"SHE WAS, AMONG OTHER THINGS, AS BEAUTIFUL TO LOOK AT, AS HER WORDS WERE TO READ": MAGNIFICENT AUTOGRAPH LETTER OF CONDOLENCE FROM OSBERT SITWELL TO VANESSA BELL ON THE DEATH OF HER SISTER VIRGINIA WOOLF
(BELL, Vanessa) (WOOLF, Virginia) SITWELL, Osbert. Autograph letter signed. Renishaw, North Sheffield, April 4, 1941. One leaf, 8 by 10 inches, written on both sides. $8500.
Autograph letter signed from writer Osbert Sitwell to artist Vanessa Bell on the death of her sister Virginia Woolf.
On March 28, 1941, Virginia Woolf committed suicide by filling her pockets with stones and walking into the River Ouse. Six days later—and a full two weeks before Woolf's body was recovered—the author Osbert Sitwell wrote this letter of condolence to Woolf's sister Vanessa Bell. It reads in full: "Renishaw Hall, Renishaw, N. Sheffield. 4.4.41.My dear Vanessa, I didn't know how to write to tell you how deeply I sympathize with you in your irreparable loss. My sister and I have been knocked over by the sadness of it; not that we continually saw Virginia, but we had the greatest admiration for her both as a writer and a person. She was, among other things, as beautiful to look at, as her words were to read. I have never seen anyone with more perfect distinction. And I know how devoted you were to each other.It is a terrible loss for many people—even those who did not know her—perhaps especially for them… I shall always remember that dinner of the London Group—do you remember it?—many years ago when she was to speak. I sat near her and felt such pity for her nervousness. But I might have spared myself, for she made the most triumphantly beautiful speech I have ever heard, without a trace of a tremble, on the marriage of Poetry to Music in 16-17th centuries? What a horrible world it is, and so much the worse with the loss of such a beautiful, witty, interested artist. Just at the moment when most she could not be spared. Yrs ever, Osbert Sitwell."
The artistic Sitwell siblings—Edith, Osbert and Sacheverell—were contemporaries of Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell that were at the center of an artistic coterie that rivaled the Bloomsbury Group in importance, funded in part by the generosity of wealthy Sitwells. Edith Sitwell, mentioned in the letter, became a Dame Commander of the British Empire in 1954; like Virginia Woolf, she was a proponent of progressive and experimental work in literature. Osbert wrote poetry, art criticism and a highly regarded four-volume autobiography. The reference to "the London Group" is to an influential artists' association that included Vanessa Bell along with her fellow Bloomsbury Group members Roger Fry and Duncan Grant.
Two short closed tears, one only barely touching text. An exceptional item.