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Archive for the ‘Virginia Woolf’ Category

A new study shows that Penguin Books’ publication of low-cost paperback editions of Virginia Woolf’s work helped her reach a mass market.

In “Virginia Woolf, Penguin Paperbacks, and Mass Publishing in Mid-Century Britain,” published in Vol. 25, No. 1 of Book History, Martina Vike Plock explores how Penguin negotiated financial, logistical, and ideological transactions with Leonard Woolf that re-packaged Virginia as a mass-market Penguin author (238-68).

Penguin, which had started to publish mass-produced, cheap paperbacks in the mid-1930s, began publishing Virginia’s non-fiction in 1938. In the 1950s and 1960s, Leonard went on to negotiate deals with Penguin that allowed them to publish most of her major works of fiction.

Meanwhile, Leonard continued to publish Virginia’s books under their Hogarth Press imprint.

Digging into the correspondence

Vike Plock, a professor at the University of Exeter, analyzed correspondence between Leonard and Penguin’s Alan Lane that  shows Leonard’s priority as the financial health of the Hogarth Press. Thus, sales figures of Virginia’s works were his main concern when dealing with Penguin.

Leonard refused to lease rights of Virginia’s work that were still selling well as Hogarth Press editions. As a result, only Woolf’s lesser-known titles, her essays and non-fiction, were initially signed over to Penguin Books.

The first was Virginia collection of essays, The Common Reader. First published by the Hogarth Press in 1925, it appeared as a Pelican paperback in October of 1938. Penguin Books printed 50,000 copies, sold them for 6d, and paid the Hogarth Press an advance of £150 for the paperback rights, according to a story on the University of Exeter’s website. By the end of 1965, six Woolf novels were available as Penguins.

The arrangement turned out to be mutually beneficial for both Penguin and the Woolfs, particularly since Leonard was interested in making Virginia’s work available to a wide audience.

To come up with her conclusions, Vike Plock used archival resources held at the University of Bristol. Her article takes note of the different stages, key actors, and main considerations that contributed to Virginia’s gradual assimilation into Britain’s paperback industry.

Adding a feminist perspective

However, Vike Plock explores more than the financial considerations of the deals between Penguin and Leonard. She also explores them from a feminist perspective.

The materials in the Penguin archive work in support of critical narratives arguing that Woolf’s works were posthumously seized by a patriarchal, institutional culture she had repeatedly and vociferously criticized,” she states in the abstract for her article.

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Thanks to the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain for this news about co-founder and member Stuart N. Clarke.

Co-founder of the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain, Stuart N. Clarke has been made an Honorary Fellow by the Centre for Modernist Cultures at the University of Birmingham `in recognition of his exceptional contribution to the study of Virginia Woolf.’

Work on Woolf

His work on Woolf is considerable. Well before the founding of the VWSGB, Stuart self-published Orlando: The Holograph Draft (1993). He assisted B. J. Kirkpatrick to compile the fourth edition of A Bibliography of Virginia Woolf (1997), an arduous and multifaceted task.

In 1999, he started the Virginia Woolf Bulletin for the VWSGB and was its chief editor for the first 70 issues, supplying much of the content, including full-length papers featuring original research and many of the fascinating ‘Notes and Queries’ articles.

Also for the organization, Stuart produced an edition of Virginia Woolf and S. S. Koteliansky’s Translations from the Russian, which had not been reprinted since the Hogarth Press originals of 1922 and 1923.

Apart from his work for the Society, Stuart has edited and annotated volumes five and six of Woolf’s Essays (Hogarth Press, 2009 and 2011), A Room of One’s Own with David Bradshaw (Shakespeare Head Press, 2015), and Jacob’s Room for The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Virginia Woolf (Cambridge University Press, 2020).

Clarke’s assiduous tracing of references has been especially significant in establishing the extent and complex character of Woolf’s political engagement. – Center for Modernist Studies, University of Birmingham

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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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Got £3.5 million? If you do, you can buy Virginia and Leonard Woolf’s home in Richmond. The site where they founded the Hogarth Press in 1917 is up for sale again, but this time at a lower price.

In the fall of 2017, the refurbished home, where the Woolfs lived from 1915-1924, was on the market for a price of £4.4 million. It sold in 2019 for £2.95 million, property records show.

Before the redo

Emma Woolf in front of a vine-covered Hogarth House in Richmond in 2016.

The Woolfs’ former home on The Green wasn’t always pristine. Back in June of 2016, when I visited it with Emma Woolf, the Woolfs’ great-niece and the daughter of publisher Cecil Woolf, the front was covered with thick, overgrown vine that nearly obscured the blue plaque marking it as an historic site.

At that time, unpainted plywood covered the main entrance and a list of “Site Safety” cautions was plastered to the front door of the Georgian brick home in south west London.

A lot has changed since then, as you will see when you take a look at the recent stories picturing the luxurious new state of the Paradise Road home.

A bit of Hogarth House history

I wrote about the Woolfs in Richmond back in 2010, as follows.

According to Julia Briggs in Virginia Woolf an Inner Life (2005), 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.

Richmond, Woolf’s writing, and the Great War

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. Interestingly enough, 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 later novels as well. In The Waves (1931), 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.

Likes and dislikes

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.

More on Virginia Woolf in Richmond

For an in-depth look at Woolf and Richmond, read Peter Fullager’s 2018 book Virginia Woolf in Richmond. Published by Aurora Metro Books, it provides an overview of the 10 years that Virginia and Leonard spent in Richmond, just a 15-minute train trip from central London.

In it, Fullagar explores Virginia’s diaries and letters, along with Leonard’s autobiography, to reveal how Richmond influenced Virginia’s personal life, as well as her writing life, from 1914-1924.

Hogarth House in June of 2016, overgrown with vines and with its front entrance boarded up and papered with “Site Safety’ cautions.

The blue plaque noting the historical significance of the Woolfs’ residency in Hogarth House was nearly obscured by overgrown vines in June of 2016.

Sign directing visitors to parking for Paradise Road, the location of Hogarth House.

Booth in the train station welcoming visitors to Richmond.

Richmond train station

 

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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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