Archive for April, 2010

Kathleen Dixon Donnelly posted a comment on Blogging Woolf that led me to look at her SuchFriends Blog. I am glad I did.

SuchFriends is a lovely looking blog that posts daily updates of what particular writers were doing, saying or writing on that day in their history. In fact, Donnelly promises that on May 1, she will use her blog to discuss how Virginia Woolf felt when her half brother George Duckworth died in 1934.

The blog also includes other interesting information, including some about Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group. 

Here is a sampling of brief posts on SuchFriends that connect to Woolf:

  • A listing of Bloomsbury Group members.
  • Details about her presentation on Bloomsbury painters.
  • A post on Bloomsbury, London in October 2006 and 1907 in which Donnelly talks about her experiences at a travel writing workshop where she walks around Bloomsbury for inspiration before writing a somewhat fictional account of a Bloomsbury Group’s evening.
  • A post on her trip to St. Ives, Cornwall, while simultaneously rereading To the Lighthouse.
  • A post about literary travel that includes a trip to Sussex, England, and Monk’s House, the Woolfs’ summer home.
  • Reading, video and travel tips for the Bloomsbury Group.

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Virginia and Leonard Woolf lived in Richmond, a suburb just 15 minutes from central London by train, from 1915 to 1924.

They occupied two houses during their years there. The first was rooms in number 17 on the east side of The Green, which is still considered “one of the most beautiful urban greens surviving anywhere in England.”

The second was Hogarth House on Paradise Road. According to Julia Briggs in Virginia Woolf an Inner Life, the Woolfs took the lease on the property on Virginia’s 33rd birthday. Hogarth House was part of the present Suffield House, which at that time was divided into two separate homes. The Woolfs occupied half of the Georgian brick home, moving there in early March of 1915.

One of England’s famous blue plaques, added in 1976, is affixed to the house to commemorate the Woolfs’ residency. The plaque is one of 15 in Richmond.

The Hogarth Press

The Hogarth Press began publishing at Hogarth House in July 1917. Woolf published Two Stories, Kew Gardens, Monday or Tuesday and Jacob’s Room between 1917 and 1924. Woolf could see Kew Gardens from the rear windows of Hogarth House.

When German air raids during World War I disturbed the sleep and the safety of the Woolfs and their servants, they moved to the basement at night. And when peace came, Woolf celebrated along with other Richmond residents. On July 20, 1919, she wrote her diary entry about the “peace” celebrations:

After sitting through the procession and the peace bells unmoved, I began after dinner to feel that if something was going on, perhaps one had better be in it…The doors of the public house at the corner were open and the room crowded; couples waltzing; songs being shouted, waveringly, as if one must be drunk to sing. A troop of little boys with lanterns were parading the Green, beating sticks. Not many shops went to the expense of electric light. A woman of the upper classes was supported dead drunk between two men partially drunk. We followed a moderate stream flowing up the Hill. 

Richmond makes its way into Woolf’s novels as well. In The Waves, for example, the reunion dinner at the end takes place at Hampton Court, which is located in Richmond. In the novel, Bernard calls it the  “meeting-place” for the group of six longtime friends.

Like most things in life, though, Woolf wavered between liking and disliking Richmond. Briggs says that even though Woolf described Hogarth House in one of her diaries as “a perfect house, if ever there was one,” by June of 1923 she was anxious to move back to London. In a diary entry that month, she wrote, “we must leave Richmond and set up in London.”

In March of 1924, the Woolfs left Richmond to move back to London. They set up housekeeping and publishing at 52 Tavistock Square.

To reach Hogarth House from London today, you can take the Underground District Line to Richmond or British Rail from Waterloo Station.

Read a modern-day paen to Richmond published in the April 18 issue of The Boston Globe.

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Here are some Virginia Woolf sightings recently shared by members of the VWoolf Listserv:

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While in graduate school, one of the most interesting seminars I participated in was Dr. Kristin Bluemel‘s semester covering the history of the novel.

While reading Mrs. Dalloway, my favorite novel, and Arnold Bennett’s Anna of the Five Towns, I, and a few other students, became very interested in the ways history is recorded in these novels. Bennett uses historical fact and  vivid descriptions of landscapes as one form of citation; another form of citation is the intertextual London created by Woolf in Mrs. Dalloway.

While her essay for The Common Reader focuses on Sophocles and Euripides, Mrs. Dalloway’s intertextual influences are based in the epic poetry of Homer.  Scholarly examinations of the novel like Molly Hoff’s 1999 article The Pseudo Homeric World Of Mrs. Dalloway argue that Woolf, “paraphrases, parodies, and burlesques” a number of Greek texts.

Brian J. Hudson’s The Geographical Imagination Of Arnold Bennett argues that geography was one of Bennett’s primary concerns in novel writing.

Mrs. Dalloway can be broken down into three sections: the beginning, when Clarissa goes out to buy flowers at ten; the ending, her “rebirth” after a long, nearly fatal, illness, followed by the central part of the novel, including flashbacks and the preparation for the dinner party in the evening; finally, the third section of the novel, the thirty, “dead,” years in between.

As Hoff notes, the working title for Mrs. Dalloway, The Hours, also suggests Homer’s Odyssey: the Latin word for hour is “hora,” which comes from the Greek and can also mean “a complete day.” Odysseus’ journey home to Ithaca takes ten years.  Clarissa’s “rebirth” takes a bit more than 10 hours.

Both narratives begin in the present, in the middle of the story, but use flashbacks to engage with the past. Both protagonists are disguised before their returns and rebirths: Odysseus upon his return to Ithaca and Clarissa in her patriarchal role as Mrs. Richard Dalloway.

Arnold Bennett’s pastoral novel Anna Of The Five Towns has some things in common structurally with Woolf’s novel. The novel takes place in a single space and involves a patriarchal social system that constrains women to traditional gender roles.  The difference is while Clarissa, Sally, and others ponder their roles and fates in Woolf’s novel, there is a decided lack of that in Anna Of The Five Towns.

Anna cannot fall in love.  She is not only trapped by the patriarchal social system Clarissa and Sally set out to defy, but, because of her patriarchal obligations, she has a pattern of thinking which does not allow any alternatives to her current situation.

Whereas Mrs. Dalloway is extremely intertextual, Anna Of The Five Towns is firmly rooted in what is written on the pages in front of the reader.  There is little, if any, intertextual sourcing or citation.

What is cited, however, is spatial geography. This was a primary concern for Bennett, who wrote in The Author’s Craft that it was absolutely required for any sort of good writing: “the main factor in life on this planet is the planet itself.  Any logical survey of existence must begin with geographical and climatic phenomena.”

Both authors are somewhat working towards the same kind of goal and are not quite as different as their legendary feud had made them seem: Woolf and Bennett are concerned with oppression.

Woolf had a strong desire to explore how people like Clarissa, Sally, and Peter, independent and free, end up conforming to the establishment and patriarchal gender roles.  Bennett is also concerned with the shaping of the individual, but his concern seems to be, obviously, in their geographical situation.

Brian J. Hudson writes in The Geographical Imagination Of Arnold Bennett that the reason for “Bennett’s interest in geography was his belief human life was, to a considerable degree, determined by environment.”

Anna is molded by the oppression of her living situation, which literally hangs over her like an unseen oppressor:

As it were under compulsion she ran outside, and down the garden path to the low wall which looked over the grey fields of the valley up to Hillport.  Exactly opposite, a mile and a half away, on the ridge, was Hillport church, dark and clear against the orange sky.  To the right, and nearer, lay the central masses of the town, tier on tier of richly-colored ovens and chimneys.

Not only do social obligations hang over Anna, but the local geography lords over her, always watching and haunting her every movement.  Clarissa, when she decides to “buy the flowers herself,” does not have a similar situation in London.

How does textual allusion come to mean or create history in the novel? While Anna Benjamin and others have tried to accurately map Clarissa Dalloway’s day down to the hour, and minute, she also argues that the ambiguity of the beginning and ending of Mrs. Dalloway “represents her view of time as a continuity of past, present, and future” that is all one gigantic, woven, intertextual map.

The weaving of past, present, and future makes Woolf’s intertextual incorporation of Greek tragedy and epic poetry rather successful.  By using the “familiar unities,” Woolf fulfills rules laid out by Aristotle, but also brings the novel into contemporary times, which satisfies “both the Aristotelian canon and the organic view of reality” which she wanted to use to criticize the social structures of England.  The past is brought forward in Mrs. Dalloway and allows the story to unfold bit by bit, not chronologically, but by their relation to what is happening on that June day in London.

Ian Watt, while discussing time, remarks that “space is a necessary correlative of time.”  The way in which geography is used in Anna Of The Five Towns is a useful scholarly compliment to the use of time in Mrs. Dalloway.  History’s manifestation via geography and social facts is just as enlightening as intertextual allusion.

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Virginia Woolf never had any formal college education. Or so the story goes. A recent discovery in the King’s College archives, however, tells a different tale than the one told by biographers and Woolf herself.

The discovery shows course descriptions, exam pass lists and registrations for Vanessa and Virginia Stephen at King’s College Ladies’ Department, 13 Kensington Square, between 1897 and 1901.

In 1871 King’s College London began lectures and classes to meet women’s needs for higher education. In 1885, this became a department at the college known as the Ladies’ Department. In 1900 students began preparing for internal degrees. As a result,  the Ladies’ Department became known as the Women’s Department in 1902, after Woolf stopped attending classes.

From the age of 15 to 19, Woolf took classes in continental and English history, beginning and advanced Greek, intermediate Latin and German grammar at the King’s College Ladies’ Department. She also had private tutors in German, Greek and Latin. One of them was Clara Pater, sister of critic and essayist Walter Pater.

Her sister, artist Vanessa Stephen, studied Latin, art and architecture between 1899 and 1901, records show.

While at King’s, Woolf reached examination level standards in some of the subjects she studied and took Greek from George Charles Winter Warr, one of the foremost Greek scholars of his day. She also came into contact with some of the leading reformers of education for women, according to Christine Kenyon Jones and Anna Snaith, who discovered Woolf’s King’s College records.

Anna Snaith

You can read about their discovery in the Kings College Report, Number 17 (2009). The report of their findings is titled “A Castle of One’s Own.” It appears on pages 28 to 33 in that issue.

The discovery is also explained in an article by Kenyon Jones and Snaith published in volume 16 of the Woolf Studies Annual, which is just out. Many images from the King’s College archive are included in the piece, which is titled ‘Tilting at Universities’: Virginia Woolf at King’s College London.’”

The latest volume of the Woolf Studies Annual also includes articles by:

  • Bette London on the culture of memorialization and A Room of One’s Own
  • Janice L. Stewart on Woolf, Freud and Leslie Stephen
  • James F. Wurtz on To the Lighthouse and Empire
  • Monica J. Miller on Woolf’s servant characters
  • M-C Newbould on Woolf’s un-Victorian Sterne
  • Nicky Platt on Pointz Hall’s debt to Freud

The volume is available from Pace University Press. According to Mark Hussey, Pace UP is also offering reissues of the following:

  • Helen M. Wussow’s transcription of ‘The Hours’
  • The British Museum Manuscript of Mrs. Dalloway
  • Edward L. Bishop’s transcription of Jacob’s Room, The Holograph Draft.
  • Women in the Milieu of Leonard & Virginia Woolf: Peace, Politics, and Education ed. Wayne Chapman and Janet Manson.

For more about books related to Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group, visit the Books page on Blogging Woolf.

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