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Valentine Ackland (1906 - 1969)

  • About
  • Valentine Ackland was born in 1906. Her childhood embraced extremes of privilege and abuse within a wealthy but unhappy family; at nineteen she made a disastrous marriage which lasted less than six months. As a young woman she became notorious for cross-dressing and wild living, but she was also a dedicated poet. She first began writing poems at Chaldon in Dorset, the artists' colony begun by TF Powys, where in 1930 she fell in love with Sylvia Townsend Warner. The two writers lived together in Dorset, and in 1934 they jointly published the erotic and celebratory poetry collection Whether a Dove or a Seagull. They volunteered for the Red Cross during the Spanish Civil War, and were both committed Communists, for a time under surveillance by M15. At the outbreak of the Second World War Ackland moved with Warner to FromeVauchurch, inland from Chaldon, where they lived for the rest of their lives.

    In the late 1930s their lives were disrupted by Valentine’s infidelities and increasing alcoholism; by the end of the Second World War she no longer drank but she embarked on a serious affair. Although the relationship with Warner survived, it became a stormy one during this period, marked by intellectual disagreements. Ackland’s conversion to Catholicism was particularly disturbing to Warner. During her last years Ackland moved towards a Quaker spirituality. The relationship became happier, and the two continued to live together until Ackland’s death in 1969.

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