Archive for the ‘Woolf Letters’ Category

Words are important. Writers know that. Now researchers are using words to create algorithms to help prevent suicide. And they are basing their research on Virginia Woolf’s use of words in her writing before she drowned by walking into the River Ouse on March 28, 1941.VW Diary Vol. 5

Researchers from St. Joseph’s Healthcare, McMaster University and the University of Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil have analyzed that writing to create a word cloud from the 46 documents Woolf wrote during the last two months of her life, along with a cloud created from random samplings from 54 of her letter and diary entries prior to that period.

Reading the clouds

The contrast is stark, explains Dr. Diego Librenza-Garcia, a post-doctoral fellowship at the university in Brazil. 

The cloud compiled from her writing during the final months of her life includes such words as: little, miss, war, nothing, never, can’t and don’t, negative words that indicate Woolf’s hopelessness.

In contrast, the cloud compiled from happier times in Woolf’s life, frequently used words such as love, tomorrow, nice, hope and good.

The researchers created a “text classification algorithm” unique to Woolf’s vocabulary and concluded it would have been able to predict her suicide with 80.45 per cent accuracy. – The Spectator

An app that would build algorithms

The researchers hope to design an app that would build an algorithm for each individual patient that will analyze texts, emails and social media posts of at-risk patients who have consented to participate, so their caregivers can be alerted when intervention is needed to prevent suicide, according to an article in The Spectator

The research team’s study was published Oct. 24 in PLOS One, a peer-reviewed open access scientific journal.

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A three-page letter written by Virginia Woolf to Philip Morrell will be auctioned this week by British auction house Dominic Winter Auctioneers.

Woolf Morrell Letter

Pages 2 and 3 of Woolf’s letter to Morrell (photo from The Guardian)

According to an article in The Guardian by Alison Flood, the letter, written on blue paper with black ink and dated July 12, 1940, is an “exciting” piece which is set to fetch between $1,500 and $2,000:

Chris Albury at Dominic Winter, which has a guide price of £1,000-£1,500 on the letter, said that “any letter from Virginia Woolf is exciting, and there is always a mystique concerning any that might illuminate the tangled relationships of any of the Bloomsbury group and Garsington Manor set”. The Morrells lived at Garsington Manor in the 1920s, with Woolf a regular visitor.

woolf and philip morrell

Photo of Woolf and Philip Morrell in 1926 shot by Lady Ottoline Morrell

Philip Morrell
was a British Liberal politician who was married to literary hostess and muse Lady Ottoline Morrell. The Morrells both had close friendships with Virginia, and both expressed amorous feelings for her throughout their friendships.

In the letter, written eight months before her suicide, Woolf responds to news of Philip’s illness and urges him to “go on living.” From The Guardian:

“My dear Philip, I was so glad to get your letter,” writes Woolf, “Indirectly I’d heard of your illness, and was wanting more news. You must take up your lodging on the ground floor, and go on living. Far too many of my friends have given that up lately.”

She goes on to tell him that she is living in Sussex; the letter was written on 12 July, shortly after the start of the Battle of Britain, and Woolf says that she is “exposed to raids, but in the air and with flowers, rooks, gulls, and our lovely view”.

Woolf letter to philip closing lines

Photo of the last lines of the letter (photo from The Guardian)

Dominic Winter Auctioneers provides a description of the letter:

Autograph letter signed ‘Virginia Woolf’, Monks House, Rodmell, Lewes, 12 July [1940], to Philip [Morrell], glad to have had his letter having indirectly heard of his illness and wanting more news, telling him to take up lodging on the ground floor, ‘and go on living. Far too many of my friends have given that up lately. I am so glad you liked that little article. In fact, Hary-o herself isn’t a patch on some of those great ladies – for example, her cousin Lady Lyttelton; so I picked out Selina [Trimmer] by way of making a story of it. I agree: there’s a richness about the Pagan word entirely lacking in the Puritan… ‘, telling how they are living mostly down here in Sussex, ‘exposed to raids, but in the air and with flowers, rooks, gulls, and our lovely view’, saying that they do go up to London every other week and asking to come round one evening, the final paragraph enquiring on the latest of his memoir or sketch of Ottoline [Morrell], 3 pages, black ink on blue paper, lightly creased where folded, 8vo

View the auction catalog for more information on the auction and letter.

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The University of St. Andrews has acquired an archive of dozens of letters from Virginia Woolf’s friends and family collected by biographer Brownlee Kirkpatrick.

The collection includes two previously unseen photographs of Woolf.

The material will be made accessible to academics and the general public in a Special Collections Reading Room at the University of St Andrews. The Special Collections staff and the staff in the school of English have been working together to develop a Virginia Woolf and Hogarth Press research collection.

“This archive will put St Andrews even more firmly on the map as a world-ranking centre for the study of literary modernism in general and Virginia Woolf as one of its great proponents in particular,” Woolf scholar Susan Sellers told the Herald Scotland. She is also the author of the award-winning novel Vanessa and Virginia.



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It was 74 years ago today, on March 28, 1941, that Virginia Woolf left two suicide notesAfterwords behind, walked out of Monk’s House and across the Sussex Downs and headed for the River Ouse. With a stone in her coat pocket, she waded into the river and drowned. She is still missed today.

Past tributes

Many tributes have been made to her on the anniversary of her death. Eight years ago, a video, The Adventures of Virginia Woolf, was posted on YouTube that speculates on what Woolf would have accomplished if she had chosen to live on that fateful date in March of 1941.

Four years ago, the Elite Theatre Company presented the world premiere of Arthur Kraft’s  drama “Goat,” about what might have happened if a psychologist had prevented Woolf’s suicide.

That same year, her great niece, Emma Woolf, wrote an article for The Independent, “Literary haunts: Virginia’s London walks,” that speculated about what Virginia Woolf would have thought of today’s London.

“The Writer’s Almanac” has payed tribute to her.

Tributes this year

And each year on this day, social media lights up with posts that commemorate her life, her work and her death, making Woolf a trending topic. One example is @HistoryTime_’s Twitter post below that features a photograph of The New York Times coverage of her death.

History Time tweet

The most notable piece so far this year is Maria Popova’s critique of the media treatment of Woolf’s death 75 years ago in her post on Brain Pickings: “March 28, 1941: Virginia Woolf’s Suicide Letter and Its Cruel Misinterpretation in the Media.”

The perfect accompaniment to that is the video of actress Louise Brealey’s poignant reading of Woolf’s last letter to Leonard, which is posted on The Telegraph website. A video of Brealey reading the letter at the Hay Festival is also available on YouTube, but the audio is not as pristine.

Screenshot of Louise Brealey reading Woolf's last letter on The Telegraph website.

Screenshot of Louise Brealey reading Woolf’s last letter on The Telegraph website.



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Here are several Woolf sightings worth a read. And the second one is generating some heat on theVWoolf Listserv.

1. Maggie Gee explains how she came to write Virginia Woolf in Manhattan in The Guardian, Sept. 19, Virginia Woolf in Manhattan2014.

2. “Virginia Woolf, Edith Wharton, and a Case of Anxiety of Influence” in the New Yorker, Sept. 19, 2014.

This essay is generating lively discussion on the VWoolf Listserv, with writers questioning author John Colapinto’s assertion that Woolf’s lighthouse imagery in To the Lighthouse was borrowed from Wharton.  As Linda Camarasana put it, “Makes me want to tell him to read ‘Reminiscences’ and ‘A Sketch of the Past.’ Surely he should at least acknowledge Woolf’s youth, trips to St. Ives, the haunting sounds of the waves, Julia’s death, and Stella’s death as the most obvious influences on To the Lighthouse.”

Another dispute is prompted by this line of Colapinto’s: “Though I can find no record of Woolf having read The Age of Innocence, it seems unlikely that she would have failed to read Wharton’s most famous and celebrated book, if for no other reason than she would have been curious about the first novel by a woman to win the Pulitzer.”

According to Stuart N. Clarke, Woolf acknowledged  receipt of a copy of The Age of Innocence in an uncollected letter to publishers Messrs Appleton & Co. on 18 Nov 1920. The letter was published in the January 2011 edition of the Virginia Woolf Bulletin. In that issue’s accompanying note, Stephen Barkway discusses Woolf’s published comments on Wharton  and Wharton’s irritation.

3. Review of Arctic Summer by Damon Galgut, a fictional biography of E.M. Forster in the Washington Post, Sept. 18, 2014, that includes “lightly fictionalized” accounts of meetings with Virginia and Leonard Woolf.

4. London photos: Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway book bench on the Flickfilosopher blog, Sept. 18, 2014. For more, see Close-up views of the Mrs. Dalloway bench and This summer, take a seat on the Mrs. Dalloway bench

5. Professor’s new book explores theories of place in the Bowdoin Orient, Sept. 12, 2014. The People, Place, and Space Reader, a new anthology dedicated to scholars writing about the ways in which people inhabit the space around them, includes an excerpt from A Room of One’s Own.

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