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April 15, 1974

Portrait of a Marriage

Author Affiliations

University of Cincinnati College of Medicine Cincinnati

JAMA. 1974;228(3):400. doi:10.1001/jama.1974.03230280100046

This is an artistic work on the subject of bisexuality, describing the condition as experienced by the author's mother, author and poet Vita Sackville-West. In a jacket blurb by Leon Edel, the book is characterized as "truly fascinating and civilized," a "journal of her Sapphic and transvestite passion [which] will live in erotic history as a supreme document, a real-life experience that reads like a novel of the spiritual as well as physical conflicts of androgyny." It would be difficult indeed to improve on this evaluation.

An 80-page manuscript written in 1920 when she was 28 years old—a manuscript found by her son soon after her death in 1962—forms the backbone of the book. The story is embellished by accurate family records for a number of generations. These materials, along with an account of her formative years and adolescence, courtship, and marriage, her son has woven into a graceful framework