Nicolson, Nigel 1917-2004
NICOLSON, Nigel 1917-2004
OBITUARY NOTICE— See index for CA sketch: Born January 19, 1917, in London, England; died September 23, 2004, in Kent County, England. Publisher, politician, and author. Nicolson was half the publishing team of Weidenfeld & Nicolson who also gained fame for his biography of his eccentric parents, Portrait of a Marriage (1973). A graduate of Eton, after attending Balliol College, Oxford, from 1936 to 1939, he enlisted in the Grenadier Guards, serving in Tunisia and Italy during World War II. Returning from the war, he partnered with George Weidenfeld to establish one of England's most prominent publishing houses. Weidenfeld & Nicolson would go on to publish the works of such prominent authors as Saul Bellow, Rose Macaulay, and Maurice Bowra, but would become somewhat infamous for releasing Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita, which the British government tried to censor for obscene language. The company avoided prosecution, however, and Lolita became a huge popular and critical success. He would remain director there until his 1992 retirement, when the company was sold to Anthony Cheetham. From 1952 to 1959, he was also a conservative member of Parliament for Bournemouth East and Christchurch, and from 1960 to 1967 he was chairman of the United Nations Association. These achievements aside, Nicolson was a prominent author of biographies, travelogues, and other nonfiction works. The son of journalist and diplomat Harold Nicolson and of Vita Sackville-West, Nicolson stumbled upon his mother's diary in his childhood home of Sissinghurst Castle. This led to his writing of Portrait of a Marriage, which details his parents' open marriage in which both husband and wife had numerous affairs while still maintaining a strong relationship. The book was later adapted as a television miniseries for Masterpiece Theater. Nicolson also edited the three-volume Diaries and Letters of Harold Nicolson (1966-68), the six-volume The Letters of Virginia Woolf (1975-80), and Vita and Harold: The Letters of Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson (1992), as well as a biography of Woolf simply titled Virginia Woolf (2000). An enthusiastic world traveler, Nicolson was known, too, for such travel books as The Himalayas (1975) and Two Roads to Dodge City: Two Colorful English Writers, Father and Son, Chronicle Their Wonderful Journeys across America, which he wrote with son Adam Nicolson. Other biographies by Nicolson include Alex: The Life of Field Marshal Earl Alexander of Tunis (1973) and Mary Curzon (1977), the latter for which he won the Whitbread Prize. However, not limiting himself to biography and travel books, he also penned such works as The Grenadier Guards in the War of 1939-1945 (1949), Great Houses of Britain (1965), The World of Jane Austen (1991), and his memoirs, Long Life (1998). His final books were the biography Fanny Burney (2002) and The Queen and Us (2003). Nicolson, who gave his family's castle to Britain's National Trust in 1967 but managed the estate until his death, was named to the Order of the British Empire in 2000.
OBITUARIES AND OTHER SOURCES:
Independent (London, England), September 24, 2004,
Los Angeles Times, September 29, 2004, p. B8.
New York Times, September 25, 2004, p. B13.
Times (London, England), September 24, 2004, p. 36.
Washington Post, September 27, 2004, p. B5.