Poetry News

A Valentine's Day Medley of Literary Couples

By Harriet Staff


Happy Valentine's Day, dear readers. To celebrate, we'd like to direct your attention to Literary Hub, where Emily Temple has compiled a list of the most (and least) beautiful, erudite, functional literary partnerships of the twentieth century. From prose writers to poets to essayists, Temple's list includes a vast array of some of modern literature's most lovesick flaneurs. From the top:

The feast of St. Valentine is upon us yet again—I hope you’ve made the proper arrangements to show your beloved that you care (even if that means not actually marking the holiday at all; this really depends on your beloved.) Perhaps you will look to the literary world for inspiration, since after all, there have been plenty of great legends about literary love affairs over the years, though of course a great legend doesn’t always mean a great love affair. In fact, it often means just the opposite. Here, I’ve collected a few of the worst (and a few of the best)—from what we can tell from our outside vantage, at any rate. You never do know what goes on in other people’s homes. But you might have a better chance if they happen to be writers.

NB: I’ve left out many people here, because lists are necessarily finite, but I’ve pointedly discounted all of the current contemporary literary couples on the basis that I have no historical basis for judging them—but if I were going to judge them, based on, let’s say, their skill in writing and general attractiveness, there would be several more "bests." (Zadie Smith & Nick Laird, Valeria Luiselli & Álvaro Enrigue, Katie Kitamura & Hari Kunzru, etc, etc. Happy Valentine’s Day to them, too!)

Virginia Woolf & Leonard Woolf & Vita Sackville-West

Leonard had to propose three times to Virginia; at first she wasn’t sure if she was sexually attracted to him. Actually, at first she was sure she wasn’t; but that ultimately changed. When she finally accepted his offer, she wrote to a friend: "My Violet, I’ve got a confession to make. I'm going to marry Leonard Woolf. He’s a penniless Jew. I'm more happy than anyone ever said was possible—but I insist upon your liking him too. May we both come on Tuesday?" The two began a loving, mutually supportive relationship, both personal and professional—they founded the Hogarth Press together. In 1937, Virginia wrote in her diary, "Love-making—after 25 years can't bear to be separate… you see it is enormous pleasure being wanted: a wife. And our marriage so complete."

Wishing you a splendid Valentine's Day with the one you love, even if it is a notebook and pencil.