Books: Victoriana

LADY SACKVILLE: A BIOGRAPHY by Susan Mary Alsop Doubleday; 273 pages; $10

Portrait of a Marriage, Nigel Nicolson's bestselling immorality tale about his mother's lesbian affairs and his father's homosexual proclivities, schooled American readers in the eccentric love lives of the English aristocracy. Nicolson's mother, Vita Sackville-West, belonged to one of England's most venerable families; Knole, their fabled ancestral home, sheltered the sort of elaborate sexual and emotional transactions fashionable among the Bloomsbury set. But the Victorian era boasted its own dramas of unlikely passion: Vita's mother, Lady Victoria Sackville, was herself...

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