Author(s): Robert Sackville-West
Since its purchase in 1604 by Thomas Sackville, 1st Earl of Dorset, the house at Knole, Kent, has been inhabited by thirteen generations of a single aristocratic family, the Sackvilles. Here, drawing on a wealth of unpublished letters, archives and images, the current incumbent of the seat, Robert Sackville-West, paints a vivid and intimate portrait of the vast, labyrinthine house and the close relationships his colourful ancestors formed with it. Inheritance is the story of a house and its inhabitants, a family described by Vita Sackville-West as 'a race too prodigal, too amorous, too weak, too indolent and too melancholy; a rotten lot, and nearly all stark staring mad'. Where some revelled in the hedonism of aristocratic life, others rebelled against a house which, in time, would disinherit them, shutting its doors to them forever. It's a drama in which the house itself is a principal character, it's fortunes often mirroring those of the family. Every detail holds a story: the portraits, and and all the junk which the subjects of those portraits left behind, point to pivotal moments in history; all the rooms, and the objects that fill them, are freighted with an emotional significance that has been handed down from generation to generation. Now owned by the National Trust, Knole is today one of the largest houses in England, visited by thousands annually and housing one of the country's finest collections of second-hand Royal furniture. It's a pleasure to follow Robert Sackville-West, as he unravels the private life of a public place on a fascinating, masterful, four-hundred-year tour through the memories and memorabilia, political, financial and domestic, of his extraordinary family.
'It has the deep inward gaiety of some very old woman who has always been beautiful, who has had many lovers and seen many generations come and go, smiled wisely over their sorrows and their joys, and learnt an imperishable secret of tolerance and humour' Vita Sackville-West
'An entertaining read. Sackville-West rattles through his family history at a judicious pace, artfully avoiding getting bogged down in any one period' Independent on Sunday
'Sackville-West writes with great panache. The whole story, from the Elizabethan Lord Treasurer to the takeover by the National Trust, is accomplished in a brisk 267 pages of text. Not a word is wasted and every page is full of interest' A.N. Wilson, Country Life
'A gripping read, as good as a novel' Literary Review
After studying History at Oxford University, Robert Sackville-West worked in publishing, founding Toucan Books in 1985, which creates illustrated non-fiction books for an international market. He now combines that with chairing Knole Estates, the property and investment company which runs the Sackville family's interests at Knole. In 2008, he and his wife and three children moved in the house, which has been occupied by the Sackville family for 400 years.