Though the 1930s and early 1940s were arguably the most exciting years of Harold Nicolson’s life, and certainly the most significant of his political career, he seems never to have lost focus on what was most important to him: his relationships with his sons and with his extraordinary wife. The Harold Nicolson Diaries are full of effusive praise for Vita and I think this passage from September 1942, pondering with pride the family they have created, is one of the loveliest in the book:
I do not think that, except for Winston [Churchill], I admire anyone as much as I admire you.
I remember your saying (years ago) that you had never established a complete relationship with anyone. I don’t think you ever could – since yours is a vertical and not horizontal nature, and two-thirds of you will always be submerged. But you have established, with your sons and me, a relationship of absolute trust and complete love. I don’t think that these things would be so fundamental to the four of us were it not that each one of the four is a private person underneath.
I have often wondered what makes the perfect family. I think it is just our compound of intimacy and aloofness. Each of us has a room of his own. Each of us knows that there is a common-room where we meet on the basis of perfect understanding.