Archive for the ‘Happy birthday’ 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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Last year, a Google Doodle marked the occasion of Virginia Woolf’s birthday. This year, it’s a book offer.

Today, Jan. 25 only, in celebration of Virginia Woolf’s 137th birthday, you can purchase the ebook version of Virginia Woolf in Richmond for £4.99.

Meanwhile, read Woolf’s own diary entries written on her birthday or the day after from the years 1897 to 1941. Some refer specifically to the gifts she received, the things she did and the people she saw on her birthday. The last one, written on Jan. 26, 1941, the year of her death, does not.

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Happy 91st birthday to Cecil Woolf, author, publisher, conference attendee and speaker, Bloomsbury walker, party giver, plaque unveiler, and the oldest living relative of Virginia and Leonard Woolf.

We wish we could be with you to celebrate today. Instead, dear man, we toast you from near and far.

You can read more about him in last year’s birthday post.

Cecil Woolf cuts the cake designed by Cressida Bell for the 100th birthday party of the Hogarth Press last June in Reading, England.

Cecil Woolf, accompanied by his wife Jean Moorcroft Wilson, talks about being The Other Boy at the Hogarth Press at the 100th birthday party for the Hogarth Press in Reading, England last June.

Cecil Woolf published his story, The Other Boy at the Hogarth Press, last spring, unveiling it at the 27th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf.

Cecil Woolf and Jean Moorcroft Wilson at their post-conference party last June at their London townhouse.

Cecil Woolf stops at 46 Gordon Square, London, while giving Blogging Woolf a personalized tour of Bloomsbury in June 2016.

Taking a break with Cecil Woolf in the Tavistock Square garden after the 2016 Woolf conference.

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Literary Hub has posted a brief visual history of covers of Virginia Woolf novels, and it is definitely worth a look. It was the site’s happy 136th birthday message last week. I had fun identifying the versions I own from 1919 to the present.

Header photo on the Literary Hub post.

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Virginia Woolf’s 136th birthday was a big one. Google Doodle led the way by using its daily doodle to pay homage to her on her special day. The drawing lit a Woolfian wildfire of birthday candles that spread across the globe, with media big and small sharing the news, along with social media users.

Google Doodle in commemoration of Woolf’s 136th birthday

Links to media coverage of the Google Doodle birthday tribute to Woolf

Other birthday tributes

  • At The Guardian, author Kait Welsh suggested that we celebrate Woolf rather than Burns on Burns Day, as they share the same birthday.

    Virginia Woolf taking tea, photograph by Lady Ottoline Morrell, June 1923

  • At The Weekly Standard, Chris Deaton admired Woolf’s extraordinary writing in To the Lighthouse.
  • At The Independent, Joe Sommerlad discussed what makes Woolf famous.
  • At Quartz, Thu-Huong-Ha extolled the lessons Woolf teaches about how to be a thinking woman.
  • Marie Clare shared nine important feminist Woolf quotes from A Room of One’s Own.
  • Mental Floss shared some, too.
  • At the Deccan Herald, readers were challenged with a Woolf quiz.
  • On Facebook, the Great British Tea Party posted an image of Woolf taking tea with Ottoline Morrell.
  • Goodreads shared the Google Doodle on its Facebook page.
  • Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls Facebook page posted a tribute, along with many others.

Google Doodle artist tweeted her thoughts


And Twitter blew up with birthday greetings, including a special one from National Trust Books that featured Monk’s House and another from the National Museum of Women in the Arts that showed Judy Chicago’s preparatory drawings for her Woolf plate in The Dinner Party.



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