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Posts Tagged ‘Maggie Humm’

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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I don’t have many positive things to say about the pandemic, but I am glad of one thing. It increased the number of online programs offered by the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain. And they make membership in the society even more worthwhile, no matter which side of the pond you are on.

The Bloomsbury Ballerina

The most recent online program was “Lydia Lopokova and Bloomsbury,” a March 16 conversation between author Susan Sellers and Virginia Woolf scholar Maggie Humm about the fascinating Russian dancer Lydia Lopokova and her complicated relationship with Bloomsbury.

Sellers, who wrote the novel Vanessa and Her Sister (2014) has a new novel coming out. Titled Firebird: A Bloomsbury Love Story, it tells the surprising story of two of Bloomsbury’s most unlikely lovers – John Maynard Keynes, the distinguished economist, and the extrovert Russian dancer Lydia Lopokova. Weaving biography and fiction, Firebird explores the tangle of Bloomsbury’s bohemian relationships as lifestyles are challenged and allegiances shift following Lydia’s explosive arrival.

Humm’s many publications on Bloomsbury include her acclaimed novel Talland House (2020), inspired by Woolf’s To the Lighthouse.

I missed the March 16 conversation, but because I am a member of the society, I can access it online as a YouTube video, via a link sent to members only.

Join up

Membership to the society for UK residents is £20, or £10 for full-time students. There are also memberships for those of us outside the UK. It is well worth it. Membership includes the following:

  • FREE Virginia Woolf Bulletin three times a year, containing articles, reviews and previously unpublished material by Woolf herself (normally £5 each)
  • Discount on Birthday Lecture: annual talk by a Woolf scholar or author, held on the Saturday nearest to 25 January
  • FREE Regular email updates, with information and news of upcoming Woolf events
  • Discount on member events: e.g. day conferences; study weekends, talks, visits; guided walks in an area connected with Woolf
  • FREE online talks and events: live and recorded events accessed by web link (members only)

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View of the front right corner of Talland House (2004)

Never underestimate the power of a Virginia Woolf scholar who has a Virginia Woolf society behind her.

Thanks to the efforts of Maggie Humm, a member of the executive council of the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain, a plaque commemorating the time Virginia Woolf spent in St. Ives, Cornwall, will be installed at Talland House.

Humm, author of the novel Talland House,was a major force behind the effort. She advocated for the move by providing St. Ives Town Council with useful and persuasive information about the summers Woolf spent at Talland House until the age of 12.

We first reported news about this effort last October. But now, we have more details and photos to share, as tweeted by @MaggieHumm1.

Timeline of the effort and fundraising

According to a story in the Jan. 28, 2022, issue of The St Ives Times & Echo, the British society first submitted a proposal for such a plaque in October of 2020. However, the Town Council did not support it due to lack of funding.

Cornwall Council and local MP Derek Thomas supported later requests from the VWSGB, which resulted in the St. Ives Town Council reversing its stand. Last month, the Council learned that the owner of Talland House also supported the move and the Council approved it by an unanimous vote.

The plaque, which will be black, will be hand-fired in Cornwall. It will be installed on the right-hand side of the east elevation on the second story of the house.

Funding details have yet to be established, but St. Ives Town Council, in partnership with the VWSGB, has launched a fundraising effort on Spacehive.

Part of a heritage trail?

Woolf’s plaque may be part of a larger effort in St. Ives, one that would use the plaques to recognize other notable people that are part of the town’s heritage.

If the heritage tied up in this remarkable property had been fully understood at an early time it may well have become the town’s main ‘heritage asset’. – “Virginia Woolf to finally be celebrated on a plaque at Talland House,” The St Ives Times & Echo, Jan. 28, 2022.

Front page of the Jan. 28, 2022, issue of the St Ives Times & Echo

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Several blue plaques commemorate London addresses at which members of the Bloomsbury Group, including Virginia Woolf, lived. Now a similar plaque — in black — will recognize Talland House, Virginia Woolf’s summertime residence in St. Ives, Cornwall.

Jean Moorcroft Wilson on the doorstep of 46 Gordon Square, Woolf’s first Bloomsbury home during #DallowayDay2018. A blue plaque noting the significance of the site is to the right of the front door.

The news, shared by Woolf scholar Maggie Humm, author of the novel Talland House, came via the VWoolfListserv, as well as social media.

Her message to the Listserv stated:

Virginia Woolf is to have a plaque on Talland House St Ives. Following my research and many requests (for the VWSGB) St Ives Town Council has just voted unanimously in support. I was able, additionally, to secure the support of the local MP. The plaque will be black (in line with Cornwall’s flag) not blue as London plaques. More details of dates/funding/design to follow.

Blue Plaque at 29 Fitzroy Square, London, where Virginia and Adrian Stephen lived from 1907-1911.

Blue plaque noting that Virginia and Leonard Woolf lived at Hogarth House, Richmond from 1915-1924 and founded the Hogarth Press there in 1917.

The blue plaque on the side of the Tavistock Hotel commemorating Virginia and Leonard Woolf’s tenure at 52 Tavistock Square, London. It was draped in blue at its unveiling in 2018.

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When I first heard that renowned Virginia Woolf scholar Maggie Humm was writing a novel featuring Lily Briscoe and based on Woolf’s semi-autobiographical novel To the Lighthouse (1927), I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy.

The opportunity came in March, when I saw on Facebook that Maggie had advance reader’s copies in her grasp. After meeting Maggie at many Woolf conferences, I consider her a friend. So I contacted her and asked for a copy. She immediately promised to send one.

Pandemic realities on both sides of the pond

A few hours later, pandemic reality hit her. Recalling that the coronavirus had pretty much grounded all international flights, thereby shutting down international mail delivery, Maggie realized that a copy mailed from England would be unlikely to reach me. She put me in touch with her U.S. publicist to obtain a copy stateside instead.

The book arrived quickly, and I expected to jump right in. But my pandemic reality meant I had difficulty focusing on Maggie’s book — or any book — until recently. That made me late finishing the novel and late posting about it here as well. But since it is now available on Amazon, better late than never. So here goes.

Talland House fills in and illuminates

Maggie, emeritus professor of cultural studies at the University of East London, is the author or editor of 14 books, with the last three focused on Woolf and the arts. So it is only natural that in her first novel, Talland House, Maggie focuses on artist Lily Briscoe from To the Lighthouse.

To that end, Talland House fills in Lily’s back story — the death of her mother, her art studies in Paris and St. Ives, her work as a nurse during the Great War, and her involvement in the suffrage movement. Set between 1900 and 1918 in both Cornwall and London, it also provides a prequel to Woolf’s novel and reimagines that work from Lily’s perspective.

That reimagining includes Mrs. Ramsay’s demise. Her death, mentioned briefly and parenthetically in Woolf’s novel, is “discovered” or explained in Maggie’s novel. But I will include no spoilers here.

While conducting research to write the novel, Maggie pored over old photos of St. Ives, as well as Cornish newspapers, artists’ memoirs, and art journals to get a feel for the seaside town and its art community during the years the novel covers.

St. Ives Bay, June 2004

The extent of her research shows in her luminous prose that paints a compelling and colorful picture of St. Ives and its charms, the location of all of Woolf’s novel and much of Talland House. The picture is so complete — from the view of the lighthouse from Talland House to the fishing boats in the harbor — that one is transported back in time to the cobblestone streets of the Cornish town.

References slipped into a must-read

Woolf scholars and readers will delight in catching the specific references to Woolf’s work that Maggie slips into this historical novel.

Lily makes note of Mr. Ramsay’s boots and his recitation of Tennyson’s poems. She recalls moving the salt cellar at dinner and describes the animal skull on the nursery wall and the tapping sound of the window blind’s acorn on the nursery floor. And in a fresh take-off on Woolf’s famous line in “Thoughts on Peace in an Air Raid” (1940), “Thinking is my fighting,” Lily proclaims that painting is hers.

If you are a fan of Woolf, this is a must-read. If you are not, it will make you want to become one, just so you can connect this enchanting novel to Woolf’s works.

More on the novel

Talland House was shortlisted for the Impress and Fresher Fiction prizes in 2017 (as Who Killed Mrs. Ramsay?) and the Retreat West and Eyelands prizes in 2018.

Read more about Talland House:

Maggie Humm has brilliantly filled in the edges beyond Woolf’s canvas; she has a deep, awe-inspiring understanding of the role of the visual in Woolf’s work, and here she reveals that she also has a novelist’s gift to create something new, that has its own imaginative life, from that understanding. -Lauren Elkin, author of the award-winning Flaneuse

Maggie Humm talking about Virginia Woolf and her photo albums at Waterstone’s Gower Street during Dalloway Day celebrations in London in 2018.

 

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