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What color were Virginia Woolf’s eyes? That has turned out to be a puzzling question that has me still searching for the answer, while begging forgiveness for the pun.

“Jane Austen’s Book Club” puzzle by eeBoo, which depicts Woolf (front, far right, as a blue-eyed blonde)

The question occurred to me after completing a 1,000-piece eeBoo puzzle titled “Jane Austen’s Book Club.” Woolf, along with Austen, Mary Shelley, George Eliot, and Zora Neale Huston, are pictured sipping tea, alongside some of their famous titles.

Wasn’t she a brown-eyed brunette?

The puzzle was fun to put together and I was happy to add it to my collection of Woolf puzzles. I am even planning to frame it. But it left me wondering why artist Jennifer Orkin Lewis pictured Woolf as a blue-eyed blonde.

All of the paintings and photos I have seen of Woolf depict her with dark hair. And although her father, Leslie Stephen, is said to have had steely blue eyes, I have never seen her described that way.

In the famous color photos of Woolf by Gisele Freund, taken in her Tavistock Square home in London just before World War II broke out in 1939, Woolf’s eyes appear to be brown. It was the last portrait taken of Woolf and the only one in color. I have also seen Woolf’s eyes described as grey, although that source does not seem reliable. But never blue.

So I have emailed the artist to ask for some insight into her color choices. I’ll let you know what I hear.

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The Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain has postponed two events until next year, due to the coronavirus.
  1. The Virginia Woolf Short Stories Conference and General Meeting, originally scheduled for this Oct. 17, will instead be held Saturday April 10, 2021, from 10:30 a.m. – 4 p.m., with registration beginning at 10 a.m.
    Venue: Oriental Club, First Floor, 11 Stratford Place, London WIC IES, opposite Bond Street tube.
    Cost: £35 Members, students & conc., £38 non-members. Lunch and refreshments are included. The event is sold out but please email latham_phillips@yahoo.com if you would like to join a waiting list. Please note any member is welcome to attend the AGM at 2 p.m.
  2. The Virginia Woolf and St. Ives Conference, originally scheduled for this fall, will instead be held Thursday, Oct. 7, to Sunday, Oct. 10. For members only.
    Venue: Porthmeor Studios, Back Road West, St Ives, TR26 1NG, Cornwall.
    Details: The conference will include talks on To the Lighthouse, Virginia in St Ives, Julia Stephen, St. Ives Artists and Writers and St. Ives local history. Visits to the Tate St. Ives, Talland House garden and Zennor will be part of the conference. Accommodations to be booked by attendees. Two dinners will be booked in St. Ives, with lunch and refreshments provided during the day. The timetable is designed around the Paddington train.
St. Ives bay

St. Ives Bay, June 2004

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Two years ago, when the third Wednesday in June was officially chosen as #DallowayDay, no one would have imagined that a worldwide pandemic would force us to devise or search out virtual or individual events to celebrate the fine day in June when Clarissa Dalloway went walking through London to “buy the flowers herself.”

But that is what has happened. And here are some of the events available tomorrow, Wednesday, June 17, on #DallowayDay2020, as we celebrate Virginia Woolf’s 1925 novel, Mrs. Dalloway.

  • The Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain wants Virginia Woolf readers to send them photos of how YOU are celebrating #DallowayDay or Virginia Woolf’s work this month. Send them to Sarah M. Hall at smhall123@yahoo.co.uk with a line or two of description. The society may put them on the VWSGB website or Facebook page, but you can let them know if they are for the society’s eyes only.
  • View “A Moment in the Life of Virginia Woolf,” a virtual art exhibition online June 17. All works are for sale. There is also an illustrated pamphlet, ‘A Moment in the Life of Virginia Woolf: A Lighthouse Shone in Tavistock Square’, which uses Virginia Woolf’s own words from letters, diaries and excerpts from the novel. And you can view a video of the project.
  • The Royal Society of Literature has a full slate of virtual events for Dalloway Day.
    • It has joined with Literary Hub, whose managing editor Emily Temple will host a Zoom-based book group on the novel tomorrow. The event is sold out, but you can sign up to be placed on a waiting list.
    • Another RSL remote event, in partnership with Charleston, is “The Common Reader in Uncommon Times” June 17 at 6:30 p.m. BST.
    • A third RSL remote event is “The Pleasure of the Everyday” June 17 at 8 p.m. BST.
  • “For it was the middle of June,” a Dalloway Day blog post from the British Library.
  • If you are near London, the VWSGB also offers its Mrs. Dalloway Walk in London, from Dean’s Yard, Westminster, to Regent’s Park. According to the society, this walk combines Mrs Dalloway’s journey, from her house to Bond Street where she buys the flowers and hears the car backfire, with Rezia’s and Septimus’s (they also hear the car at the same time) from Bond Street to Regent’s Park. (Please note: You may find that certain locations on the walk are inaccessible during lockdown.)
  • Listen to a discussion of Woolf’s novel on BBC Radio 4.
  • Listen to “Queer Bloomsbury, Stillness in art and dance” on BBC Radio 3 June 17 at 10 p.m.
  • Watch an 18-minute video provided by the British Library in which Elaine Showalter explores modernity, consciousness, gender, and time in the novel. On the British Library site, you can also view Woolf’s drafts of some pages of the novel.

And if you understand Italian, you can follow along with the DallowayDay 2020 video from the Italian Virginia Woolf Society.

 

 

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Charleston

Lovers of Charleston, rejoice! If you’ve always longed to attend a Charleston Festival in May in East Sussex, you can now attend online — for free. And if you’d like to add some paper touches of Charleston to your home office, you can do so now, while helping the financially challenged Charleston at the same time.

Celebrating and helping from home

The Charleston Festival, the main fundraising event for the longtime home of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant and the country refuge for the Bloomsbury group, is staying home, like many of us around the globe as we weather the current coronavirus pandemic.

And now that the event is available online for free, billed as the Charleston Festival at Home, more of us from around the world will be able to attend from home — and hopefully be inspired to help Charleston while beautifying our homes as well.

Cambridge Imprint has already stepped forward to contribute one-third of all profits from online sales of its Charleston range of unique paper goods to Charleston’s Emergency Appeal for the next three months, starting May 12.

The Charleston Festival at Home

Charleston’s flint and brick garden wall with a row of casts of antique heads, many of which have been replaced over the years.

The Charleston Festival at Home is a series of 10 free events bringing artists, writers, thinkers and agents of change together online to explore art, literature and society, just as the Bloomsbury group did around the Charleston dining room table 100 years ago, according to the website.

The online program runs May 15-25 and features nearly daily events that include:

  • BRICKS & MORTAR: On May 17, Hannah Rothschild and Julian Fellowes discuss historical fiction, family, and the wonderful inspiration that buildings can provide. The talk premieres at 2 p.m. BST.
  • IN PURSUIT OF JUSTICE: On May 19, Philippe Sands discusses ‘the ratlines’ — a system of escape routes for fascists fleeing Europe in the aftermath of World War II.
  • SEX, LIES & WOOLF: On May 22, Leïla Slimani speaks about her novels, beliefs, and her new collection of essays giving voice to young Moroccan women.
  • SALMAN RUSHDIE IN CONVERSATION: On May 23, Salman Rushdie returns to Charleston Festival to discuss his life and work.
  • ORDINARY LIVES & DEVASTATING TRUTHS: On May 24, Tayari Jones will explore the art of writing tangled relationships and the perils of young womanhood.

All events will be available on Charleston’s YouTube channel. Check the schedule for details or download the program. Follow the hashtag #CharlestonFestivalatHome.

About Charleston’s need

Charleston, the treasure trove of Bloomsbury art and culture, along with its garden, galleries, shop and café, are temporarily closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. That means the charity that receives no public funding is bereft of income from visitor admissions, as well as its main fundraising event. The Charleston Festival, one of the oldest and most prestigious interdisciplinary festivals in the world, was cancelled in April due to the coronavirus.

As a result, Charleston has issued an emergency appeal for donations from those who appreciate this unique venue, no matter what side of the pond they live on.

You can find out more, including how to make a donation — whether you are a UK citizen or not — here.

 

 

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Literature Cambridge has had a great response to its new Online Study Sessions, launched due to the coronavirus, and has responded by scheduling additional sessions.

Below is the schedule of those still to come. It includes those focused on Virginia Woolf, as well as other authors. The cost is a bargain at £22 full price and £18 for students and CAMcard holders.

Upcoming Online Study Sessions

  • Sunday 17 May: Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own. 1: After the War, with Trudi Tate. 18.00 BST
  • Sunday 24 May: Woolf, Mrs Dalloway. 18.00 BST (SOLD OUT)
  • Saturday 30 May: Woolf, Mrs Dalloway. 18.00 BST (repeat lecture)
  • Saturday 6 June: Woolf. A Room of One’s Own. 2: Women and Education with Alison Hennegan. 18.00
  • Saturday 13 June: Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest. 18.00 BST
  • Sunday 28 June: Katherine Mansfield, Selected short stories. 18.00 BST
  • Saturday 22 August: Angela Carter, stories from The Bloody Chamber. 18.00 BST
  • Sunday 6 September: Clothing in Virginia Woolf’s Orlando. 18.00 BST
  • Saturday 12 September: Reading The Waves Across a Lifetime, with Dame Gillian Beer. 18.00 BST

Most sessions will be held at 18.00 to 20.00 British Summer Time / 19.00 Central European Summer Time. Some sessions will take place at 10.00 am British Summer Time, for the benefit of people in different time zones, but students are welcome to book any session, wherever they are in the world. Check the web page for updates.

NOTE: BST (British Summer Time) is five hours ahead of EST (Eastern Standard Time) and eight hours ahead of PT (Pacific Time).

Literature Cambridge hopes to offer an introductory session on The Waves soon. If there is enough interest, they will offer it twice: once at 10.00 am and again at 18.00 pm BST. Date to be confirmed.

Online Study Session format and booking

Each Online Study Session has a live lecture via Zoom, followed by a moderated seminar discussion. The session lasts about 100 minutes, but please allow two hours. Details are available online.

Bookings are open and can be made online.

Resuming in-person Study Days

Literature Cambridge looks forward to being together again in person for ‘real life’ Study Days. These will take place at a new venue, Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge.

Safety permitting, these will resume on 19 September 2020 with a full day (11.00 am to 5.30 pm) on Woolf’s comic novel, Orlando (1928).

The program also has Study Days and half-days planned on George Eliot’s Middlemarch, Shakespeare’s Richard III, Jane Austen’s Emma, D. H. Lawrence’s poetry and novellas, and more.

A table full of Literature Cambridge T-shirts at the program’s 2018 summer course on Virginia Woolf’s Gardens

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