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The Sea Blazed Gold is Louisa Albani’s latest illustrated pamphlet featuring Virginia Woolf, and its publication coincided with the Sept. 11 unveiling of the plaque at Talland House that commemorates Woolf’s connection with the seaside town of St. Ives in Cornwall.

Talland House was Woolf’s summertime home in St. Ives from 1882-1894. Her father, Leslie Stephen, had the lease on Talland House from 1878-1895.

Third featuring Woolf

The Sea Blazed Gold is the third of Albani’s pamphlets to feature Woolf. The first, A Moment In The Life Of Virginia Woolf, explored how the author created her vivid seascapes while living in Tavistock Square in London. The second, The Journey to my Sister’s House, focused on her time in the South Downs, where her sister Vanessa Bell lived.

The Sea Blazed Gold takes its title from a passage in Woolf’s 1931 novel The Waves. In it, Albani weaves her artwork with excerpts from Woolf’s diaries, letters and novels to celebrate Woolf’s time in St. Ives and its impact on her life.

The artist uses mixed media, including collage, metallic stitching and pen and ink in the 36-page publication printed on her own press.Text contributors include Maggie Humm, one of the leaders of the campaign for the Talland House plaque, and writer Astra Bloom.

Purchase and shipping details

The cost of The Sea Blazed Gold is £13. Albani’s press, Night Bird Press, limits its shipment of pamphlets to within the UK. For overseas shipping, contact Nash Robbins at Much Ado Books: shop@muchadobooks.com

Read more on the topic in the October/November issue of My Cornwall.

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Literary audiobook supplier Spiracle offers three of Virginia Woolf’s short works at no cost. You can listen to them at the links below.
  • The Mark on the Wall,” read by Saffron Coomber. First published in 1917 with Leonard Woolf’s story “Three Jews” in the collection Two Stories.
  • On Being Ill,” read by Saffron Coomber. First published in 1926 in magazines in both the UK and US. Four years later, the Hogarth Press published a slightly revised version as a stand-alone volume. It was the first volume the Woolfs hand set and printed in 11 years.
  • How It Strikes a Contemporary,” read by Diana Quick. First published in 1922 in The Times Literary Supplement. It was later published by the Hogarth Press in The Common Reader (1925).

Spiracle also offers five Woolf novels as audiobooks at prices ranging from £10-£15: The Voyage Out, Night and Day, Jacob’s Room, Mrs. Dalloway, and To the Lighthouse.

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Interested in Virginia Woolf’s essays? Wondering how the lessons from her essays apply to teaching and learning? Then you won’t want to miss Beth Rigel Daugherty’s talk, “Learning and Essaying: From Adeline Virginia Stephen to Virginia Woolf” on Oct. 10, the 2022 International Virginia Woolf Society Fall Lecture.

The event will run from 1–2:30 p.m. ET (New York). See timezone adjustments below, but please doublecheck the times:

10–11:30 a.m. PT (Los Angeles)
2–3:30 p.m. (Brasilia)
6–7:30 p.m. BST (London)
7–8:30 p.m. CEST (Paris)
[Oct 11] 2–3:30 a.m. JST (Tokyo)
[Oct 11] 4–5:30 a.m. AEDT (Sydney)

Members of the International Virginia Woolf Socity will receive a Zoom link for this event closer to the date. If you are not a member, you can join now.

Learning and Essaying

In her talk, Beth will guide viewers through her newly published book, Virginia Woolf’s Apprenticeship: Becoming an Essayist, from the Edinburgh University Press and preview her sequel, Virginia Woolf’s Essays: Being a Teacher.  With the follow-up volume, Beth says, “I hope to clarify how her essays continue to teach and to encourage readers to join the literary conversation.”

Get a taste of Beth’s book, as well as her talk, in this interview posted on EUP’s website.

About Beth

Recently retired from Ohio’s Otterbein University, Beth Rigel Daugherty taught modernist English literature, Virginia Woolf, and Appalachian and Native American literature, along with many thematically focused writing courses, for 36 years.

Her plenary talk at the 31st Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf, “On the Ethics of Teaching: Virginia Woolf’s Essays,” received accolades from everyone who heard it.

Beth fell in love with Virginia Woolf and her essays while at Rice University and has been presenting and publishing on both ever since. Her peer-reviewed articles have appeared in edited collections; editions of the “How Should Read a Book?” holograph draft and Woolf’s fan letters in Woolf Studies Annual; and, with Mary Beth Pringle, the Modern Language Association teaching volume on To the Lighthouse.

Beth Rigel Daugherty (at far left), Leslie Hankins and Diane Gillespie presented a panel on “Portraying and Projecting Age, Ageism, and Activism” at the 19th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf, with its theme of social justice, at the University of Mount Saint Joseph in Cincinnati in June of 2019.

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Adriana Varga of Nevada State University delivered a paper at this year’s Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf, part of a panel on “Feminist Spaces.” Her title was “Jo Hamya’s Three Rooms and Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own: Ethical and Aesthetic Affinities in the Age of Brexit and the British Housing Crisis.”

The novel she discussed, Three Rooms, is, as Adriana pointed out, as applicable to the U.S. today as to Britain (now more than ever, I would add), in its emphasis not only on unaffordable housing and insufficient employment, but on sexism and racism, disinformation in social media.

Paying homage to Woolf

From the epigraph to the last page, Hanya pays homage to Woolf and makes connections to A Room of One’s Own, starting with three quotes in the epigraph, the third of which reads: “Clearly the mind is always altering its focus, and bringing the world into different perspectives.”

The first-person narrator is a young middle-class woman of color who has a temporary position as a postdoctoral research assistant. She lives in a furnished room in an Oxford house that once had been the residence of Walter and Clara Pater. The blue plaque outside reminds her daily that she occupies borrowed space. A housemate asks if she’s read “this Pater chap,” and she replies that she has, and that his sister was impressive too: “She dealt in languages, taught Greek to Virginia Woolf so that Woolf might hear the birds better.”

Punctuated by quotes from Woolf, Pater, Yeats, and others, the narrator’s day to day life is dominated by place and race, politics and economics.

In England, there was no question of home: depending on who you were, it was either always there, or not. It all worked by empire, by assumption. An orphan girl could advertise and inherit another woman’s burnt trove. Orlando found nothing different within themselves in the same mirror, hung within the same ancestral abode.

A student tells her, “The country’s going to hell and I can’t finish my essay … how do I know what matters … the pound hit a twenty-month low … what use was an English degree now that fake news had eliminated the meaning of words anyway?”

Another decries the required reading as dead and lazy:

They had been given Heart of Darkness so that they couldn’t say the course hadn’t covered questions of imperialisim and race. They had been given Mrs. Dalloway so that they couldn’t say the course hadn’t addressed feminism.

When her post ends, she moves to London to work for low pay and tentative status at a prestigious fashion magazine. Unable to afford even a room, she sublets the sofa of a friend of a friend for £80 a month.

Focusing on space

I’ve highlighted the narrator’s travails, but Hamya, in an interview, stresses that her focus is on space rather than character or dialogue. The context is rooms—the narrator’s downward trajectory in contrast to those in power, occupying rooms at Eton and Oxford, chambers in Westminster and country houses—in a climate of right-wing nationalism and the precarity of life for women of color.

When her employment contract isn’t extended, she has no choice but to move back to her parents’ house, into her childhood room, which isn’t hers either—she doesn’t even have house keys. On the train there, she muses about her circumstances and the link between the lack of personal space and her ability to achieve anything: “I had not found a job with which I could afford to put my life in one place.”

I’m grateful to Adriana Vargas for bringing Three Rooms to my attention and for her excellent conference paper.

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Bloomsbury Books is a quiet, dusty, tradition-bound London bookstore that has persisted and resisted change for a hundred years, run by men. But in 1950, it’s a new world, and at Bloomsbury Books, the girls in the shop have plans.

This is from the dustcover promo in my serendipitous sale table acquisition, Bloomsbury Girls, a recently published novel by Natalie Jenner, author of the international best-seller The Jane Austen Society.

My first reaction was to cringe at the title, but it’s true, we were all still girls, regardless of age, in 1950. The novel is a coming-into-their-own story about three women challenging the set-in-stone hierarchy at a fictional bookstore in Bloomsbury.

Real-life personages—Daphne du Maurier, Peggy Guggenheim, Samuel Beckett—appear as characters in the novel, but you can’t be in a Bloomsbury bookshop without the spiritual presence of and references to Virginia Woolf.

When Vivien is named acting manager during a temporary shake-up, the first thing she does is create a prominent display of classic women authors. Woolf, she observes, is “the only woman whom the male stiff did not seem to mind taking up valuable shelf space,” but she moves them all front and center:

Anne Bronte would gain her rightful place next to her sisters, Katherine Mansfield would join her longtime pen pal Virginia Woolf, and Elizabeth Gaskell would emerge from the Victorian shadow of Dickens, Thackeray, and Trollope.

Vivien is a closeted writer, too. After one of her stories is plagiarized by a male colleague, she expresses her frustration to a friend in Queen Square, near the store. Returning to the shop,

she knew she was angrily stomping the very ground where T.S. Eliot had worked as an editor, Virginia Woolf had drawn inspiration for her novel Night and Day, and Thackeray had set his earliest chapters in Vanity Fair.

Evie, doing research in the store’s archives, rues the many lost and forgotten books and wants to reprint the important ones: “Typeset and print it, just like Virginia Woolf ‘n’ her husband did … with a handpress, in her drawing room!”

Light and just a bit frothy, but entertaining. Woolfians could do worse than transplant ourselves to an earlier time in a Bloomsbury square.

 

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