Harold Nicolson, born in the late Victorian age, scion of a privileged family, was a man of extraordinary talents. As a diplomat a glittering career beckoned - an Embassy certainly, perhaps even head of the Foreign Office. But his talents extended well beyond the conference chamber, for he was also a renowned politician, historian, biographer, diarist, novelist, lecturer, literary critic, essayist, journalist, broadcaster, and gardener. His position in society and politics, his flair for recording the events that he witnessed, gave him insight into the most dramatic events of British, indeed world, history, from the peace settlements of 1919 to the Abdication Crisis; to the events leading to the Second World War to Suez. Nicolson's personal life was no less dramatic. Married to Vita Sackville-West, one of the most famous writers of her day, their marriage survived, even prospered, despite their sexual orientations, for both were practising homosexuals. Unashamedly elitist, bound together by their literary, social, and intellectual pursuits, moving in the refined circles of the Bloomsbury group and other literary and social coteries, they viewed life from the ratified peaks of aristocratic haughtiness. At Sissinghurst Castle, their home for more than thirty years, their shared passion for gardening led to the creation of one of the most magnificent gardens of England. Few men could boast such gifts as Nicolson possessed. Yet he ended his life plagued by self-doubt, despondent at not having realized his full potential. 'I am attempting nothing; therefore I cannot fail,'he once acknowledged. What went wrong? It was a question that haunted Nicolson throughout his adult life. Norman Rose sensitively unravels this intriguing history. Relying on a wealth of archival material, he brilliantly disentangles fact from fiction, setting Nicolson's story of perceived failure against the wider perspective of his times.
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