Sexual Fables
This article accompanies the fable
Women in Trousers

Lola Montez and Carmen in the family?


Vita Sackville-West’s grandmother was known as Pepita, a Spanish dancer who took up with Lord Sackville-West, and they had five children together, before Pepita died in 1871.  Their youngest child, Victoria, became Vita’s mother.  Pepita had appeared on stage as “The Star of Andalusia” and it was good timing because Spain and the Gypsies were exciting and exotic to a sagging Britain in the last quarter of the 19th century and the first quarter of the 20th. I have included a few paintings at the bottom of this page to make my point. In Spain itself, such "operatic" images of Gypsies and castanets irritated intellectuals, who derided them as inauthentic.


An Amazon UK blurb makes clear the links to Lola and Carmen: “Pepita, the half-gypsy daughter of an old-clothes pedlar from Malaga, makes her fortune as a dancer in Madrid.  She is soon the toast of all Europe and embarks on an affair with a young English attache.”  Being Gypsy stands in here for the throwing off of restraint and unbridled sexual desire and some would say lesbian desire, but it probably had more to do with envy and fantasy and outright escapism.  Compare this with D.H. Lawrence’s similar fascination in The Virgin and the Gipsy, written in 1926.

Below is a resplendent Vita at Ascot in 1912 aged 20.


Below left is John William Waterhouse's Magic Circle (1886) which is in the Tate Britain and below right William Arthur Breakspeare's The Gypsy Girl (unsure of the year), which is privately owned. Another image here.

Waterhouse-Magic-Circle   Breakspear-Gypsy-Girl

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