Sir Harold George Nicolson Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Sir Harold Nicolson, a distinguished diplomat, historian, journalist, and biographer, was born in Tehran. He spent his childhood years in the Balkans and Near East. In later years he also traveled extensively, though he only resided in one place: the British Foreign Office. Nicolson received his education at the Wellington School and Oxford University. After subsequently studying abroad in Paris, he entered the British Foreign Office in 1909 and was attached to the embassies at Madrid in 1910 and Constantinople in 1911.

In 1913 Nicolson married the Hon. Victoria Mary Sackville-West, daughter of the third Lord Sackville. Their marriage lasted forty-nine years and was one of the most unique nuptials of all time. By mutual consent, both were continually adulterous, and both were more homosexual than heterosexual. Sackville-West had affairs with Rosamund Grosvenor, Violet Trefusis, and Virginia Woolf, as well as a heterosexual tryst with Geoffrey Scott. Nicolson had a lifelong relationship with Raymond Mortimer and shorter liaisons with Pierre Lacretelle, John Strick, and James Pope-Hennessy. Neither felt jealousy or resentment about the other’s sexual adventures. Vita (Victoria’s nickname) and Harold Nicolson had two children. Benedict was born in 1914; Nigel was born in 1917. Like her husband, Vita Sackville-West became a distinguished author, publishing such works as The Dragon in Shallow Waters (1921), Seducers in Ecuador (1924), The Edwardians (1930), All Passion Spent (1931), The Dark Island (1934), Country Notes in Wartime (1940), Grand Canyon (1942), In Your Garden (1951), Even More for Your Garden (1958), and Profile of Dogs (1961).

Harold Nicolson was the greatest diplomat of his generation; he was the confidant of Lloyd George, Arthur Balfour, and Lord Curzon and the adviser of Georges Clemenceau, Eleuthérios Venizélos, and Woodrow Wilson. After World...

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(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Lees-Milne, James. Harold Nicolson: A Biography. 2 vols. London: Chatto and Windus, 1982-1984. A thorough biography.

Nicolson, Nigel. Portrait of a Marriage. New York: Atheneum, 1973. Especially fascinating because it provides the particulars of his parents’ extremely unusual marriage.

Watson, Sara Ruth V. Sackville-West. New York: Twayne, 1972. Has an excellent chronology, some concise information about Harold Nicolson, and a selected bibliography. This book, in the Twayne English Authors series, is a fine account of the life and literary career of Vita Sackville-West.