After leaving the blissful days of Frankfort Manor behind, Warner and Valentine resumed back their previous days of village life, at a cottage in West Chaldon. During this period, both Warner and Valentine began their involvement in politics and were accepted into the Communist Party in the spring of 1935. Both worked for the Red Cross unit in Barcelona during the Civil War in Spain and were sent as part of the British delegation to the 2nd International Congress of Writers in Defense of Culture, in 1937.
Despite their struggles to make ends meet, as can be seen in Valentine’s letter with regards to receiving the doctor’s bill here :
“Gray has sent in his bill. It is awful. We must not get ill again for two years anyway. Thank heaven, doctors need not be paid at once, so we’ll keep him waiting (he is rich enough) until my next quarter comes in and I shall not buy any more books at all and no wine.”
Warner and Valentine were still very much in love and committed to each other.
STW – 8 December 1935
“I don’t see how you can have any idea how completely you have changed my days. Even I haven’t except when some particular set of circumstances like this pricks it into me. It is as if I had always been in a half light, an eskimo existence of perpetual twilight. Carelessly just now, I said to Mrs Parker, speaking of my arrangement for the evening, that I should be quite happy.
‘No, you won’t,’ she said. ‘You won’t be happy, so don’t you go about to say so. I saw your long face when Miss Ackland was going away.'”
STW – 6 October 1937
“Write to me often, I live by your letters. Write to me truly. I don’t think I am clever enough to read between the lines, or if I think I must, then I read volumes. Write to me truly. Tell me how you are, what your bed is like (I mean, what the mattress is like, the unembalmed mattress). What you are wearing, the colour of your eyes. Tell me the compliments you have, they please me better than they please you, though they may please you too. Tell me what is unpleasant, uncomfortable, annoying, for I shall imagine it anyhow, I would much rather you told me. The best thing you can tell me in any letter is the date, for each date will bring you nearer back. Tell me the date, the hour, whether you are sitting in a straight or a curly chair, whether your window faces east or west.
[….] But most of all, you are so far more than duty to me – tell me how you are, and tell me you take care.”
In August 1937, Warner and Valentine had once again relocated themselves, moving into Frome Vauchurch, a house by the River Frome in Maiden Newton, Dorset, where they were to remain for the rest of their lives. Unfortunately though, it was not to be lived out as “happily ever after”. The arrival of Elizabeth Wade White, an American heiress whom Warner had been corresponding with and trying to raise funds from for the Spanish Medical Aid, changed everything.
We had been in our new house for little more than a year when a new love exploded in it.
I cannot trust myself to write a true account of the twelvemonth that followed. I know she began it in an amazement of passion and gratified desire and I with resolute good intentions to behave as I thought I should behave; that she truly believed she could love (as she said to me) in two directions at once; that in the end, drained of every vestige of joy, every illusion of good intentions, we still trusted each other enough to survive.
But what I remember is so infected by what I felt that it comes back with obsessive reality/ unreality of delirium. There are no letters, no diaries; a few sharply impressed incidents and the witness of poems hers and mine) written during that year is all I dare be sure of.
Elizabeth was my doing. [….] We met twice, I think, when she was in England with her family. She was wealthy. When I was raising money for the Spanish Medical Aid, I asked her to contribute. Later she came to Europe meaning to attach herself to a pro-Republican organisation in Paris, and stayed here for a few days en route. From Paris, she wrote that her courage had failed her, she had got nowhere, she must go home. We pitied her and suggested she should visit us.
But it was not from pity that Valentine fell in love with her.
Sylvia Townsend Warner, Narrative 8 – I’ll Stand By You : The Letters of Sylvia Townsend Warner & Valentine Ackland