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Archive for the ‘diaries’ Category

Today is Virginia Woolf’s birthday. She would have been 141. And as is customary at this time, I am poring over the eight published diary entries she wrote on or near her birthday between 1897 and 1941.

In 2016, I shared all of the published diary entries she made on her birthday, a post so popular I reposted it the following year.

Last year, I parsed her 1941 entry, comparing her mood during wartime to my mood as the second year of the pandemic came to a close.

This year, though, I am looking at details — the gifts she received, the places she went, what she was reading, and what she was writing. Read on for all that.

But first I share a happy quote — with the kind of twist customary for Woolf — from her diary entry written in 1915, on the day she turned thirty-three and she and Leonard decided to rent Hogarth House and buy a printing press, an endeavor that would come to be known as the Hogarth Press.

I don’t think I’ve had a birthday treat for 10 years; & it felt like one too—being a fine frosty day, everything brisk & cheerful, as it should be, but never is. – The Diary of Virginia Woolf, Vol. I: 1915-1919, p. 28.

What she got

At age 15 in 1897: “a gorgeous Queen Elizabeth — by Dr Creighton,” “Lockharts Life of Scott,” an arm chair, £1, a holder for her stylograph,* a diary, a pocket book – A Passionate Apprentice: The Early Journals 1897-1909, pp. 21-2.

At age 23 in 1905: “a huge china inkpot” – A Passionate Apprentice: The Early Journals 1897-1909, pp. 227-8.

At age 33 in 1915: “a beautiful green purse,” a first edition of The Abbot, and  “a packet of sweets” – The Diary of Virginia Woolf, Vol. I: 1915-1919, p. 28.

At age 36 in 1918: “a fine cow’s horn knife” and a pair of red handknit socks that tied at the ankle – The Diary of Virginia Woolf, Vol. I: 1915-1919, p. 113.

Her diary entries around her birthday after 1918 do not mention gifts.

What she did, what she read, what she wrote

At age 15 in 1897 – What she did: “I went out for a walk round the pond after breakfast with father, it being Nessas drawing day. Went out with Stella to Hatchards about some book for Jack, and then to Regent St. for flowers and fruit for him; then to Wimpole St. to see how he had slept, and then to Miss Hill in Marylebone Rd. Jo [Fisher] was there discussing the plans for Stellas new cottages with Miss Hill. All three learnedly argued over them for half an hour, I sitting on a stool by the fire and surveying Miss Hills legs — Nessa went back to her drawing after lunch, and Stella and I went to Story’s to buy me an arm chair, which is to be Ss present to me — We got a very nice one, and I came straight home, while Stella went on to Wimpole St.” – – A Passionate Apprentice: The Early Journals 1897-1909, pp. 21-2.

At age 23 in 1905 – What she did and what she read:  “Another lazy morning — read however the greater part of my review book, so that will be written tomorrow with luck — & then? . . . Violet to lunch . . . Georges motor after lunch, in which we did various long distance jobs — then home, read my review book, & dinner at 7.30 as we went with Gerald to Peter Pan, Barries play — imaginative & witty like all of his, but just too sentimental — However it was a great treat.” – A Passionate Apprentice: The Early Journals 1897-1909, pp. 227-8.

At age 33 in 1915 – What she did and what she read: “I was then taken up to town, free of charge, & given a treat, first at a Picture Palace, & then at Buszards . . . But to make up, we exactly caught a non-stop train, & I have been very happy reading father on Pope, which is very witty & bright—without a single dead sentence in it.” – The Diary of Virginia Woolf, Vol. I: 1915-1919, p. 28.

At age 36 in 1918 – What she did and what she read: “Barbara came, & together we “dissed” 4 pages, & L. printed off the second 4 at the printers—altogether a fine days work . . . before 7.30 came Clara [Woolf] & the Whithams . . . Writing all the morning, reading & walking the rest of the day.”  – The Diary of Virginia Woolf, Vol. I: 1915-1919, p. 113.

At age 39 in 1921 – What she did and what she wrote: “had tea, & calculated the costs of printing Tchekov; now L. is folding the sheets of his book, & Ralph has gone, & I having taken this out of the press proceed to steal a few minutes to baptise it . . I’m at a crisis in Jacob: want to finish in 20,000 words, written straight off in a frenzy. And I must pull myself together to bring it off.” – The Diary of Virginia Woolf: Volume II: 1920-1924, p. 86.

At age 48 in 1930 – What she did and what she read: “on my birthday we walked among the downs [at Rodmell] . . . At night I read Lord Chaplin’s life.” – The Diary of Virginia Woolf: Volume III: 1925-1930, p 285.

At age 49 in 1931 – What she wrote: “have returned to Waves: & have this instant seen the entire book whole, & how I can finish it–say in under 3 weeks.” – The Diary of Virginia Woolf: Volume IV: 1931-1935, p. 7.

At age 59 in 1941- What she did, what she read, and what she wrote: “A battle against depression, rejection (by Harper’s of my story & Ellen Terry) routed today (I hope) by clearing out kitchen; by sending the article (a lame one) to N.S.: & by breaking into PH 2 days, I think, of memoir writing . . . a good hard rather rocky book–viz: Herbert Fisher . . . . Now to write, with a new nib, to Enid Jones.” – The Diary of Virginia Woolf: Volume V: 1936-1941, pp. 354-5.

Read the full quotes from Woolf’s diaries regarding her birthdays.

*a fountain pen

Twitter celebrates Virginia Woolf’s birthday in advance

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On Saturday, Dec. 31, 1932, Virginia Woolf wrote a relatively long entry in her diary. I include a portion of that entry here:

This is in fact the last day of 1932, but I am so tired of polishing off Flush–such a pressure on the brain is caused by doing ten pages daily — that I am taking a morning off, & shall use it here, in my lazy way, to sum up the whole of life. By that phrase, one of my colloquialities, I only mean, I wish I could deliver myself of a picture of all my friends, thoughts, doings, projects at this moment . . .

For example, with Julian & Lettice Ramsay last night — why not simply become fluid in their lives, if my own is dim? And to use ones hands & eyes; to talk to people; to be a straw on the river, now & then — passive, not striving to say this is this. If one does not lie back & sum up & say to the moment, this very moment, stay you are so fair, what will be one’s gain, dying? No: stay, this moment. No one ever says that enough. — Diary 4, pp. 134-5.

Read on for Woolf’s New Year’s resolutions for 1931 and 1936.

 

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Virginia and Leonard Woolf made their sole trip to Ireland in late April and early May of 1934. They traveled to counties Cork, Kerry and Galway, and they also spent time in Dublin.

In her diaries, Virginia mentioned some of the specific things she loved about the Emerald Isle. They included:

  • “the perfection of Irish conversation,”
  • the “character and charm” of “half squalid” Irish life,
  • and the “rocks and the desolate bays.”

So today, put on your green and read more about the Woolfs’ 1934 trip, complete with photos that attempt to portray — with a 21st century twist — what she saw in Ireland.

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Mireille Duchêne, a Virginia Woolf scholar from France, last year published a new work on Woolf in both French and English that includes the modernist writer’s unpublished notebook for the years 1907-1909.

The French edition

Virginia Woolf, Carnet inédit (1907-1909) (Editions Universitaires de Dijon (EUD), Université de Bourgogne). Text Established, Edited, Translated in French and with an Introduction by Mireille< Duchêne.

The English edition

Virginia Woolf, An Unpublished Notebook (1907-1909). Text Established, Edited and with an Introduction by Mireille Duchêne (Editions Universitaires de Dijon (EUD), Université de Bourgogne).

Woolf’s journal and her education

Woolf’s unpublished journal is made up of hastily written notes on the Greek and Latin classics which she had read avidly since adolescence.

While it was long thought that Woolf had no formal college education, that has been proved false. We now know that 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. 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.

About the book

From the publisher comes this description:

Between 1907 and 1909 Virginia Woolf, who was not yet a world-famous writer, kept a notebook which is here published for the first time. It belongs to the Monk’s House Papers (Greek and Latin Studies). These extremely precious pages written by a 25-year-old woman illustrate the novelist’s lifelong familiarity with classical humanities. They shed new light on Virginia Woolf’s biography and on a period of her existence which the Journal largely ignores. Under the guise of simple notes jotted down on paper, it offers an intellectual portrait of someone who, like the narrator in A Room of One’s Own, has not found her place in the academic world. Written at the time when the Bloomsbury group was developing, this text makes it possible to explore the links which Virginia Woolf, overshadowed by her dead father and brother, wove between classical humanities and contemporary literary experiments.

About the translator and editor

Mireille Duchêne teaches classical and modern literature at the Université de Bourgogne in Dijon. Her research focuses on childhood and education. She has published several papers on Virginia Stephen.

The reproduction of this notebook, including Woolf’s crossings-out and alterations, takes up a scant half of this slim volume. The remaining pages are split between Duchêne’s introduction and her short essays … Coming at a time when there surely cannot be many “new” things left to publish by Woolf, An Unpublished Notebook therefore takes its rightful place on the collector’s shelf.- Times Literary Supplement review, July 12, 2019

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A Virginia Woolf Word Portrait by Akron, Ohio artist John Sokol received as a Christmas gift in 2016. The words of “A Room of One’s Own” form her visage.

How did Virginia Woolf celebrate Christmas? What thoughts did that day bring to her mind? I thumbed through the edited versions of her diaries to find out.

Editor Anne Olivier Bell includes explanations of where Virginia and Leonard were at Christmas through the years. But while the edited diaries include three entries for days near Christmas, only two of Virginia’s entries were written on either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

Here is a synopsis of where the Woolfs spent Christmas from 1917 through 1940, along with what they did and what Virginia wrote.

1917: Leonard and Virginia are at Asheham for Christmas, the rented country house in East Sussex where they spent weekends and holidays from 1912 until 1919. (D1 93)

1916-1922: No mention of the Woolfs’ Christmas is included in Volumes I or II of the edited diaries.

1923: Leonard and Virginia spend Christmas at Monk’s House in Rodmell, Sussex, the 16th-century home they began occupying in 1919. (D2 278)

1924: The Woolfs are again at Monk’s House, arriving on Christmas Eve and bringing Angus Davidson with them. Virginia had collaborated with Quentin Bell to produce a Christmas Supplement to the Charleston Bulletin. It recorded scenes in the life of Duncan Grant. (D2 327)

1925: The Woolfs spend Christmas at Charleston, since Monk’s House is in the midst of alterations. Virginia and Quentin again collaborated on a written piece, this time depicting scenes from the life of Clive Bell. (D3 53)

Vanessa Bell painting of Woolf knitting in an armchair at Asheham

1926: Virginia and Leonard spend Christmas in Cornwall at Eagle’s Nest, Zennor with Ka and Will Arnold-Forster. (D3 119)

1927: The Woolf take the train from London to Lewes on Christmas Eve, then drive to Charleston. They spend three nights there before going back to Monk’s House. Vanessa and Clive are away, spending Christmas with his widowed mother in Wiltshire. (D3 169)

1928-1930: No mention of Christmas is included in Volume III of the diaries for these years.

1931: The diary for this year includes the only entry written on Christmas Day. It reads in part:

Friday Xmas morning

Lytton is still alive this morning. We thought he could not live through the night. It was a moonlit night . . . This may be the turn, or may mean nothing. We are lunching with the Keynes’. Now again all ones sense of him flies out & expands & I begin to think of things I shall say to him, so strong is the desire for life—the triumph of life…

Talk to L. last night about death: its stupidity; what he would feel like if I died. He might give up the Press; but how one must be natural. And the feeling of age coming over us: & the hardship of losing friends; & my dislike of the younger generation; & then I reason, how one must understand. And we are happier now. (D4 55)

1932-1935: The Woolfs are at Monk’s House for Christmas. In 1933, Vita Sackville-West and her two sons are guests for tea. (D4 133, 195, 266, 360)

1936-1938: Virginia and Leonard are again at Monk’s House. In 1936, they have lunch and tea with Lydia and Maynard Keynes, beginning a Christmas tradition. This year, the tea is at Tilton. In 1937, the Woolfs host lunch for the four of them. In 1938, tea is at Tilton and Christmas dinner at Charleston. (D4 44, 122, 193)

1939: The Woolfs are at Monk’s House and bicycle to Charleston in a fog for Christmas dinner. (D4 252)

1940: At Monk’s HouseVirginia pens a two-part entry dated Tuesday 24 December, which contrasts the soberness of life during wartime with the natural beauty of the countryside.The second portion reads in part:

[Later] 24th Dec. Christmas Eve, & I didnt like to pull the curtains so black were Leonard & Virginia against the sky…and then the walk by the wall; & the church; & the great tithe barn. How England consoles & warms one, in the deep hollows, where the past stands almost stagnant. And the little spire across the fields…

Yes, our old age is not going to be sunny orchard drowse. By shutting down the fire curtain, though, I find I can live in the moment; which is good; why yield a moment to regret or envy or worry? Why indeed? (D5 346)

The doorway to Virginia Woolf’s bedroom on a sunny July day at Monk’s House, Rodmell, Sussex.

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