[Violet Trefusis, lover of Vita Sackville-West.] Unpublished work privately printed by John Phillips: 'Letters from Violet Trefusis to John Phillips (1961-1968)'.

John Phillips (1926-2017), flâneur and literary executor of Violet Trefusis (1894-1972; née Keppel), English socialite and author, lover of Vita Sackville-West ['Sasha' in 'Orlando' of Virginia Woolf]
Publication details: 
Without place or date. [Phuket, Thailand: between 2009 and 2014.]
SKU: 21820

After a twelve-year 'amitié amoureuse' with Phillips, Violet Trefusis died in 1972, appointing him her literary executor and leaving him her last home, La Tour de Saint Loup. The present item – no other copy of which has been traced – is from a collection of Phillips's papers amassed by his friend Barbara Reed, containing pamphlets privately printed by him between 2009 and 2014. Phillips's obituary in the Daily Telegraph ('John Phillips, globetrotting flâneur and literary executor of Violet Trefusis', 24 March 2017) places the item in context, by describing how, at the end of his life, 'economics caught up with Phillips. He sold Violet Trefusis’s house, papers and chattels. He moved to Thailand after spells in Italy and Switzerland, settling in Phuket, from where he tried with relentless persistence to persuade friends and casual acquaintances to seek publishing outlets for his memories of once famous figures or to purchase valueless copyrights, despite having sent his own papers to the Lilly Library at Indiana University in 2004 and 2013 [...] His friends sighed at the deluge of attachments which arrived by email, along with desperate pleas for financial assistance.' 82pp, 8vo.In good condition. Very much a home-made effort: the volume has no proper title-page, only a drophead title on the same page as the foreword, and is printed on rectos only, perfect bound in transparent plastic covers, with spine of green tape. Illustrated in colour (including portrait of 'Violet Trefusis, Paris, 1958') and in black and white. As stated, no other copy has been traced; it does not feature among the 'Writings' listed in the inventory of the Phillips Papers at the Lilly Library. An annotated transcription of 72 letters, dating from between 1961 and 1968. The last six pages consist of facsimiles of 'Violet's letters to Frank Ashton-Gwatkins'. In the foreword Phillips describes how the 'intimacy' of his 'developing relationship' with Trefusis, resulted in a series of 'endearing names': 'letters to ”Dearest John” were soon succeeded by those to “Mon Petit Nemours”, “My darling Nemours”, and other sweet variations. Then later, “My darling Robert.” The letters were signed Sacha or Cleves.' Trefusis features as the Russian princess 'Sasha' in Virginia Woolf's 'Orlando', and Phillips writes that 'Violet rightly considered the pages describing the encounter of Orlando with Sacha on the frozen Thames to be one of the marvels of Virginia's prose.' Trefusis's letters are exactly what one would expect, and letter 43 ('2 A.M. and “in gamba” (1963)') is a good example: 'Mi Querido, | When will you realise that with me you have to do with a creature all fire and air, and wind, and thunder? Not a tame, intellectual, pedantic Sorbonne character, like the Duchesse de la Rochefoucauld. To quote Madame de Noailles, “ma cendre sera plus chaud que votre vie!” Why can't you, won't you, strike the right note? May I remind you that the enchanting Mme. Simone (aged 82) whom we met at Mme. Mantes Proust, is the beloved mistress of Igor Markevitch (one of the three best conductors in the world), aged 50, if that? May I also remind you that Maurice Goudeket was 25 years younger than Colette?? | Not that I am trying to compete with these ladies, but I want you to admit that these “liaisons” can and do exist? | Especially in Paris.'