14 romantic quotes from the love letters of Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West

At a dinner party in 1922, Virginia Woolf met the renowned author, aristocrat – and sapphist – Vita Sackville-West. Virginia wrote in her diary that she didn’t think much of Vita’s conversation, but she did think very highly of her legs. It was to be the start of almost 20 years of flirtation, friendship and literary collaboration. Eavesdrop on the affair that inspired Virginia to write Orlando with these 14 romantic quotes from their Love Letters.

Lifestyle shot of Love Letters: Vita and Virginia, standing on a white marble base against a pale pink wall. A green fabric ribbon is draped across the front of the shot, and a mug and pink flowers stand to the left of the book.



We had a surprise visit from the Nicolsons. She is a pronounced Sapphist, and may, thinks Ethel Sands, have an eye on me, old though I am. Snob as I am, I trace her passions five hundred years back, and they become romantic to me, like old yellow wine.

Virginia’s Diary, 19 February 1923


I like her and being with her, and the splendour – she shines in the grocer’s shop in Sevenoaks with a candle-lit radiance, stalking on legs like beech trees, pink glowing, grape clustered, pearl hung. Anyhow she found me incredibly dowdy, no woman cared less for personal appearance.

Virginia’s Diary, 21 December 1925


I am reduced to a thing that wants Virginia. I composed a beautiful letter to you in the sleepless nightmare hours of the night, and it has all gone: I just miss you, in a quite simple desperate human way.

Letter from Vita, 21 January 1926


Dearest Honey,

No letter since you were careering through the snow in Westphalia – that is nothing since Monday. I hope this doesn’t mean you have been eaten by brigands, wrecked, torn to pieces. It makes me rather dismal. It gets worse steadily – your being away. All the sleeping draughts and irritants have worn off, and I’m settling down to wanting you, doggedly, dismally, faithfully – I hope that pleases you. It’s damned unpleasant for me. I can assure you.

Letter from Virginia, 5 February 1927



Yes yes yes I do like you. I am afraid to write the stronger word.

Letter from Virginia, 8 February 1927


Morgan [E. M. Forster] says he’s worked it out and one spends 3 hours on food, 6 on sleep, 4 on work, 2 on love. Lytton [Strachey] says 10 on love. I say the whole day on love. I say it’s seeing things through a purple shade. But you’ve never been in love, they say.

Letter from Virginia, 18 February 1927


Was your telegram intended to convey a command or merely a message? I mean, should it be written ‘Love Virginia!’ – an imperative, – or ‘Love. Virginia.’? Whichever way you read it, it was very nice and unexpected, and if a command it has been obeyed.

Letter from Vita, 6 January 1928


I shall now have my little treat of writing to Vita, I say to myself.

Letter from Virginia, 31 January 1929


But you would rather I told you I missed Potto [a type of primate, used as a pet name for Virginia] and Virginia, those silky creatures with a barb under their fur – and so I do, and wonder very much whether they will come and stay with me when I get back? Potto would like the puppies, Virginia would like her nice big bed and coffee at eleven – and all the affection that would be shown her at hours licit and illicit.

Letter from Vita, 24 July 1929


Dear Mrs Woolf,

(That appears to be the suitable formula.)

I regret that you have been in bed, though not with me – (a less suitable formula).

Letter from Vita, 18 August 1933


I have a certain secret pride in the thought that ‘your affair with V. S-W.’ should enable you to write with authority. Would it? There is much to be said on the subject but perhaps it would be better said by firelight on a winter evening when one had omitted to turn on the lights.

Letter from Vita, 21 September 1937


I regret not being closer to Virginia whom I love. Lord, how lovely you looked the other night in your black and scarlet!

Your pink porpoise


Letter from Vita, 28 December 1937


Virginia mine – This is to bring you my love – and to say I have ordered a paté for you for Christmas – and also to say I hope you weren’t bored at luncheon...

I would have liked some moments alone with you after luncheon but all I got was compliments about you from Miss Stark, who thought you very beautiful... So did I, if I may be allowed to say so, – very beautiful indeed in your brown fur cap and your exquisitely ethereal slenderness.

Letter from Vita, 19 December 1938


I’ve just stopped talking to you. It seems so strange. It’s perfectly peaceful here – they’re playing bowls – I’d just put flowers in your room. And there you sit with the bombs falling round you. 

What can one say – except that I love you and I’ve got to live through this strange quiet evening thinking of you sitting there alone.

Dearest – let me have a line...

You have given me such happiness.

Letter from Virginia, 30 August 1940


Sign up to the Penguin Newsletter

For the latest books, recommendations, author interviews and more