". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Friday, September 9, 2011

*Mrs Keppel and Her Daughter*

by Diana Souhami (1996).

The daughter is Violet Kepple – Trefusis, Vita Sackville-West’s passion. "She belongs to me." This passion does not interfere with Vita's writing career, her place in society, her marriage to gay Harold Nicholson (though he thinks it does and hates Violet), her family, her passion for her estates, having other lovers and stabbing Violet in the back whenever she so chooses.

Violet's mother was Edward VII's most enduring mistress, the mistress that materially profited the most from her liaison with the King. The author has pointedly written a work that focuses on Violet, who was also a writer though never as respected or successful as Vita. The information and the story itself -- all these hothouse entitled extraordinarily wealthy people -- is interesting, until it's not -- see again these hothouse entitled flowers of extraordinarily wealthy people. Camilla Parker-Bowles is a descendant of this family, but whether or not there's any significance to this or not is problematical, despite the author's attempts to map it that way.

What is original it seems to this reader is the author telling the story almost entirely within the perspective of a specifically lesbian romance and erotic passion in the days not long gone at all when gay and lesbian lovers could not express their love in any publicly recognized, acceptable manner. Would the relationship between Violet and Vita been so fraught if there had been any provision for public acceptance? I think it would have been because of who Vita Sackville-West was -- one of the most supremely entitled selfish persons in a class of same, and both Vita and Violet were raised by people exactly like that as well. This never bodes well for happy, well-adusted, kind and compassionate off-spring.

The photographs included are satisfying in number and content. The manners of the era among the upper class are described in detail, which makes this an excellent source for researchers into that period and this aristocratic milieu -- which continued well past WWI, and even past WWII, for those as rich as Violet and Vita, as the book shows us.

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