All Passion Spent

All Passion Spent

by Vita Sackville-West


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Irreverently funny and surprisingly moving, All Passion Spent is the story of a woman who discovers who she is just before it is too late.

After the death of elder statesman Lord Slane—a former prime minister of Great Britain and viceroy of India—everyone assumes that his eighty-eight-year-old widow will slowly fade away in her grief, remaining as proper, decorative, and dutiful as she has been her entire married life. But the deceptively gentle Lady Slane has other ideas. First she defies the patronizing meddling of her children and escapes to a rented house in Hampstead. There, to her offspring’s utter amazement, she revels in her new freedom, recalls her youthful ambitions, and gathers some very unsuitable companions—who reveal to her just how much she had sacrificed under the pressure of others’ expectations.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780525433972
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/11/2017
Series: Vintage Classics Series
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 176
Sales rank: 334,278
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

VITA SACKVILLE-WEST (1892-1962) was a writer and poet born in England to aristocratic parents. In 1913, she married diplomat Harold Nicolson and traveled extensively before settling in 1930 at Sissinghurst Castle, where she designed a world-famous garden. Sackville-West had an affair with Virginia Woolf and was the model for the protagonist of Woolf’s Orlando. She is best known for her novels, including The Edwardians and All Passion Spent.

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Henry Lyulph Holland, first Earl of Slane, had existed for so long that the public had begun to regard him as immortal. The public, as a whole, finds reassurance in longevity, and, after the necessary interlude of reaction, is disposed to recognise extreme old age as a sign of excellence. The long-liver has triumphed over at least one of man’s initial handicaps: the brevity of life. To filch twenty years from eternal annihilation is to impose one’s superiority on an allotted programme. So small is the scale upon which we arrange our values. It was thus with a start of real incredulity that City men, opening their papers in the train on a warm May morning, read that Lord Slane, at the age of ninety-four, had passed away suddenly after dinner on the previous evening. ‘Heart failure,’ they said sagaciously, though they were actually quoting from the papers; and then added with a sigh, ‘Well, another old landmark gone.’ That was the dominant feeling: another old landmark gone, another reminder of insecurity. All the events and progressions of Henry Holland’s life were gathered up and recorded in a final burst of publicity by the papers; they were gathered together into a handful as hard as a cricket-ball, and flung in the faces of the public, from the days of his ‘brilliant university career,’ through the days when Mr Holland, at an astonishingly early age, had occupied a seat in the Cabinet, to this very last day when as Earl of Slane, K.G., G.C.B., G.C.S.I., G.C.I.E., etc. etc. – his diminishing honours trailing away behind him like the tail of a comet – he had drooped in his chair after dinner, and the accumulation of ninety years had receded abruptly into history. Time seemed to have made a little jump forward, now that the figure of old Slane was no longer there with outstretched arms to dam it back. For some fifteen years he had taken no very active part in public life, but he had been there, and on occasion the irrefutable suavity, common sense, and mockery of his eloquence in Parliament had disturbed, though it could not actually arrest, his more extreme colleagues upon the brink of folly. Such pronouncements had been rare, for Henry Holland had always been a man to appreciate the value of economy, but by their very rarity they produced a wholesome sense of uneasiness, since men knew them to be backed up by a legend of experience: if the old man, the octogenarian, the nonagenarian, could bestir himself to the extent of stalking down to Westminster and unburdening himself, in his incomparable way, of opinions carefully, soberly, but cynically gestated, then the Press and the public were compelled into attention. Nobody had ever seriously attacked Lord Slane. Nobody had ever accused Lord Slane of being a back-number. His humour, his charm, his languor, and his good sense, had rendered him sacrosanct to all generations and to all parties; of him alone among statesmen and politicians, perhaps, could that be said. Perhaps, because he seemed to have touched life on every side, and yet never seemed to have touched life, the common life, at all, by virtue of his proverbial detachment, he had never drawn upon himself the execration and mistrust commonly accorded to the mere expert. Hedonist, humanist, sportsman, philosopher, scholar, charmer, wit; one of those rare Englishmen whose fortune it is to be born equipped with a truly adult mind. His colleagues and his subordinates had been alternately delighted and infuriated by his assumed reluctance to deal with any practical question. It was difficult to get a yes or a no out of the man. The more important a question was, the more flippantly he dealt with it. ‘Yes,’ he would write at the bottom of a memorandum setting forth the advantages of two opposite lines of policy; and his myrmidons passed their hands over their brows, distraught. He was destroyed as a statesman, they said, because he always saw both sides of the case; but even as they said it with exasperation, they did not mean it, for they knew that on occasion, when finally pushed into a corner, he would be more incisive, more deadly, than any man seated four-square and full of importance at a governmental desk. He could cast his eye over a report, and pick out its heart and its weakness before another man had had time to read it through. In his exquisitely courteous way, he would annihilate alike the optimism and the myopia of his correspondent. Courteous always, and civilised, he left his competitors dead.

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All Passion Spent 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
Poquette on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
No perfunctory outline of All Passion Spent can convey the charm of the story as told and the people who inhabit it. One may perhaps need to be of a certain age to fully appreciate the amusingly nuanced elderly characters who by virtue of class contrasts are rendered even more charming than they otherwise might be. Indeed, when you learn that the heroine of the piece is an octogenarian, you may be put off, but don't run away too hastily. If you enjoy eccentric personalities and an evocation of a time quickly fading from memory, you will enjoy Vita Sackville-West's rendering of what otherwise might be not much of a story at all. Set in London and Hampstead when automobiles were quickly replacing horsedrawn conveyances, a tale unfolds of a former Viceroy of India's widow Lady Slane who has buried her husband in Westminster Abbey, and over the protests of her children decides to dispose of the family home in London and move -- by herself -- to Hampstead fully intending to enjoy her final years unencumbered by familial demands. The novel proceeds from there, and in the process provides us with delight, smiles, chuckles and even outright laughter. But gradually beginning in Part Two, the atmosphere grows more somber. The smiles and delights are replaced with wistful reminiscence and contemplation of other paths Lady Slane might have taken in her life. Although the book is not in the form of an interior monologue, it feels as such because at different moments, the narration unfolds through the eyes of first one character and then another in such a personal way, that one is left with an unusual impression of intimacy.All Passion Spent has been compared with Virginia Woolf's A Room with a View, and the two books do share certain characteristics. While the arc of the story is nicely constructed, there were a number of loose ends that I wish had been accounted for, but no doubt these lacunae were intentional.The beguiling quality of All Passion Spent was immeasurably enhanced by Wendy Hiller's narration. Yes, we're talking about the audio version, unabridged, which I highly recommend. Wendy Hiller captures the nuances of personality to a T and presents a listening experience that recaptures, if only briefly, an era with its attitudes and customs so different yet not so far removed in time from our own.
Kasthu on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Lady Slane has spent seventy years living in the shadow of her husband, a venerated statesman and former Prime Minister. When Henry, the Earl of Slane, dies, Lady Slane retreats to a country house in Hampstead, much to the constrnation of her children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren. There, in the company of her aging maid, landlord, handyman, and an eccentric millionaire, she revisits the her past, in which she harbored a secret ambition to become an artist¿abandoned in order to embrace the Victorian ideals of wifehood and motherhood. It¿s a wonderfully whimsical novel; one day Lady Slane buries her husband in Westminster Abbey, then two days later she¿s taking the Tube out to Hampstead! I loved the characters in this novel; they¿re all so whimsical. I mean, what estate agent would leave a house standing empty for thirty years, waiting for the perfect tenant? What fabulously wealthy millionaire would live like a contestant on Hoaders, squirreling works of art away in his dingy flat? I think in the real world, all of these people would be declared insane, but they¿re all lovable and, in the world of this novel, completely normal. I loved Lady Slane above all, for her immediate willingness to buck convention and do her own thing, seventy years after giving up her dreams. And she does it without caring what other people think of her. I enjoyed watching her real life unfold after the death of her husband. It¿s also interesting to watch the budding relationship between Lady Slane and her great-granddaughter Deeborah, engaged but not happy, but also blessed by living in a time when she can make decisions that Lady Slane couldn¿t when she was young. I didn¿t expect to get as much out of this book as I did; only one or two of the characters are under the age of sixty! Still, the themes of this book are universal enough that everyone can appreciate it. All Passion Spent officially makes Vita Sackville-West one of my favorite authors.
brenzi on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Lady Slane has spent the last seventy years of her life helping her husband to become a well-respected statesman. But now he's passed on and she has time to reflect on her life and, upon doing so, realizes that she enabled her husband to succeed at the expense of her own long-suppressed desires, including a life as a painter. In 1860, when she married, a woman could not consider a career for herself. Her only desire should be to marry well, raise a large and lovely family and help her husband succeed.Over the objections of Lady Slane's pretentious and over-bearing children, she unloads her estate and takes a small house away from London mostly because she can finally freely make a choice in her life. It is in Hampstead that she entertains three unexpected gentleman who appreciate her for her wise view of the world and her charming personality. In the end, The author is taking to task the old world order and making a bid for equality for women. The book was written in 1931 and follows in the footsteps of George Eliot, and Vita's good friend, Virginia Woolf. Beautifully written, Sackville-West has won over a new fan. Highly recommended.
rainpebble on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What a beautifully written novel this is. "All Passion Spent" is about a woman in her late eighties whose husband has just passed away and who finds herself suddenly with the freedom to do as she likes with the remainder of her life. Up until now, she has lived for her husband and her six children. The children expect her to sell her home, which she does, and share the remaining years she has with them; rotating months between their homes. But Lady Slane has a very different idea for the years she has left. She wants to live very privately in the countryside with her one devoted servant and far from all of her family. She yearns for peace and quiet. So ignoring all of their demands upon her, she does exactly that. Not a lot happens in this novel, but it is not what happens that invades the mind and spirit of the one reading it. It is the getting there, the prose, the language of the book that is taken into one's heart, treasured and held there that matters. This is simply a beautiful story and one I won't forget for a long time.
Staramber on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What I loved most about this book wasn¿t the plot, the characters, or the larger themes. I loved the style. I loved luxuriating in the lengthy sentences, I loved knowing that no word was out of place. I read not to know the ending, but because getting there was so beautiful.Nevertheless, a tale about an elderly women finding her feet, perhaps for the first time in her life, after the death of her husband makes a wonderful story. The quiet feistynes of Lady Slane as she tells her children she will be taking a house at Hampstead instead of following their plans makes her a perfect heroine. The cast of characters she assembles there are equally fascinating. And I did enjoy watching Lady Slane go over her life, pulling up ideas of feminism and class roles. All in all it made a beautiful, peaceful read.
bohemima on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An 88-year-old woman becomes a widow and finally, *finally* gets to live on her own terms. She leases a small house, irritating the living daylights out of her middle-aged children. She makes a couple of new friends and renews an old aquaintance. This is a nice study of a life lost to the service of husband and children, looked over from the perspective of a safe and serene old age.
Kimaoverstreet on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
All Passion Spent, by Vita Sackville-West, is a beautifully written novel of Lady Slane, an 88 year-old widow, who decides to while away her remaining time in the English countryside, much to the chagrin of her children. Such a story could easily be a sweet tale of happiness found at last, but All Passion Spent deals with more complex (and realistic) concerns of that time in history (1930's) and the time in life (late 80's) including femininism, social class differences, and attitudes toward the aged.
janeajones on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The 88-year old Lady Slane, after the death of her husband, decides to live the remainder of her life in the way she chooses, unbothered by children, grandchildren, great-children or social obligations. She befriends (or is befriended by) 3 eccentric gentlemen and carries on quietly with only her longtime French maid as caretaker/companion. What Lady Slane is most interested in are her memories of a life lived according to others' dictates despite the fact she once dreamed of becoming an artist. A gentle, rather wise book despite the class-unconsciousness of the Lady Slane who hardly sees her ancient maid as an individual.
kambrogi on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book from Virago collection is thoroughly entertaining and at the same time thought-provoking. It tells the story of a matriarch's surprising choices at the age of 89, after her husband passes away. It says a great deal about a woman's place in society when it was written (1931), but just as much about women today, acknowledging that our life choices are not only influenced by others' expectations and general happenstance, but by personal courage, as well. I like these characters -- neither simplistic nor always lovable, but real.
Voxel-Ux on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The story I have re-read the most times. The most enjoyable novel in my library.
lauralkeet on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
First published in 1931, All Passion Spent is a bold piece of early feminist literature. Deborah, Lady Slane, is an 88-year-old woman whose husband has just passed away at the age of 94. Her six children, all in their 60s, are greatly concerned about how to care for her, but she surprises them by declaring her intent to live independently in a new, smaller home. Having taken this bold step, Deborah enters a period of reflection on her life. Vita Sackville-West uses Deborah's voice to decry woman's role in society and female subservience to males through marriage:Oh, what a pother, she thought, women make about marriage! and yet who can blame them, she added, when one recollects that marriage -- and its consequences -- is the only thing that women have to make a pother about in the whole of their lives? Though the excitement be vicarious, it will do just as well. Is it not for this function that they have been formed, dressed, bedizened, educated -- if so one-sided an affair may be called education -- safeguarded, kept in the dark, hinted at, segregated, repressed, all that at a given moment they may be delivered, or may deliver their daughters over, to Minister to a Man? (p. 159)Henry by the compulsion of love had cheated her of her chosen life, yet had given her another life, an ample life, a life in touch with the greater world, if that took her fancy; or a life, alternatively, pressed close up against her own nursery. For a life of her own, he had substituted his life with its interests, or the lives of her children with their potentialities. He assumed that she might sink herself in either, if not in both, with equal joy. It had never occurred to him that she might prefer simply to be herself. (p. 178)Deborah is acutely aware that she is nearing the end of her life, and is clear in her need for independence. She sets very clear boundaries: no visits from children or grandchildren! Once established in her home, the rest of the book is a reflective piece as Deborah mentally re-lives her adult life. She also forms a few friendships important to her new-found independence. The ending is quite profound, as Deborah begins to see how life could be different for women of younger generations.
jwhenderson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Soul of an Artist:In All Passion Spent Vita Sackville-West has written an inspiring novel of the life of a woman who chooses to create herself anew. Both character and values are important to Lady Slane, the heroine of this thoughtful and uplifting book. Upon the death of her husband of many years she rejects the advice of her family and carves out a new life based on her own artistic desires. In so doing she provides a model for all individuals who wish to follow their own creative souls.
Cariola on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Maybe it's because I'm getting older, but I really loved this book. After the death of her husband, 88-year old Lady Slane shocks her children by announcing that she plans to leave the family estate and rent a house in Hampstead Heath--a house that holds many fond memories of her younger days. Even more shocking, she dictates that none of her children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren may visit without an express appointment (and those are given infrequently). As a woman who has spent her entire life pleasing others and doing what they expected of her, she finally decides to live as pleases herself. She recalls her early dreams of becoming a painter, and how those dreams were squelched by a proposal that everyone else thought was a brilliant triumph--even though the 18-year old Deborah was not convinced that she was really in love or that she was ready to give up her own independence and aspirations. Looking back on her life, she recalls moments of happiness, moments when she did indeed love (or at least appreciate) her husband and felt fleeting moments of affection for the children who, for the most part, turned out to be disappointments. But as she moves towards death, Lady Slane decides that, while there is still a little time left, she need please no one but herself.Lately, I've been thinking more and more about the time wasted in the past and the time that I have remaining to make something of my life, and, in that regard, this novel really touched home. I listened to it on audio, brilliantly read by Wendy Hiller, who played Lady Slane in the TV adaptation. It's a quiet, contemplative book, but one well worth one's time. Vita Sackville-West gives us a portrait of aging that goes far beyond the mourning the loss of youth and beauty to ask significant questions about selfhood and the meaning of life itself.
Liz1564 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In Sackville-West's books, more often than not, a house is as much a character as people in the novels. This is especially true of All Passion Spent. The novel opens with the Slane family gathered together to observe the rites of death. Their father, a former Viceroy of Indian and ex-Prime Minister, has died. As his widow keeps vigil over his body in a bedroom, his children discuss the future of Lady Slane in the drawing room. They come to the conclusion that their 88-year old mother should spend a few months with each of her six children after she gives up the family house. These siblings are an unpleasant lot, full of self importance and more than a touch of avarice.Lady Slane, however, has other plans for the rest of her life. Thirty years ago she saw a little house in Hampstead, not far from the heath, and if it is available she plans to lease it. After much hand-ringing, her children agree. They will establish a rota of visits and between children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, Lady Slane should have at least one visitor a day. Lady Slane, however, quietly disagrees. She wants no visitors, especially anyone young. She has done her duty for 70 years and now she wants her own space. She will retire from society with her cat and her maid.The house she has chosen is owned by a genuine eccentric who has kept it more or less vacant for years just waiting for the perfect tenant. Obviously, Lady Slane and Mr Bucktrout are kindred spirits. He flatly states that she will only occupy it a short time and that it would be senseless for her to put in central heating. Fireplaces and oil lamps will suffice. Since he also believes that the end of time is only two years away, he isn't necessarily being cynical about her death from old age. With Mr Bucktrout and the tradesman he hires to bring the house up to snuff, the building becomes an island of serenity, a place where Lady Slane finally comes to a resolution about her life.And here is the crux of the novel. This is the first time in her entire life where she is where she wants to be. Since she married an up-and-coming man at 18, she has deferred to the wishes of her parents, her husband, her country. She gave up the ambition to be an artist in order to be the perfect wife. And she was the perfect wife. She created a perfect home; raised a perfect family by Edwardian standards; hosted perfect embassy dinners. When, early on in her engagement, she mentions that she would like to be an artist, her fiance is delighted. She can make watercolor sketches of their travels and the albums can be shown at gatherings. At her statement that she meant to do more, he patted her cheek and said that married life would soon cure her of any outside distractions. Years later, sitting under a peach tree in her Hampstead garden, she realizes that this is when her soul began to die.Not much happens in the book. Lady Slane becomes close to Mr Bucktrout, Mr Gosheron the tradesman who renovated her home, and surprisingly, Mr FitzGeorge, one of the wealthiest and most enigmatic art collectors in London. He is a small part of her past because when he inherited his fortune (from whom V S-W deliberately keeps vague) his trustees sent him on a world tour which included India. There he fell in love with the young Vicereine for the few days he was in her presence. Lady Slane, after a while, remembers their innocent encounters. Mr. FitzGeorge pulls the final veil away from her eyes and she accepts the facts that she loved her husband and children, but loathed her life.As a character Lady Slane is a product of the Victorian and Edwardian age. She did nothing in her entire marriage to change her life. She was her husband's beautiful property and she did him proud. If she though unkind thoughts, she never put them in words. Only in the last year of her life, did she regain a sense of self and find satisfaction in her own company and the company of her three ancient friends.An
klarusu on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was a quiet book but it lost nothing of its depth as a result of it. A portrait of an aged lady stepping slowly towards death, embracing her passing and losing herself in memories of times past. It is both simplistic and complex with subtle characterisation and gentle imagery that comes together to create a poignant tale of the passing, not just of one lady, but of an era.
lahochstetler on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Lady Slane spent her entire life as a politician's wife, raising six children. In the wake of her husband's death she finally has time and space to attend to her own desires. At age eighty-eight Lady Slane chooses to move to her own home, and surroud herself with persons of her own choosing. And what Lady Slane chooses to do is to reminisce about her life, from her marriage in 1860 to the present day. Lady Slane's children presume that their mother has descended into madness, but she holds her ground, refusing to become the dottering widow her children expect. In this novel we learn Lady Slane's history: her thwarted dreams of becoming an artist, her love for her husband, and the restrictions incumbent on Victorian political wives. The book culminates as Lady Slane faces an awakening of unexpected passion. This is a dark and contemplative novel, though there are elements of comedy as well. The Slane children all fit into comic stereotypes, and perform their alloted roles to the point of ridiculousness. These comic elements are necessary, they allow Lady Slane to be sensible, rather than cruel, in cutting herself off from her children at the end of her life. Lady Slane's long life spans the Victorian and Edwardian periods, and if the hallmark of the Victorian era was change, than Lady Slane is certainly a good model thereof. She lived through modernization, the growth of empire, and in her reflections we see the long span of her life.
Jubo More than 1 year ago
Beautifully written meditations of an elderly woman. It's a period piece that holds up to time. Gorgeous. Left me wanting more.
LaurenBDavis More than 1 year ago
A delightful and inspiring read about a woman being true -- at last -- to herself.  The writing is lovely and subject remains topical, even after all these years,  There is a quiet strength in this character that I continue to find inspirational. 
Guest More than 1 year ago
This pre-WWII book remains timelessly interesting to readers of both genders. The book focuses on an 86 year old widow who begins her life after her former PM husband dies. Her four children have other plans for her, but she persists in changing her life radically and finding happiness. Ms. West writes with exceptionally talented prose and knows the corners of a woman's heart as well as the pressures of even a happy family's life. This is a very engaging book with profound insight.