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Virginia Woolf would have been 140 today. So today, as we near the end of year two ofVW Diary Vol. 5 the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems fitting to look at the moody diary entry she wrote a day after her fifty-ninth birthday in 1941, when she, Leonard, and the rest of the world were living through year two of the Second World War.

Her diary entry of Sunday, Jan. 26, 1941, shows that despite the difficult state of the world, she slogs on with her work as she battles depression and vows that “[t]his trough of despair shall not, I swear, engulf me.”

She bemoans the solitude and the smallness of her current life at Monk’s House in Rodmell and details her “prescription” for survival:

Sleep & slackness; musing; reading; cooking; cycling; oh & a good hard rather rocky book – p. 355, The Diary of Virginia Woolf, Volume 5.

Woolf’s words convey pandemic feelings

To me, so much of this entry pertains to our pandemic state in the present day. We work. We battle uncomfortable feelings. We refuse to be engulfed by despair. We see our current lives as smaller — much smaller — than they once were.

But we go on anyway, doing whatever necessary in this “cold hour.” We sleep. We think. We read, we cook, we cycle. We surf, we Google, we Zoom.

We press our noses to the closed door, hoping it will open soon.

Here is Woolf’s diary entry for the day after her 59th birthday in its entirety.

1941

Sunday 26 January

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.

This trough of despair shall not, I swear, engulf me. The solitude is great. Rodmell life is very small beer. The house is damp. The house is untidy. But there is no alternative. Also days will lengthen. What I need is the old spurt. “Your true life, like mine, is in ideas” Desmond said to me once. But one must remember one cant pump ideas. I begin to dislike introspection. Sleep & slackness; musing; reading; cooking; cycling; oh & a good hard rather rocky book–viz: Herbert Fisher. This is my prescription. We are going to Cambridge for two days. I find myself totting up my friends lives: Helen at Alciston without water; Adrian & Karin; Oliver at Bedford, & adding up rather a higher total of happiness. There’s a lull in the war. 6 nights without raids. But Garvin says the greatest struggle is about to come–say in 3 weeks–& every man, woman dog cat even weevil must girt their arms, their faith–& so on.

Its the cold hour, this, before the lights go up. A few snowdrops in the garden. Yes, I was thinking: we live without a future. Thats whats queer, with our noses pressed to a closed door. Now to write, with a new nib, to Enid Jones (354-355).

Google Doodle in commemoration of Woolf’s 136th birthday

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Today would be Virginia Woolf’s 138th birthday. Garrison Keillor features her in today’s “The Writer’s Almanac,” a nice tribute.

But the most high profile tribute on the occasion of her birthday was in 2018, when she was honored by a Google Doodle. Created by London-based illustrator Louise Pomeroy, it generated a lot of publicity for Woolf, prompting a variety of birthday greetings from around the globe.

Links to a few from that year and others are below, along with Keillor’s 2020 tribute.

Jan. 25, 2018 Google Doodle in commemoration of Woolf’s 136th birthday

 

  • In 2017, the Royal Opera House asked for reader reactions to Woolf’s work in conjunction with Wayne McGregor’s ballet Woolf Works.
  • In 2018, the LA Times memorialized Woolf in a long article that included this sentence: “A pioneer of stream-of-conciousness writing, Woolf left behind an endlessly influential body of work,” the LA Times in 2018.
  • That same year, The Independent published Woolf quotes that pertained to various aspects of life.
  • Book Trib celebrated with previews of her 10 greatest works.
  • Last year, CR Fashion Book asked us to “Remember when Virginia Woolf Taught Us How to Get the Girl?”
  • Also in 2018, Time magazine uploaded a brief video on Woolf titled, “Today Is Virginia Woolf’s 136th Birthday: Here’s What You Should Know About Her.”

Birthday wishes from the past on Blogging Woolf

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The Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain will celebrate Virginia Woolf’s birthday on Saturday, Jan. 25, with its 21st annual Virginia Woolf Birthday Lecture featuring Claire Davison “Singing Songs of Sixpence? Virginia Woolf, Ethel Smyth and the languages of music.”

Tavistock Hotel

Davison is Professeur de Literature Moderniste, University Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris.

Lecture: 2 p.m; doors open at 1:30 p.m.
Location: MAL 532, Main Building, 5th floor, Birkbeck College, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HX
Wine Reception: 3:15 p.m.
Location: Dining room, Tavistock Hotel, WC1H 9EU
Cost: £20 Virginia Woolf Society members/ students & concessions, £25 non-members. The price includes a wine reception at the Tavistock Hotel following the lecture and a printed copy of the lecture to be posted.

Tickets: For tickets, please apply to Lynne Newland, send cheques to 84 Waterman Way, London, E1W 2QW, giving email address for receipt of payment; or pay by BACS to Virginia Woolf Society GB, sort code 09-06-66; acct no 40411044. Bank Santander. Reference: initial/surname/BL e.g. LNEWLAND BL. If paying by BACS please notify Lynne at lynne@newlandmail.com.

Accommodations: The Tavistock Hotel is offering a 20% discount for Virginia Woolf society members. Please quote society event and membership number. The group’s contact is Tony Smith, Operations Manager.

 

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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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