Posts Tagged ‘Cecil Woolf Publishers’

A fourth obituary for Cecil Woolf, the oldest living relative of Virginia Woolf who died June 10 in London, was published yesterday. This one appears in The Telegraph. It is listed below, along with the other three.

Cecil Woolf and Jean Moorcroft Wilson at the Nov. 22, 2014,
unveiling of the Blue Plaque at Frome Station, which recognized the marriage of Leonard and Virginia Woolf.

He had too much style and charm, however, to say more at the events and conferences he was prevailed upon to attend than that he always saw Virginia through the prism of his childhood in the 1930s. Then, she was merely a well-regarded writer rather than a feminist icon. – The Telegraph

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Obituaries and tributes to Cecil Woolf, the oldest living relative of Virginia Woolf who died June 10 in London, are ongoing. The latest is published in the June 26 issue of The Guardian.

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

The article’s subhead, “Publisher and nephew of Virginia and Leonard Woolf, he extended the hand of friendship to Woolf scholars and writers,” encapsulates an important part of the legacy of this beloved gentleman, scholar, and founder of Cecil Woolf Publishers.

In The Guardian story, Cecil’s wife, author Jean Moorcroft Wilson, reflected on her decades-long collaboration with her husband, as well as the future of the couple’s publishing house:

We had an extraordinarily good working relationship … My great wish is that Cecil Woolf Publishers continue, and I have every intention of doing my utmost to ensure it does, either with me or our children, or with someone else who shares the same values and ideals.

Although The Times June 15 obituary is behind a paywall, you can read it on this blog via photographs of the print page.

Jean also wrote an obituary that ran in the Camden News Journal, which can be read at this post.

His funeral was held in London at Golders Green Crematorium on Monday, June 24, at 3 p.m., with friends and family gathering at the family home in London home afterwards. A memorial service will also be held in late September or early October, but details have not yet been set.

His legacy

Some tributes to Cecil’s legacy have taken place; others are planned.

They include: 

  • O outro garoto na Hogarth Press: homenagem a Cecil Woolf
  • Dedication of the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain’s Dalloway Day events at Waterstones Gower Street to Cecil Woolf.
  • A special section devoted to Cecil Woolf in Issue 95, the Spring/Summer 2019 issue of the International Virginia Woolf Society’s Miscellany. Here is the call for papers:

    Call for Papers: A special section devoted to Cecil Woolf will be included in Issue 95, the Spring/Summer 2019 issue of the International Virginia Woolf Society’s Miscellany. If you would like to submit a remembrance of Cecil Woolf to be included in that section, please contact Paula Maggio at bloggingwoolf@yahoo.com. Submissions, which can be submitted via email to bloggingwoolf@yahoo.com, should be limited to 1,000 words. However, briefer remembrances are also welcome. Submission deadline is July 31.

  • The next issue of the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain’s Bulletin will be dedicated to Cecil Woolf and will include remembrances of him.


Those who would like to send a message of condolence to the family may direct it to Jean Moorcroft Wilson at 1 Mornington Place, London NW1 7RP, England.

A daughter’s tributes

Below are a selection of tweets sent by Cecil and Jean’s daughter, author Emma Woolf, in tribute to her father.



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Cecil Woolf and Jean Moorcroft Wilson at their home in London, June 2017.

The funeral of Cecil Woolf, who died June 10, will be held at Golders Green Crematorium, 62 Hoop Lane, NW11 7NL, on Monday 24 June at 3 p.m.

Golders Green Tube station is a 10-minute walk away. Parking is available both at the crematorium and after 10 a.m. on Hoop Lane.

A memorial service will also be held in late September or early October, but details have not yet been set.

His legacy

Cecil Woolf, the oldest living relative of Virginia Woolf, was renowned by the Woolf community. Some tributes to his legacy have occurred; others are planned.

They include: 

  • O outro garoto na Hogarth Press: homenagem a Cecil Woolf
  • Dedication of the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain’s Dalloway Day events at Waterstones Gower Street to Cecil Woolf.
  • A special section devoted to Cecil Woolf will be included in an upcoming issue of the International Virginia Woolf Society’s Miscellany. A call for papers will be sent soon.
  • The next issue of the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain’s Bulletin will be dedicated to Cecil Woolf.

Obituary notices

Cecil Woolf’s official obituary was published in The Times on June 15. Photos of the print story are available.

Cecil Woolf’s wife, Jean Moorcroft Wilson, also wrote an obituary that ran in the Camden News Journal. We reprint it below, with thanks to the family for sharing it.

Cecil James Sidney Woolf (20 February 1927-10 June 2019)

Cecil Woolf, the nephew of Leonard and Virginia Woolf, has died aged 92, the last person alive to have known Virginia personally; he was 14 when she committed suicide. But he was equally proud of Leonard, who died when Cecil was 42 and whose London house he shared for nearly a decade. He himself observed of Leonard, ‘How does one sum up a person as many-sided as that?’,  a remark equally applicable to his multi-talented nephew, who was a man of many parts. As his schooldays at Stowe revealed, Cecil had an exceptional mind, not only taking the equivalent of A-levels a year early, for example, but also gaining the top mark in the whole country in the English Literature paper. But instead of going on to a top university, as expected, he enlisted in the army at the age of sixteen. Entering as a private in the tank regiment in 1943, he was quickly promoted to the rank of captain for his undoubted ability, fighting in the tail-end of the Second World War in Italy, where he learnt to speak fluent Italian – ‘it’s so like Latin’, he would explain modestly –  and Palestine. Italy, Venice in particular, became for him the ‘great good place’.

After demobilization in 1947, Cecil joined the stockbroking firm of Woolf, Christie founded by two of his childless uncles, who wanted him to carry on the family business. Though he rapidly mastered the various branches of the trade, he left after only a few years to start his own antiquarian book business, happily forfeiting the guaranteed money and security of the Stock Exchange for the challenges and independence he anticipated as a free-lance writer and bookseller. It was typical of this fiercely independent man that, although Virginia Woolf was becoming recognized as one of  Britain’s greatest novelists by the nineteen-fifties and -sixties, he never traded on his relationship to her, and remained modest and unassuming almost to a fault. Likewise, though he had grown up in a house built by Cardinal Wolsey on James de Rothschild’s Waddesdon Estate and was directly related to James through James’s wife Dorothy, he never boasted of the fact or used it to his advantage. And he never tried for popular fame, though he was gifted enough to do so; he preferred a less obvious route. As a writer his bibliographies of Norman Douglas and Baron Corvo and his editions of Corvo’s novels, poems and letters are models of their kind.

Then in nineteen sixty, Cecil founded his own publishing house, inspired undoubtedly by the example of Leonard Woolf, whom he had helped at the Hogarth Press from an early age. His encouragement of young writers, like Leonard’s, became legendary. Drew Shannon was one of many grateful authors who treasured Cecil’s help, while at the same time becoming a good friend:

I think every Woolfian who met Cecil spent the first bit of time in his presence overcoming the fact that he KNEW VIRGINIA WOOLF. But happily this was really the least of it, at least for me, and I quickly began to love the man for himself: for his wit, his charm, his ceaseless energy, his tack-sharp mind, his kindness and consideration. And, underneath his charm, there was his biting wit. I will forever cherish the occasional whispered remark in my ear at many an event, remarks calculated to make me giggle and which required whatever poise I possess to keep myself straight-faced. And what might’ve seemed like name-dropping to the outsider was simply a catalog of his friendships and acquaintances. He’d say, “Jean, what year was it that we had Edward Heath over for dinner?” (Yes, that Edward Heath.) Or, “I bumped into Quentin Crisp in Regent’s Park, and he said…” Or, “T. S. Eliot once said to me…” And his priceless anecdote about Duncan Grant, looking long-haired and shaggy in the 1960s, wandering around Piccadilly; when questioned by Cecil about his appearance, Duncan spacily replied, “Well…my barber died.”

After Cecil’s first marriage ended in the late sixties, he began a relationship with Jean Moorcroft Wilson, who became his second wife and partner in the publishing business. Together over a period of fifty years they explored their shared and separate interests, Cecil’s obsession with the novelist John Cowper Powys inspiring the John Cowper Powys monographs, Jean’s fascination with the First World War poets, on whom (encouraged by Cecil) she would write a number of biographies, giving rise to their War Poets’ series and their joint admiration for Leonard and Virginia Woolf spawning their Bloomsbury heritage titles, always eagerly awaited at annual Virginia Woolf Conferences in America and England. Together they would edit two highly topical books,Authors Takes Sides on the Falklands and Authors Take Sides on the Gulf and Iraq. Cecil’s meticulous attention to detail ensured books of the highest quality in both content and appearance. He was running Cecil Woolf Publishers with Jean’s help until shortly before his death.

Moving to Camden Town in 1979, Cecil became a familiar figure walking along the High Street in his tweed jacket and corduroys. His burning sense of justice led him to fight long and hard for a number of causes, including the extradition of a local shopkeeper. (This prompted a letter from the Home Secretary but sadly failed to save the shopkeeper.) And he and Jean organized an exhausting but ultimately successful campaign to reopen Mornington Crescent tube station when it was threatened with closure.(At the reopening ceremony, hosted by Humphry Lyttelton, chair of ‘I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue’, Cecil was mistaken for Lyttelton, whom he slightly resembled.) Coming late to fatherhood at 47, Cecil was as closely involved in the care and upbringing of their five children, Kate, Philip, Emma, Alice and Trim , as any father could be, introducing them to wonderful books on his nightly readings to them and leaving them with a passionate love of literature and ideas. They were all   devoted to him.

Cecil was a man who chose his words very carefully and every one of them counted. And although he thrived in the world of ideas, he was enormously practical: when he and Jean eventually found the ‘little ruin’ in France they had been searching for at the extremely modest price they could afford, it was Cecil who plumbed and wired it, Jean acting as plumber’s and electrician’s mate. Anything, he believed, was possible if you could find the right book to advise you. A man of striking contradictions, he was at the some time one of the most serious yet most humorous and witty people imaginable. Though stubborn, even at time pugnacious in a cause he believed in, he was also conspicuously kind, very gentle and always polite and considerate. An essentially private, rather shy man in his younger years, he took to public speaking in later life with surprising enjoyment. He talked with increasing pleasure of his early memories of staying with Leonard and Virginia Woolf at Monk’s House, Rodmell, or at Tavistock Square, their last house in Bloomsbury, where he helped them pack books for the Hogarth Press orders in the basement.

It is not for his memories of a literary icon only that Cecil will be remembered by his family and friends, however, or even for his wonderful books, but for his originality as a person, his creativeness, his brilliance, his generosity, his kindness and his essential humanity.

Jean Moorcroft Wilson and Cecil Woolf on stage at the 2016 Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf at Leeds Trinity University.

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Cecil Woolf, the oldest living relative of Virginia Woolf who was renowned by the Woolf community, died June 10 in London. The official obituary of this gentleman, scholar, and founder of Cecil Woolf Publishers, is now in The Times.

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

Although it is behind a paywall, you can read the entire piece by signing up for a free one-month trial subscription. For another option, look at the photos of the newspaper story included at the bottom of this post.

Other tributes to Cecil include:

Book and floral display at Dalloway Day events at Waterstones Gower Street in London, with a photo of Cecil Woolf in Tavistock Square, taken by Blogging Woolf, as the centerpiece. Photo courtesy of Vara Neverow.

A special thanks to Emma Woolf, daughter of Cecil Woolf and Jean Moorcroft Wilson, who shared the photo of The Times June 15, 2019, obituary of her father on Facebook.

Emma Woolf shared this photo of The Times obituary on her Facebook page.

Vara Neverow sent Blogging Woolf this photo of Cecil Woolf’s June 15, 2019, obituary in The Times.

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It is with great sadness that I share news of the passing of Cecil Woolf, the oldest living relative of Virginia and Leonard Woolf, who died Monday, June 10, 2019, in London at the age of 92 after suffering a stroke. He was also a dear personal friend and a much-loved member of the Woolf community, revered by scholars and common readers alike.

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

A mentor and friend

A speaker at Woolf conferences and the founder and publisher of Cecil Woolf Publishers, a small London publishing house in the tradition of the Woolfs’ Hogarth Press, Cecil was also a tremendous mentor and friend to the many Woolf scholars, both new and old, that he met at Woolf-related events.

Wherever he went, whether an Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf, an event sponsored by the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain, or a simple visit to a London bookshop, he impressed those he met with his unassuming charm, astute intelligence, and subtle wit.

I was lucky enough to meet Cecil at my first Woolf conference, the 17th, held at Miami University of Ohio in Oxford. I had just completed my Master’s degree at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio, for which I had written my thesis on Woolf and war.

Drew Shannon, organizer of this year’s 29th Woolf conference, which ended Sunday at Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati, and Kristin Czarnecki, current president of the International Virginia Woolf Society, realized I was a newcomer and graciously took me under their wing. In the process, they pointed out Cecil Woolf. I was awed, excited, and determined to meet him.

The next day, I wasted no time introducing myself to this famous but amazingly approachable gem of a man. We hit it off immediately and a 12-year friendship began, during which Cecil published five monographs I wrote for his Bloomsbury Heritage Series. Throughout those years, we corresponded by Royal Mail and email, with Cecil offering gentle encouragement, helpful advice, recommended reading, and moral support. Later, I learned that all his authors received the same considerate care. I was not surprised.

Paula Maggio of Blogging Woolf and Cecil Woolf at his London home in June 2018.

A street-haunter and host

Ever the gracious host for newcomers to his city of London, Cecil gave me a personal tour of Bloomsbury after the 2016 Woolf conference. We spent seven hours exploring Bloomsbury together, with one stop for lunch and another for tea. Throughout our six-mile walk on that fine June day, the conversation with this witty, insightful, and well-read man never flagged.

Knowing I was alone in London, he and his wife Jean Moorcroft Wilson also hosted me for dinner at their London townhouse during that trip, a meal we ate on the table where Virginia and Leonard worked at the original Hogarth Press. I was thrilled.


My little “mascot” Virginia on the Hogarth Press table at the home of Cecil Woolf and Jean Moorcroft Wilson.

I was so thrilled by the experience that I left behind my small Virginia Woolf doll — which Cecil always called my “mascot” — after setting her up for a photo shoot on the Hogarth Press table. Upon arriving at my hotel without her, I emailed Cecil about my forgetfulness. He graciously delivered my little Virginia the next day, adding a bit of whimsey. He delivered her in a box wrapped in white paper and marked with the address of my hotel. Included was a clever card that read, “Dear Paula, I’ve come home! Love, Virginia XX”

Cecil and Jean regularly invited Woolf scholars and common readers into their home, where the wine was plentiful, the food expertly prepared, the company delightful, and the ambiance distinctly Bloomsbury.

After the 2017 event, they held a post-conference party, where art by Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell surrounded guests. And after the 2018 conference in Canterbury, the couple hosted a dinner for a small group of Woolf conference attendees still in London.

A speaker and presence

Cecil Woolf with his 2017 monograph, The Other Boy at the Hogarth Press.

At conferences, Cecil displayed and sold his volumes in the Bloomsbury Heritage Series and was often a featured speaker at those events. The reminiscences about his famous aunt and uncle and the time he spent with them are treasured by conference-goers.

Cecil later documented his stories in The Other Boy at the Hogarth Press: Virginia and Leonard Woolf as I Remember Them, the monograph he published in 2017 as part of his Bloomsbury Heritage Series. I will always treasure the copy he signed for me.

Two years ago, at the 27th conference at the University of Reading in Reading, England, Cecil was also called upon to speak and perform a ceremonial cake cutting at the 100th anniversary of the Hogarth Press.

Cecil was often invited to assist at ceremonies honoring his Uncle Leonard. In 2014, he planted a Gingko biloba tree in Tavistock Square garden to commemorate the centennial of the arrival of Leonard in Colombo, Ceylon. Also that year, Cecil spoke at the unveiling of a Blue Plaque commemorating his uncle’s 1912 marriage proposal to Virginia at Frome Station.

Cecil Woolf cuts the cake designed by Cressida Bell for the 100th birthday party of the Hogarth Press in June 2017 at the University of Reading in Reading, England.

He sometimes attracted media attention. At the Woolf conference in New York City in 2009, he was interviewed by The Rumpus, sharing stories of Virginia and Leonard, as well as his own history in publishing.

An advocate and legacy

It is fortuitous that at this year’s Woolf conference, with its theme of social justice, an entire panel was devoted to Cecil’s publishing work on the topic of war and peace. Held on June 8, it featured papers by me and four other Woolf scholars.

The panel title was “The Woolfs, Bloomsbury, and Social Justice: Cecil Woolf Monographs Past and Present” and it included the following:

  • Chair: Karen Levenback (Franciscan Monastery). Introduction to Cecil Woolf Publishers
  • Lois Gilmore (Bucks County Community College), “A Legacy of Social Justice in Times of War and Peace.”
  • Paula Maggio (Blogging Woolf, Independent Scholar), “Cecil Woolf Publishers: Using the Power of the Press to Advocate for Peace.”
  • Todd Avery (University of Massachusetts, Lowell), “Just Lives of the Obscure: Cecil Woolf, Biography, and Social Justice.”
  • Vara Neverow (Southern Connecticut State University) Respondent

After our panel ended, we made a commitment to publish our papers in a suitable medium. We agreed that such work should be made available to current and future scholars who want to explore, recognize, and document the legacy of Cecil Woolf and Cecil Woolf Publishers regarding topics of Woolf, war, peace, Bloomsbury, and more.

Condolences and comments

Cecil was loved and revered by countless friends and scholars around the world, including those who study John Cowper Powys, another of Cecil’s areas of speaking and publishing expertise.

Those who would like to send a message of condolence to the family may direct it to Jean Moorcroft Wilson at 1 Mornington Place, London NW1 7RP, England.

Meanwhile, I invite you to share your recollections and tributes to Cecil in the comment box located under the heading “Leave a reply” at the very bottom of this post. 

Jean Moorcroft Wilson and Cecil Woolf with their display of Bloomsbury Heritage monographs at the 26th Woolf conference at Leeds Trinity University in Leeds, England, in 2016.
Emma Woolf with her father Cecil Woolf at his London home in June 2017.
Cecil Woolf, Jean Moorcroft Wilson, and Vara Neverow at the 25th Conference at Bloomsburg University in Bloomsburg, Pa., in June 2015. 
Paula Maggio of Blogging Woolf takes a break with Cecil Woolf in the Tavistock Square garden after the 26th Woolf Conference in June 2016.
Patrizia Muscogiuri and Cecil Woolf chat at the 20th Woolf Conference at Georgetown College in Georgetown, Ky., in 2010.
Some of the monographs in the Bloomsbury Heritage Series.

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