world was changing.Sebastian’s sister, Viola, knew that, and she was glad.“For what have our mothers thought of us, all these years?” said Viola; “that we should make a good marriage, so that they might feel that they had done their duty by us, and were rid of their responsibility with an added pride. A successful daughter plus an eligible son-in-law. Any other possibility never entered their heads – that we might consult our own tastes for instance ….”The author knew that.The first defection at Chevron, when the head-carpenter’s son chooses a job in the new motor industry rather than follow his father into Chevron’s shops, illustrated that beautifully.Sebastian was caught up with his own concerns, he was unhappy, but an encounter with Leonard Antequil on the day of the coronation of George V made him realise that he could change his life.But would he?I can’t say, and there are lots of details that I haven’t shared.I loved this book: the prose, the conviction, the wealth of detail, the depiction of society.That’s not to say it’s perfect. It’s a little uneven, the structure isn’t strong, and much of what it has to say feels familiar.But it does so much so well, it has such authenticity, and it is a wonderfully readable period piece.

  • Joseph
    2019-06-27 03:52

    The Edwardians might pass as a novel that presents a good surface story or something to waste away an afternoon or two with. It is well written and contains a small cast of characters. Sebastian is the center character, the dashing nineteen-year-old, who rebels against his mother, but still stays within the norms of society. Viola is his younger sister who is awkward and cares less about society and position than Sebastian. The Duchess is firmly in the society scene and lives by image and proper appearances. Then there is Chevron which could be the main character as well as the setting. It is the estate Sebastian is set to inherit -- the massive building and the surrounding property and houses. A close look at the author, Vita Sackville-West, will show that this book is more than just a novel. The opening imprint reads "No character in this book is wholly fictitious." Lucy, Duchess of Chevron, is a thinly veiled portrayal of Victoria Sackville-West's controlling mother of Vita Sackville-West. Chevron is without a doubt Knole the one true love of Vita. Sebastian and Viola are two different Vitas. Sebastian is the idealized Vita. The one with the true connection to the land and estate. Vita regretted the fact that because she was a woman she had no claim on her family's estate. It would be taken from her. Sebastian plays her male alter-ego. Viola is the more realistic Vita -- A bit awkward, not a society person, and at odds with her mother. The story is also an examination and a criticism of the waning days and fall of the Edwardian period. "Appearances must be respected, though morals may be neglected." is the theme of the upper class. An affair was not bad unless it was exposed either through indiscretion or someone with a grudge. Affairs did not end marriages although they did hurt. Marriage was designed and arranged for stability and preserving the family name. Affairs, on the other hand, were expressions of love. This idea did not hold true outside of the nobility. The middle class did marry for love and took their vows much more serious as Sebastian finds out. The morals are too in this book outside of religion. It is not mentioned by the middle-class wife Teresa Spedding in determining what is right and what is wrong. The Edwardians is a well written examination of the period. Although Vita Sackville-West exaggerated at times, it is, after all, a work of fiction. She did write about what she knew. This book like a few other of her works is loosely based on her life. Although I do not watch much television I have watch Downton Abbey and many themes in The Edwardian are reflected there. Relations between the nobility and the staff, the rise of a middle class, socialism, and the coming of the motor age are told in both. Also, the coming fall of the landed class is expected in both also. The Edwardians is an interesting book and made even better once the reader knows of the life of the author.

  • Sarah
    2019-06-09 04:13

    Whereas All Passion Spent had a quiet, old woman at its center, The Edwardians has a dashing, young man. I'm inclined to think Sebastian is a little closer to Vita's own essence, though I suppose that one is debatable. Perhaps she was so annoyed with Woolf's Orlando, she decided to create her own male alter ego! Both of these books by Vita are well written, so why do I stubbornly withhold that fifth star?I can certainly appreciate her wit, her wisdom, her stunning prose. But, the thing is, I can't quite relate to her. One obvious reason is that I'm poor and she was insanely rich. Another is a fundamental difference our respective yearnings. She wanted passion, grandeur, adventure. I want constancy and the quiet contentment she seemed to fear.Though the book has literary merit, it doesn't quite satisfy my own literary cravings. Sorry, Vita!

  • Cynthia
    2019-06-13 22:45

    I’ve been aware of Sackville-West for some time and, though I knew she was a writer, I thought of her mainly in relation to Virginia Woolf so I was surprised at how good The Edwardians was. It’s set during that short period after Queen Victoria’s death and the reign of her eldest son Edward. The main character is a young duke named Sebastian. Of course he’s inherited a life of privilege with all its ancient traditions but after he meets someone from outside his class Sebastian begins to question his life. The Edwardians threw off some of the staid values of Victoria’s morals and, at least the upper classes, became downright licentious or was it that the stopped trying to hide it? Sackville-West also explores women’s issue through the eyes of Sebastian’s mother and sister and through the eyes of his lovers. Sackville-West wasn’t just a hanger on to the Bloomsbury group but an active talent.Thank you to the publisher for providing an advance reader copy.

  • David
    2019-06-25 00:47

    Well, not all of them. Which must be something of a relief. In fact, there's quite a small cast: Sebastian, Duke of Chevron; his immediates; his squeezes; his servants; his tenants; a smattering of the Dowager's awful friends; a rather unbelievable adventurer; and then ending with ... Zadok the Priest and Nathan the Prophet anointed Solomon King ... a chapter at the Coronation of George V!In the opening chapter our Duke's a boy and I thought (hoped) he'd be England's answer to Kiyoaki, the young heir to the Marquis Matsugae in Mishima's "Spring Snow". Look!:"'Sebastian sulky is irresistible. Promise me you will never ruin him by persuading him to appear good-tempered.'""One half of Sebastian detested his mother's friends; the other half was allured by their glitter.""The ambassador's words threw Sebastian into an ill humour, he was stung, disturbed; he was ashamed of his virginity. People were not very real to him, and women least of all.""For Sebastian liked to pour vinegar into his own wounds."But then Sebastian is rather ruined by a very safe relationship with his mother's best friend, Lady Roehampton ... and not only was I denied my "English 'Spring Snow' fantasy" but the whole thing started to fizzle out.It also felt that once Vita had done her "this is how an Edwardian grand house worked" bit, she'd rather lost interest herself.Still, very amusing at times:"There were thirty people to luncheon; but two places remained empty; they were destined for two people who were motoring down from London and who, naturally, had so far failed to arrive The duchess never waited for motorists. They must take their chance. And, to-day being a Sunday, they would not be able to send the usual telegram saying that they had broken down.""These parties of theirs, he thought, were like chain-smoking: each cigarette was lighted in the hope that it might be more satisfactory than the last.""one must certainly have the lion of the moment at one's parties, it was perhaps just as well that he should not boringly roar.""Lucy laughed her silvery laugh, the laugh that had made several men believe that she understood what they said.""It was one thing to be admired because one was so lovely, and quite another thing to be admired because one was still so lovely.""her social vanity was mortified. She knew it, when she met the Duchess of D. dining with Lucy, and was given two fingers instead of three – she had never been given five – and was called Lady Roehampton instead of 'Sylvia'.'What a success you have had!' Said the duchess, putting up her lorgnon as though to scrutinise the remains of Sylvia's beauty; 'the Daily Mail this morning was full of your praises. Quite a public character you have become.' Sylvia's only wonder was that the duchess should condescend to mention the Daily Mail at all.""Sylvia descended upon this gathering as a bird of paradise might wing down upon an assembly of hens.""People like us must never think, for fear of thinking ourselves out of existence.""Everybody streamed out of the Abbey, greatly relieved. They were tired, but how impressive it had been! And, thank heaven, no one had thrown a bomb."

  • Lesley
    2019-06-22 06:56

    The Edwardians is my first foray into the work of Vita Sackville-West. Prior to this all I knew of Miss Sackville-West was her firm association with Virginia Woolf. Shame on me for not seeking out her own personal brilliance sooner.The Edwardians is a in depth look into high society of Great Britons Edwardian period. The novel is supposedly based on many a true fact and figure. Set mainly, in the country estate house of Chevron the book deals with the highly guarded relationships of the social set of the era and their many first world issues.The language and the imagery brings this not so distant past into close focus. It's easy to get swept away in a world so far from ones own but at the same time knowing that the actual relatability of the characters is far from accessible.Not much happens in the way of plot points but it takes a step back from the reading process to really notice. The characters thoughts and opinions are such that they take over your conscious thought.While highly enjoyable, I found the novel unsettling at times. Being dragged into a place where loveless marriages of convenience are more than acceptable and where no one can really be trusted is a little dubious but overall I found being swept away to 'a more civilized' time wonderfully distracting.My particular edition was purchased at Shakespeare and Co in Paris and it has the famous stamp to prove it. I've looked forward to reading this book for years now but have continually put it off for one reason or another. I'm glad to have finally finished its pages and even more pleased that they didn't prove a dissapointment.For anyone yet to sample the lyrical prose of Vita Sackville-West, I highly recommend you do so as soon as possible.

  • Carol
    2019-06-26 02:52

    This novel concerns the intellectual and emotional awakening of Sebastian, Duke of Chevron, during the last days of the Edwardian era, in the decade before WWI. Sebastian is just nineteen when the book opens, and thus just entering the youthful part of his adulthood. A member of high society, he is surrounded by frivolous, licentious people who prize good behaviour and maintenance of position and image above all else. The main issuer of the novel is whether or not Sebastian will follow the model of high society, as illustrated by his mother Lucy and her friends, or strike out in a more independent and authentic direction, like the one his quiet and smart sister Viola eventually chooses. The story is bookended by the appearances of Leonard Anquetil, an unconventional explorer, adventurer, and free spirit, who first causes Sebastian to question and doubt the lifestyle of his peers and sows the seeds of independence and authenticity in him. I wish that there had been more of Leonard and Viola as a foil for Sebastian and Lucy. Sackville-West's prose glitters in a way that made this book a delight to read. She also shows a fairly balanced view of early 20th century British high society, revealing both its glory and luxury as well as its banality and hypocrisy. Her depiction makes it completely clear why Sebastian wishes to rebel yet finds it very hard to disentangle himself.

  • ^
    2019-06-18 23:54

    I read as far as the first two chapters, before flipping fast-forward to the final chapter and the Coronation of King George V. I faced up to the inevitable; I had to admit that here was a book I didn’t care for was. The unadorned, dull, flat pace of the writing engendered nothing but yawning. My interest and sympathies were not engaged. Where was the point? Indeed was there a point? Lifting and casting my eyes around the room I was reminded of no shortage of other books yet to be read.I may be guilty here, literally, of missing the plot, big time. Whatever merits this novel possesses, this book gave me a glimpse of one woman’s somewhat bleak interpretation of early twentieth century English upper class Edwardian Society; a life of tightly interwoven blood relationships that she appeared ill at ease with, though born into that social class herself. A “Brideshead Revisited” or a “Forsythe Saga” of the first decade of the twentieth century, “The Edwardians” is most definitely not. Neither has it been filmed neither for TV or cinema. Should I wonder why?

  • Bettie☯
    2019-06-01 05:04

    Among the many problems which beset the novelist, not the least weighty is the choice of the moment at which to begin his novel.I had only a few pages left to read when I set this aside last Autumn. Didn't want to abandon entirely but didn't have much eagerness for carrying on. No doubt this is must for those who like to delve into London's geometric society but it really has been a chore for me. It gets 2* only because I (finally) finished

  • Mo
    2019-06-15 05:51

    I'm not sure why I so disliked this... it should have been right up my alley. Wrong book at the wrong time?

  • Alexandra Daw
    2019-06-05 02:52

    I should probably have read this a long time ago. But life is full of unhelpful "shoulds" that don't get you anywhere. I actually think it is better that I read it now - me being ancient and all. The Edwardians is about young Sebastian and Viola, brother and sister, and more importantly part of the aristocracy of England. It's set in the early 1900s - before WW1. There's much description of house parties, the social scene in London and it ends with the coronation of George V. And really it does seem terribly antiquated and far removed from reality when you read it. A kind of snapshot into another era. Except I was reading it just as we were waiting for the Windsors to announce the birth of the third in line to the throne, so it added a certain poignancy to the reading. Or vice versa - I'm not sure which. One is much struck with how much things have changed. And how much they haven't. By the by, I also saw "Before Midnight" yesterday which for the large part was excruciatingly annoying but had a few good moments. One of them was when an elderly gent intoned something along the lines of "Every generation thinks the end of the world is nigh or going to pot or some such". And certainly that is the case with The Edwardians. The older generation is deeply concerned at the loss of the perceived values of the younger set - the rise of the middle classes and the decay of the upper classes. As we sat on our sofas in our lounge rooms waiting for the announcement of the birth, we too were tut tutting that the media had ruined everything and how ridiculous it all was - and yet we watched....Most of the story is taken up with Sebastian's internal struggle to accept his fate as part of the peerage. He chafes at the "prison" that his accident of birth has dictated. He becomes embroiled in a series of unsuitable attachments whilst relishing his role as lord of the estate, tramping through the grounds with his faithful hounds. Will he find a good match? Will he settle down?I found the last chapter particularly riveting and it concluded very satisfactorily - as often happens in life - with the line "The coach came to a standstill in Grosvenor Square" just as my very own train came to a standstill at Roma Street Station after my holiday in Woodgate. Back to reality and work on Tuesday!

  • Lydia
    2019-06-13 00:12

    A Brideshead Revisted rip-off (even if it was written earlier.)

  • First Second Books
    2019-06-19 07:08

    Society gossip from the early nineteen hundreds in England! So awesome!

  • Shawn Thrasher
    2019-06-24 02:53

    The Edwardians live next door to Downtown Abbey and Upstairs, Downstairs. Vita Sackville-West grew up during the time period she both lovingly details and skewers in The Edwardians, and after a sort of slow start, the book comes alive because of her inside knowledge. She occasionally drop names (King Edward, Mrs. Langtry), and admits that "No character in this book is wholly fictitious." I suppose if you were reading this in 1930, when King George was still alive (his coronation ends the book), then you were probably madly trying to figure out who was who (all without the trusty help of the internet!). I'm sure the book is full of themes, some of which were perfectly obvious (the passing of the torch from generation to generation, the need for women of high society to look and feel young, the messiness of affairs of the heart) and some which I probably missed in my haste to the finish the book (the more I like a book, the faster I read, and the more I miss). I have several favorite scenes. The women at the coronation fixing their hair after putting on their coronets and the harumphing of the women about how in King Edward's day things wouldn't have been as vulgar (the reader knows full well that King Edward's day was equally "vulgar" if not more so, leading one to question the evolving nature of vulgarity and manners). Teresa (who surprisingly became my favorite character) throwing a grand speech in Sebastian's face on Christmas Eve (you go girl! Love rules all). The entire book was a pleasure though (except for the awful end). I was sorry to turn the last page, always a good sign!

  • Malvina
    2019-06-01 02:10

    1905. Sebastian is the 19 year old duke and heir to the vast estate of Chevron (perhaps similar to Knole, the author's family home?). Although he and his very independent younger sister Viola would like to think otherwise, 'society' and heredity have their tight grip on them. Sebastian, unlike Viola, eventually bows to the inevitable and takes his rightful place as a peer, even attending the coronation of George V in 1911: '...Sebastian...had been born a prisoner; and his chains were dear to him, although he might pretend to strive against them.' That push-pull of trying to find himself through all sorts of unsuitable affairs and other such things is what makes this book such a fascinating read. Vita Sackville-West - well versed in such society and such societal dilemmas - pulls the glamour rug out from under the Edwardians' feet, and exposes all that is right and wrong with those in Sebastian's position. It has been said that Sebastian may well have been Vita... This edition has a fascinating and insightful introduction written by Vita Sackville-West's granddaughter, Juliet Nicolson. Very enjoyable.

  • Lydia
    2019-06-16 03:07

    Life in the 1920s at an English country house following Sebastian's coming-of-age story, the 19-year old duke of the estate. This is a good winter read reminiscent of "Middlemarch" and "Downton Abbey," stuck in a time when estates and tenants are modernizing. Sackville-West's writing is usually called "smooth" and "graceful," and that's how this book feels too. The author was a an only child and expected to take over her own estate for her parents. She is famous for being Virginia Woolf's lover, but no indication here, except Sebastian and his sister may both be separate halves of Vita's life. The other main characters are failed aristocratic mothers--living for parties and affairs while trying to keep their names and titles unbesmirched. Recommended if you liked "Middlemarch" or "Remains of the Day" by Kazuo Ishiguro.

  • Justin
    2019-06-02 00:44

    On the surface a story about infidelity and a fake morality, but in the end it is about characters trapped in different ways by the expectations placed upon them by society. A feeling many can likely relate to. The main character Sebastian is given two chances to dramatically break free from the expected and well-trodden life before him. I found myself thinking "what is my Chevron", in what ways do I live life as expected, and at what cost? Would I have taken those chances to change.

  • Whitney
    2019-06-02 02:02

    I am drawn to the subject of manor houses, and this book has great literary associations! However, there are reasons why V. Sackville-West is mainly known for her gardening more than anything else...

  • Juliana
    2019-06-13 05:02

    My review:

  • Barbara
    2019-06-22 06:56

    This was an interesting look at the lives of several people in the Edwardian age. It focused on Sebastian, a young duke who came to realize that he was trapped inside the life expectations of his time and class. Toward the end, while going to the coronation of King George, he realized that the coach taking him there had no handle on the inside--he could not get out of it on his own. I found this a powerful symbol of his life. With the changing of the reign came his own change of attitude and his awakening. Well written, and with an intimate knowledge of the customs of the age.

  • Isabel Keats
    2019-06-12 05:47

    Creo que me ha gustado todavía más que All passion spent. Es un retrato maravilloso de una época, tan real que parece que lo estés viendo y además con la ventaja de saber que unos pocos años después ese mundo llegará a su fin a causa de la I Guerra Mundial. Me ha recordado a El gato pardo (aunque no se parece nada), pero esa sensación de decadencia de... no sé. Recomendable 100%

  • Eliza
    2019-06-02 01:11

    Nous sommes en 1905, sous le règne d’Édouard VII. A dix-neuf ans, Sébastien est le cinquième duc de Chevron, l’héritier d’un titre et d’un domaine parmi les plus prestigieux en Angleterre. Viscéralement attaché à Chevron, il n’envisage pas alors d’autre voie que celle tracée par la société et les conventions : une maîtresse, un mariage, les chasses annuelles et les saisons à Londres. Lorsqu’il rencontre Leonard Anquetil, aventurier solitaire qui lui montre la vanité de son existence et lui propose de partir avec lui, Sébastien refuse, persuadé qu’il tient son destin entre ses mains, à Chevron, au milieu de ses pairs. Néanmoins, cette rencontre le marquera à tout jamais, comme sa soeur, Julia. Sébastien se laisse cependant entraîner dans le monde et devient l’amant de la meilleure amie de sa mère, Lady Roehampton.Sébastien est le personnage central de ce roman, mais sa richesse vient aussi des autres personnages qui permettent de décrire cette époque de différents points de vue : bien sûr, Sébastien évolue dans la haute-société londonienne où se mêlent ducs et duchesses, ambassadeurs, jeunes filles en fleurs et parfois le roi lui-même (le milieu de prédilection de Vita Sackville-West), mais on suit aussi tour à tour les domestiques de Chevron, un couple des classes moyennes, le docteur John Spadding et sa femme Thérèse, ou encore Phil, la jeune maîtresse bohème de Sébastien… En quelques pages, avec son style toujours juste et élégant, Vita Sackville-West nous entraîne dans un tourbillon, passant d’un personnage à l’autre et perçant d’un mot le secret des coeurs de chacun : l’importance pour Lady Roehampton de cette liaison, où luisent les derniers feux de sa jeunesse passée, l’admiration envieuse de la jeune Thérèse devant le grand monde, la confusion des sentiments de Sébastien face à Léonard Anquetil (et le choix de ces mots est justifié) ou encore la fierté toute maternelle de Lucy, la mère de Sébastien, de voir son fils se lancer dans le monde au bras d’une si belle femme ! Le roman se termine sur une scène que j’ai trouvé magnifique par sa symbolique : Sébastien assiste au couronnement du nouveau roi George V : dans son carrosse tiré par huit chevaux et sa tenue solennelle de duc et pair du royaume, il se trouve ridiculement anachronique et cependant c’est là, dans Westminster Abbey, au son des Vivat !, alors que tout le poids de la tradition pèse sur ses épaules, que se joue son destin : « Il sentit la longue lignée de ses ancêtres se dresser autour de lui comme des fantômes, le montrant du doigt et lui disant qu’il n’y avait plus moyen de s’échapper. »Cette période qui précéda la guerre est pour la haute-société un vrai paradoxe : jamais le respect des conventions mondaines et des traditions familiales n’a été aussi fort – les titres, les alliances, les conversations, les entrées dans le monde, tout est corseté par un code de conduite extrêmement rigoureux, auxquelles sont notamment soumises les jeunes filles. Dans le même temps, une certaine décadence s’empare de cette même société : une fois le mariage passé, les liaisons extra-conjugales y sont encouragées comme remèdes aux mariages de convenance et instruments de plaisir autant pour les hommes que pour les femmes.Cette nouvelle lecture de Vita Sackville-West fut un enchantement. On y retrouve le ton irrévérencieux et souvent sarcastique de Toute passion abolie, bien caché derrière la description des passions de cette période riche et foisonnante. Malgré cela, Vita Sackville-West ne peut pas cacher complètement une certaine nostalgie pour cette société mondaine toute en contraste et c’est sans doute ce qui plut tant au public lors de sa parution en 1930. En tout cas, après avoir lu plusieurs de ses romans, on sent que l’auteur atteint ici une apogée dans la maîtrise de son sujet et c’est sans aucun doute le plus remarquablement bien construit et, osons-le, le plus chic.

  • Arushi Bhaskar
    2019-05-30 23:57

    I started reading this book with the anticipation that it would be an easy coming-of-age tale that would be thoughtful as well as compelling. I was right about the thoughtful and compelling part.The story centers around Sebastian, a moody young man privileged to be born into the class that 'leads England'. He is at once both disgusted, and enamoured by the values and traditions of the high society to which he belongs. Even though he knows that his mother and her circle of friends are stupid, vile and selfish, he is also fascinated by their glamour. Despite mixing in with a number of people characteristically different to himself and his immediate circle (the most notable being Anquetil and Phil), he realizes that he can never truly break away from the culture he was raised up with. He is an inconsistent and utterly unpredictable person, but that is what endears you to him. It is his thoughts, his revelations, that make this story a compelling read. I also felt that everyone can find a part of themselves in Sebastian. Even though I couldn't stand him at times, I empathized with him throughout the novel, hoping for his happy ending.The story also revolves around the women who torment Sebastian's mind: his mother Lucy, his sister Viola, the very MILFy Sylvia, middle-class Teresa and bohemian Phil. I personally felt that Lucy's obsession and adoration of her son made him so vain. She really wasn't a good mother, especially in the way she treated Viola. I really couldn't care less about her.Viola was most certainly my favourite character. Quietly independent, and very much the original feminist, she displayed tremendous strength for a girl of her position. To leave behind everything you know in pursuit of freedom is not an easy task. Ms. Sackville-West portrayed her charmingly, and I wish that there was more to read about her.I detest women like Sylvia. I personally feel that the author wasted a lot of words on her. There was nothing remotely likable about her. Even though the author (feebly) attempts to stir up some sympathy for her, I just could not bring myself to say one good thing about her. She cheated on her simple-minded husband, fell in love with her lover, and yet, could not bring herself to sacrifice her status for him. What a useless woman!Teresa was supposed to be a middle-class manifestation of Sylvia, but in contrast, was a sheer delight to read about! I liked her snobbishness, her wonder on beholding Sebastian's world, and her strong refusal to part with her values. I feel that it was not blind faith in keeping up appearances that drove her to it: it was the mark of a woman not afraid to give up momentary pleasures in order to stay true to herself, her beliefs, and the man she'd vowed to stay true to.Phil was fun. She made you laugh with her antics, and the way she influenced Sebastian drove him to his final decision (which I shall not reveal!)Anquetil was somewhat of a cliche. Ironically, it was he who said everything I'd expected him to say instead of Sebastian. A book worth reading, if you're looking for a coming-of-age story that truthfully chronicles all the madness of becoming an adult.

  • Joyce
    2019-06-01 05:47

    An enchanting little fairy tale about the upper crust of English society between 1905 and 1911, The Edwardians relates the tale of Sebastian, Duke of Chevron, and master of a vast feudal estate also called Chevron. Vita Sackville-West, the author and a member of Britain's upper crust, who grew up on a great estate, revels in the continuity of the estate and its distinct, separate classes where longevity and seniority rule, all the while undercutting the purpose of such a system and foreshadowing its end in England. The book revolves around Sebastian, his moods, his needs, his wants which accords with his (and his mother's) perception of himself as the center of his world. We read of his feeling that he is strangled by custom but also how much he enjoys his lord of the manor and man about town lifestyles. His privileged existence affords him scant self-knowledge and little interest in anything beyond himself, his feelings, his spaniels (Sarah and Henry), and his beloved Chevron. The writing flows easily from chapter to chapter unveiling the characters: Sebastian, his spoiled lovely mother Lucy, intelligent, unconventional sister Viola and Sebastian's various lovers. Although some of those who appear in the book are stereotypical to an extreme-the estate workers tugging their forelocks come to mind-perhaps they were not deemed as such when the book was published in 1930. The author projects an honest acceptance of all who are involved with Sebastian and Chevron and examines their actions and conversations with sympathy and an understanding of the psychological underpinnings of their code. There are some amusing and wicked moments, particularly when she writes about mother Lucy and her friends. She states that "no character is wholly fictitious" which leads the reader to conclude that the characters are based on composites of several people the author knew, hence a bildungsroman.In the end, Sebastian is "saved" from a predictably wealthy and elite existence, the same as that of his forebears, by the explorer Leonard Anquetil, a casual friend Sebastian met at a weekend party at Chevron six years previously. Espied by Sebastian in the crowded streets following the 1911 coronation of King George V, Anquetil announces that he has proposed to Viola after a six year courtship by correspondence and will marry her. Not, however, until after his next three year exploration, which he urges Sebastian to join. Ah ha, Sebastian will finally see LIFE outside his sphere and doubtless will become a better man for it! This reader thoroughly enjoyed the book and enjoyed comparing turn of the nineteenth century England with its upper class of money and breeding to turn of the twentieth century United States, with its own upper class of money and publicity (Senate=Millionaire Boys Club). As I closed the book, because of my own deep seated cynicism regarding the moneyed classes in general, I couldn't help but feel little has changed over the course of a century in the western world.

  • Truehobbit
    2019-06-20 07:12

    On a recent visit to Sissinghurst, we thought we should get an idea of Vita Sackville-West's writing as much as her gardening, so we got a couple of her books in the local gift shop. I picked "The Edwardians" as the Edwardian era strikes me as a fascinating time in British history - and the book promised to be about just that.It isn't in any way brilliant as a novel, but it's great as a memoir of the customs and mentality of the times. Scriptwriters from "Upstairs, Downstairs" to "Gosford Park" might have picked entire passages straight from this book. Sackville-West brings Edwardian life of various social classes to life with the ease of the participant and the skill of the writer.Unfortunately, there isn't much in terms of a story here. Most of the characters are rather annoying and suffer from a somewhat confused and deluded outlook on life; the characters are really just there for each to represent one aspect of society, but nobility or bohème, they all seem too mindless and immature to be worthwhile, the only exception (for me) being (quite surprisingly, really) the middle-class couple.Interesting, for me, was the contrast to "The Picture of Dorian Gray", which I read not too long ago. While Wilde's portrayal of contemporary aristocratic life and society made it feel sultry and ugly, Sackville-West's, in spite of being quite frank about the less-than-pretty characteristics of hers - its lack of morals and meaning, its wasteful luxury - is never either of these; if anything, she makes it feel sophisticated and elaborate. I wondered (supposing that the sultriness in Wilde isn't meant as a comment on the society he portrays) if that was because the Edwardian age really was a bit less stifling, or whether it has to do with the differing perception of one born into this society as opposed to the observer that Wilde was.

  • Michelle
    2019-06-11 07:10

    The Edwardians is the product of its time period and Vita Sackville-West. I picked it up after reading a biography of Vita Sackville-West. Stewed as it is in the troubles of the British aristocracy on the verge of a societal transformation, The Edwardians. Sebastian, the Duke of Chevron, comes of age, and accesses the privileges of a wealthy and available bachelor among the upper and middle class ladies. His sister Viola resists conventions by moving into London on her own. Meanwhile, the servants at Chevron, and the Duchess of Chevron bemoan the loss of tradition and the actions of the younger generation. Vita Sackville-West was an Edwardian noble, who loved her estate and was doomed to lose it because she wasn't a male heir. Sebastian is her wish fulfillment, an heir and man about town, while Viola is an idealized version of her actual reality. A drama of manners, I found bits of it tedious. This novel was a best-seller in its time, but I don't think it's really holding up as well over time.

  • David Valentino
    2019-06-17 06:58

    Flawed, Maybe; Brilliant on Many Levels, Definitely"Oh that bloody book! I blush to think you read it," wrote Vita to Virginia Woolf, whose press, Hogarth, had published The Edwardians to surprising success. Comparing your work to Woolf's is an ideal way to torture yourself. In Vita's case, double the anguish, because they were lovers and Vita admired Woolf.Of course, Vita faulted herself too much. In its own right, The Edwardians is quite good. It highlights many of her writing skills, skills that put most modern authors to shame. The weaknesses come in the form of a couple of didactic passages, what some may consider excessive exposition, and a predictable and less an organic ending.However, these criticisms pale when measured against the many strengths and rewards of the novel. These include an insider's observation of high society at the beginning of the 20th Century, the sexual mores of the British aristocratic class, the societal shift in the run up to World War I, and, for those fascinated by VSW, additional insights into her thinking and view of life.The story is straightforward. Young aristocratic Sebastian is coming of age and is tormented. He feels trapped in the predictable life he sees laid out for him, lord of the manor and all the obligations and constrictions his duke title entails. He is a tightly wound ball of anger and rebellion, though his expressions of rebellion remain confined within his well-off world. He revolts by having liaisons with various women, the two most important of which are Lady Roehampton, Sylvia, best and girlhood friend of his mother (who quietly is "... quite content that Sebastian should become tanned in the ray's of Sylvia's Indian summer"), and, reaching downward, the middle-class wife of a doctor, Teresa. Sybil devastates him by breaking off the affair at the insistence of her husband, for the sake of propriety. Teresa rejects him when he offends her middleclass values of faithfulness and loyalty, which befuddle and antagonize him. Finally, he seems resigned to spending his life fulfilling the role he was born to. Until, that is, he again meets Anquetil, after participating in the coronation of George V, the ceremony rendered in vivid and enlightening detail by Vita.Anquetil and Sebastian become acquainted early in the novel. Anquetil functions as a critical observer of upper class society, which he disparages with wit and wonder, and as a catalyst to Sebastian's rebellious spirit, as well as that of Viola, Sebastian's sister. It is in this early chapter where Vita dons her lecture robes, as Anquetil launches into a long, though intriguing, disquisition on the choice before Sebastian. Everybody, not the least Sebastian and Viola, esteem the rough and ready explorer Anquetil, who is something on the order of a Shackleton. Vita, who possesses considerable powers of description, paints him as having "A startling face; pocked, moreover, by little blue freckles, where a charge of gunpower had exploded, as though an amateur tattooist had gone mad ..." His association with Anquetil further riles Sebastian. As for meek and mild Viola, by the conclusion of the novel she reveals herself, to Sebastian's astonishment, as the true rebel.Strict distinctions divided the upper and lower classes in Victorian and Edwardian England. In the sex department, the upper class believed in exhibiting decorous behavior as an example to the lowers who otherwise might cavort in the manner of rutting animals. As for their own sexual conduct, as The Edwardians illustrates, especially Sebastian's mother planning weekend accommodations for guests at the great country house Chevron and dinner seating arrangements, the uppers regularly switched and shared partners, and (a variation on noblesse oblige, perhaps?) extended an appendage down into the lower ranks. (For a peek at the rich pornographic sub rosas activity of the periods, see, for example, the underground Victorian publication, The Pearl.) When found out by a spouse, usually through an indiscretion that created a buzz too loud to ignore, accommodation usually proved the accepted strategy. Thus, Lady Roehampton gives up Sebastian and at the insistence of her husband George leaves with him for a station in the colonies.Teresa, the morally cinctured doctor's wife, assiduously adheres to the strict code espoused and flaunted by the upper class. Believing he has wooed her and that she has happily succumbed, her rejection of his sexual advances, made at a Chevron weekend with her husband downstairs playing bridge with the biddies, stuns him.Vita, you may know, rebelled against most every stricture of accepted sexual and spousal behavior. She conducted numerous lesbian and straight affairs, the most famous and most scandalous with Violet Trefusis. She abhorred being addressed as Mrs. Harold Nicolson and she would burn anyone who attempted calling her such to the ground with a look. A bit of knowledge about Vita will increase your delight in reading most of the social passages in The Edwardians.In the short introduction, Juliet Nicolson, Vita's granddaughter, focuses on the novel as one of societal change. And, indeed, you'll see this theme thread throughout the novel. The privileged, for the most part, ignored it. The class most dependent upon them lamented it. But some, especially Viola, embraced it enthusiastically.While on the subject of social and societal upheaval and Vita and Harold's unusual life style (delineated artfully in the superb Portrait of a Marriage), Vita's main character names are very telling. Sebastian and Viola, as you probably know, are the brother and sister in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. In the comedy, Viola assumes the role of lost Sebastian, dressing like him. And it is Viola in the novel ... well, that's for you to find out. Vita herself often during her affair with Violet dressed as a man, a soldier in fact, and sometimes a wounded one at that. In The Edwardians, you will find how the brother and sister deal with rebellious spirits and change fascinating.Enough of me prattling on about VSW and The Edwardians: now it is time for you to read and enjoy it.

  • Ali
    2019-06-27 07:12

    The Edwardians was written by Vita Sackville West as a sort of joke, one she kept Virginia Woolf updated on through her letters whilst writing it. Published by the Hogarth Press in 1930 it was an instant success, although was not taken very seriously by its author – and in later years she apparently disliked hearing it praised. In her superb introduction to this edition, Victoria Glendinning explains why the publication of Woolf’s Orlando – which had flattered and excited Vita – was the inspiration for The Edwardians in which Vita exploits “the lavish, feudal, traditional world of her Edwardian childhood at Knole”.Full review: