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If you can get to Cambridge or London this month or next, you are in luck. You have two chances to learn more about the relationship between Maynard Keynes and ballerina Lydia Lopokova, straight from Susan Sellers, author of Firebird: A Bloomsbury Love Story, which explores the couple’s love story.

Maggie Humm, whose recent novel Talland House explores the life of Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse heroine, Lily Briscoe, joins Sellers for both conversations, the first in Cambridge and the second in London.

Here are the details for both events.

A Bloomsbury Love Story

When: Sunday 24 April 2022, 10-11 a.m. BST
Where: The Cambridge Union Society, 9a Bridge Street, Cambridge CB2 1UB
Why: Part of the Cambridge Literary Festival
Cost: Tickets £12. Book here.

Susan Sellers and Maggie Humm, two world-leading experts talk about the women of Bloomsbury, and what a lifetime of reading, researching, teaching and writing about Virginia Woolf has taught them.

An Evening in Bloomsbury with Susan Sellers and Maggie Humm

When: Thursday 5 May 2022, 6.30 p.m. BST
Where: Hatchards, 187 Piccadilly, London W1J 9LE
Cost: Tickets £10 Book here.

Join Susan Sellers discussing the lives of Bloomsbury’s most unlikely lovers, Maynard Keynes and Lydia Lopokova, with Maggie Humm.

It is the winter of 1921 and Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes launch a flamboyant new production at London’s Alhambra Theatre. Maynard Keynes is in the audience, though he expects little from the evening. Despite Lydia’s many triumphs, including the title role in Stravinsky’s Firebird, Maynard’s mind is made up – he considers her ‘a rotten dancer’. Besides, Lydia has at least one husband in tow and Maynard has only ever loved men.

Tonight, however, as Susan Sellers relates, that is all about to change and while The Firebird is a fictional re-imagining, life is often stranger and more surprising. Especially, perhaps, when it comes to the lives of theBloomsbury Group.

About the speakers

Susan Sellers

Susan Sellers is professor of English Literature and Creative Writing at the University of St. Andrews. Her first Bloomsbury-inspired novel, Vanessa and Virginia, was an editor’s pick for The New York Times and has been translated into 16 languages.

Maggie Humm

Maggie Humm is an Emeritus Professor, international Woolf scholar and novelist. She has written many books on feminism, art and Virginia Woolf, and in 2020 published her debut novel Talland House, a gripping historical romance/detective fiction set in picturesque Cornwall and London during World War I. Shortlisted for several prizes including Eyelands and Impress, Talland House was chosen by the Washington Independent Review of Books as one of its ’51 Favorite Books’ of 2020.

 

When the don met the dancer – this is the story of how Maynard Keynes, the great economist, fell for Lydia Lopokova, celebrity ballerina and Russian émigrée. And it is also a story of resistances, when a different kind of woman stepped into the settled world of Virginia, Vanessa, and all the rest of their English entourage. – In Firebird, Susan Sellers restages the bright Bloomsbury years of the early 1920s as they have never been seen before. – Rachel Bowlby

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What’s new — and old — in the world of Virginia Woolf and books? A couple of things.

A graphic biography

First, the new. In the summer of 2024, Weidenfeld & Nicolson will publish Virginia Woolf: A Graphic Biography,  Ella Bucknall’s “fascinating, engaged and deeply scholarly” graphic biography of Virginia Woolf.

The publisher says: “From Woolf’s earliest memoirs of the sound of the sea in St. Ives to her final submersion in the River Ouse, Bucknall tells the story of Woolf’s life, recalling deaths and marriages, friendships and rivalries, creative droughts and floods of inspiration.

“Combining her distinctive and intricate illustrations, with a scholar’s intellect and understanding of Woolf’s life and works, Bucknall’s is a completely original approach to this most beloved author, and a pioneering contribution to the biography genre.”

This is the first book for Bucknall, a writer and illustrator currently studying for a Ph.D. in creative writing at King’s College London.

Woolf tells all in Literary Confessions

Now the old. The book Really and Truly: A Book of Literary Confessions, was expected to sell for between £4,000 – £6,000 at Dominic Winter Auctioneers in Gloucestershire in January. Instead, it fetched £21,000.

In it, Woolf, along with Rose Macaulay, Rebecca West, Hilaire Belloc, Stella Benson and Margaret Kennedy, shares her thoughts on the best and worst writers in the literary world.

Woolf completed her questionnaire on May 6, 1924, answering all 39 questions and signing it using her trademark purple ink. The questions ranged from “who is the greatest prose writer that ever lived” to who was the “worst living English playwright”. The ten sets of handwritten answers were dated between 1923 and 1927.

Woolf named T.S. Eliot and Clive Bell as “the best living critic of literature.” She answered that Jane Austen was “the best deceased English novelist.” And when asked to name the deceased men of letters whose character she most disliked, she wrote: “I hate all dead men of letters.”

Margaret Kennedy’s grandson William Mackesy found the book while sorting through his late grandmother’s effects.

In under 100 handwritten words, in her distinctive purple ink, Virginia Woolf tells us so much about her literary passions and aversions. One could read whole biographies to seek out such snippets and here all is set out pithily on two pages. – Chris Albury, auctioneer

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Today is the 25th World Book Day. And although it is a day targeted to developing a reading habit in children, adults can celebrate as well. What better author to celebrate with than Virginia Woolf?

To that end, I have two resources for you.

Virginia Woolf Starter Pack

The first is a Virginia Woolf Starter Pack. Offered by Much Ado Books, it includes four Woolf classics.

They are gift wrapped and embellished with a Woolf bookmark and a couple of tea bags ready for brewing as you settle in to read the four paperbacks in the set:

  • A Room of One’s Own (1929)
  • Mrs. Dalloway (1925)
  • To the Lighthouse (1927)
  • Orlando (1928)

Guide on where to start with Woolf

The second comes from the New York Public Library. All four of the volumes included in the starter pack, along with The Waves (1931), are included in the guide on “Where to Start With Virginia Woolf” provided by the NYPL.

The library includes a brief synopsis of each novel and recommends reading them in this order:

  1. Mrs. Dalloway
  2. A Room of One’s Own
  3. To the Lighthouse
  4. The Waves
  5. Orlando

A book list of her own

Meanwhile, Woolf scholar Maggie Humm’s Twitter post today included a list of the books Woolf liked and disliked most in 1924, 98 years ago.

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Dogs and Virginia Woolf is the subject of a newly published long-form essay by Mireille Duchene, author of After Virginia Woolf, An Unpublished Notebook (1907-1909). Published in French, Entre chiens et Woolf, une affaire de femmes (EUD, Essais) (Between Dogs and Woolf: A Women’s Affair) is in the form of a revisited biography.

In this 146-page essay, Duchene investigates the issues of animals in literature and gender and identity.

Woolf, women and dogs

She also explores the unique relationship between Woolf and her dogs and the place they hold in her daily life and imagination. Duchene discusses the dog Woolf had in childhood, as well as the dogs of her powerful female friends, Violet Dickinson, Vita Sackville-West, and Ethel Smyth, mistresses of a chow-chow, a greyhound and sheepdogs. And Duchene also covers Shag, Woolf’s faithful terrier companion, of whom Woolf wrote a funny and touching obituary for The Guardian, which is reprinted in French in Entre chiens et Woolf, une affaire de femmes.

More on Woolf and dogs

An earlier work discussing this topic is Shaggy Muses: The Dogs Who Inspired Virginia Woolf, Emily Dickinson, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Edith Wharton and Emily Bronte.

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In All the Lives We Ever Lived: Seeking Solace in Virginia Woolf, Katharine Smyth links her own story with Woolf’s To the Lighthouse.

Published last year, Smyth’s memoir tells the story of her own family, of discovering her parents as people, and of her father’s alcoholism and death. She does it all while weaving in literary criticism of Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse.

By doing so, critics say she creates the perfect medium for reflecting on grief, loss, and marriage, on the way family morphs as you age, on memory and the difficulties of trying to understand who your parents are, and who they once were. Wow. That’s an armload to take on in one book.

The memoir’s title comes from the poem “Luriana Lurilee” by Charles Elton that Woolf references in To the Lighthouse.

That Gordon ties Woolf’s semi-autobiographical novel to her memoir is quite fitting, as Woolf focused her work on her own parents in the roles of Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay.

This is a transcendent book, not a simple meditation on one woman’s loss, but a reflection on all of our losses, on loss itself, on how to remember and commemorate our dead. –  Charlotte Gordon, The Washington Post

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