Partner Joan Campbell

Queer Places:
Berkeley Castle, Berkeley GL13 9PJ, UK

Margaret "Pat" Dansey (1885-1959) was one of the lovers of Vita Sackville-West. She acutely diagnosed the key to Vita’s behaviour in her “obsession that you are a romantic young man who treats women badly”. Dansey had been Violet Trefusis' most intimate friend. A lesbian herself, she had been fascinated by the passion between the two women, not liking Vita at first but being carried towards her by the fierce current of this passion. With Violet's letters, which she addressed and forwarded to Vita, she inserted her own unseasonable messages. 'She [Violet] is such a monkey... I was working entirely on your side... Please, Vita trust me... I think she will get round you... I hate the way she tricks and deceives people... I simply fail to see why people don't see through her. Love from Pat.' Instead of bringing them together as Violet believed, Pat insisted that 'the best way of helping Violet is to make a complete break'. In this belief she may have been sincere. But there was another agenda. 'If you happen to be in London and have a spare second, do come and see me,' she invited Vita. '...I spent the whole night dreaming about you. I expect it was because I had taken your poems to read in bed. Queer dream it was too...' At the beginning of 1922 Vita had a brief fling with Pat Dansey — the sort of passing intimacy that did not disturb Harold Nicolson (who had been enjoying an undisturbed relationship with Comte Jean de Gaigneron, a society wit and aesthete whom he used for his pen portrait of 'the Marquis de Chaumont' in Some People — and who in later years became an escort of Violet's in Paris).

In Violet's memoirs, Pat Dansey is described in terms of a quirky animal: 'small and quick and done in various shades of brown, her hair was the colour of potato chips, her eyes like bees, her face had the texture and hue of a pheasant's egg. I have made her sound edible, but she was too brittle and furry to make really good eating. She had a stutter that sounded most incongruous in her small neat person, for it gave one the impression she was slightly intoxicated.' This was the deprecating camouflage under which Pat Dansey plotted her manoeuvres. In her letters to Vita she attributed secret amours to Violet ('her falseness simply appals me... She's a hopeless woman'). She wished to make sure that Vita would not become attached to her again and impede Pat's own relationship — which nevertheless ended explosively in the winter of 1923-4 after Vita told her she had fallen in love with the writer Geoffrey Scott. Violet Trefusis immortalized Dansey in her novel Tandem: Dansey inspired the character of Nancy, a witchlike mischief-maker, the contriver and exploiter of love affairs.

Margaret Dansey was the daughter of Hon. Eleanor Gifford (1852-1939) and Lt. Col. Edward Mashiter Dansey (died 1934), O.B.E. Pat Dansey lived with her elderly uncle, Charles Berkeley, 3rd Baron FitzHardinge, 'a crochety ogre' in Berkeley Castle, Gloucestershire, a medieval castle dating back to 1153. She invited Violet Trefusis to the castle, allocated her the Blue Room, showed her the dungeon where Edward ll was murdered, told her of how when young she would sit like a mouse in the Great Hall listening to her uncle and his cronies in their evening hunt clothes talking about vintage wines and playing whist. Violet liked the grandeur of Berkeley and its haunting sense of the past. Pat had formed a relationship with the Duke of Argyll's granddaughter, Joan Campbell. This relationship was to last a lifetime and took on the closeness of marriage. But it did nor preclude Pat's interest in other women. She told Violet that she loved her and gave her photographs of herself. 'I used to invent the most erotic pastimes to appeal to her taste,' she said to Vita in later years.

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