London: The Hogarth Press, 1924. First edition. Hardcover. Vita Sackville-West's 1924 novel Seducers in Ecuador is seldom seen thus, in near fine condition and still bearing the original dust jacket. One of 1,500 copies, this copy features a beautifully bright, square, and tight binding, with sharp corners, paper spine label fully intact, and only a hint of wear to the spine ends. The contents remain bright with no previous ownership marks and light, intermittent spotting. The red-stained top edge retains strong, unfaded color and differential toning to the endpapers corresponding to the dust jacket flaps confirms what the lovely binding already testifies – that this copy has spent life jacketed. The dust jacket is in two pieces, split along the rear hinge with the upper third of the spine missing and the balance of the spine toned. The dust jacket is protected beneath a removable, archival quality clear cover.
Vita Sackville-West (1892-1962) was a poet, novelist, associate of the Bloomsbury Group, lover to Virginia Woolf, and the inspiration for Woolf's 1928 novel Orlando. As the daughter of a Baron and the wife of a politician (Harold George Nicholson, with whom she shared an open marriage), Vita's early life was spent split between the conventions of Edwardian society and diplomatic missions to locales such as Constantinople and Persia. These settings no doubt influenced her writing, which often dealt with a woman's place in society, both in her native Britain and, such as in the case of Seducers in Ecuador, abroad. In addition to the society novels she for which was most well-known, Vita was also an accomplished poet (twice winning the Hawthornden Prize, the only writer to do so), biographer, and one of the first to write a speculative science fiction novel about a hypothetical Nazi victory (Grand Canyon, 1942).
A strange modernist novella centered on an English group on an Egyptian cruise, Seducers in Ecuador is the first of Vita Sackville-West's books published by the Hogarth Press and marks the beginning of their 17 year exclusive publishing relationship. As Hogarth Press was founded by Leonard and Virginia Woolf, this publication also coincides with the start of Sackville-West's relationship with Virginia Woolf, to whom this novel is dedicated. Though she was already an accomplished writer, it was Sackville-West who approached the Woolfs by asking them if they would like to publish "a longish short story... which no ordinary publisher would have looked at." (This from Leonard's later account. Some contemporary evidence suggests the Woolfs approached Sackville-West.)
Through the preparations for publication Vita Sackville-West and Virginia Woolf's relationship deepened through mutual admiration and cooperation. Sackville-West called the novel their "joint progeny" and dedicated it to her friend. Some critics suggest that Sackville-West even changed her style specifically to appeal to Woolf. If this is the case, she was certainly successful as Woolf would say in a 1924 letter, "I like the story very very much... it is the sort of thing I should like to write myself" and praised the "fantasticality of the details."
It was around this time that their romantic relationship began which would continue through the 20s, and the impression that Vita Sackville-West made on Virginia Woolf was profound. Woolf wrote nearly 450 letters to Sackville-West, more than to any other correspondent save her sister, Vanessa Bell. In 1928 Woolf published Orlando, the title character inspired by Sackville-West, which was called by Sackville-West's son "the longest and most charming love letter in literature." Item #004166