Posts Tagged ‘The Hours’

At a time when inaccurate information spreads like wildfire via social media, it’s refreshing to learn that a major media outlet is interested in fact checking something as seemingly minor as a literary quote, particularly one attributed to Virginia Woolf.

“You cannot find peace by avoiding life” was the quote attributed to Woolf and shared more than 300 times by a Facebook group called “English literature and Linguistics.”

USA TODAY on the hunt

Then USA TODAY noticed. And reporter Rick Rouan, based in Columbus, Ohio, started checking into it. On his own, he was unable to find a record of Woolf saying or writing those words.

So he contacted a couple of folks in the Woolf community, including Blogging Woolf and Benjamin Hagen, assistant professor of English at the University of South Dakota who is heading up this year’s Woolf conference and serves as president of the International Virginia Woolf Society.

Woolfians join the search

I searched my copy of Major Authors on CD-ROM: Virginia Woolf and found no such statement in Woolf’s work. But Hagen traced it to the 2002 film “The Hours,” which is based on Michael Cunningham’s novel of the same title, inspired by Woolf’s 1925 novel Mrs. Dalloway.

The Facebook group that posted the quote Rouan investigated has apparently removed it from its page. Fact-checking information shared online is something USA TODAY does regularly, Rouan told me.

Read more about the hunt for the quote and its origins in “Fact check: Quote attributed to Virginia Woolf was in a movie, not her primary work.”

A collection of memes found in a Google search that include the quote falsely attributed to Woolf

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I just stumbled across a saved email from two years ago that included a link to a 16-minute YouTube video that provides a photographic timeline of Virginia Woolf’s many looks, from youth to adult, from formal to playful.

The music accompanying the timeline, which I am belatedly sharing, is by Philip Glass, who also composed the music for the 2002 film “The Hours.”

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Mrs Dalloway in slipcase. Courtesy of SP Books

The full-length draft of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway was waiting for me when I returned in July from the Literature Cambridge course Virginia Woolf’s Gardens. Lucky me.

As I eagerly opened the heavy package, I thought I knew what to expect from this handwritten manuscript of what would become Virginia Woolf’s famous 1925 novel. After all, its publication had been highly publicized by the mainstream press and widely shared on social media.

What I didn’t expect was its beautiful detail, its literal weightiness, and the fact that Woolf’s draft would be so very different from the final product we know, love, study, and write about today.

June 3, 2019, tweet from @BookBrunch

A lusciously weighty volume

Published by SP Books, the volume is luscious and large. Measuring 13″ x 9.5″ it is hand-bound, with linen-textured covers of dark green and a slipcase to match. The lettering on the cover and slipcase, including Woolf’s distinctive signature, is a rich metallic gold. Each volume is hand-numbered from one to 1,000. All of these beautiful features indicate the importance of this limited edition classic book, as well as the author we love.

The manuscript reproduces the three handwritten stitched notebooks, much of them written in Woolf’s trademark purple ink, in which she drafted “The Hours.” Written between June 27, 1923, and October 1924, these notebooks would eventually become her classic novel Mrs. Dalloway.

Virginia Woolf’s Signature. Courtesy of SP Books

Holding genius in one’s own hands

One usually must visit a library, a museum, or some other official place to study Woolf’s writing process in detail. When we visited the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge as part of our Literature Cambridge course, we saw the first draft manuscript for Woolf’s classic feminist polemic A Room of One’s Own (1929). Each of us had a few precious minutes with the manuscript, noting Woolf’s edits and marginal notes and taking photos.

Bookmark. Courtesy of SP Books

Now, however, thanks to SP Press, any of us who can rustle up about £190 or $220, can own our very own Woolf manuscript, giving us the opportunity to study it in detail at our leisure.

The Woolf draft, along with others in the series, provide, “A return to ‘slow reading’ in a digital age” and “offer an intimate insight into the writer’s mind and thought-processes, showing their crossings-out, notes and revisions,” according to SP Press.

Female-centric and revolutionary

I admit that I haven’t had time to read the manuscript from cover to cover. Woolf herself had trouble reading her own handwriting at times, so imagine how difficult it is for the unaccustomed common reader to parse her penmanship.

First page of notebook 2 (purple ink). Courtesy of SP Books

But it’s easy to see from the opening pages that the draft Woolf produced is totally different in focus, tone, and structure from the novel she eventually created. While Mrs. Dalloway focuses on Clarissa, introducing her with the famous line, “Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself” (MD 1),”The Hours” initially focuses on Peter Walsh and includes this opening line:

In Westminster, where temples, meeting houses, conventicles, & steeples of all kinds are congregated together, there is at all hours & halfhours, a round of bells, correcting each other, asseverating that time has come a little earlier, or stayed a little later, here or here. – “The Hours”

So a quote from Michael Cunningham‘s introduction to the SP Books facsimile of “The Hours” certainly rings true: “Had Woolf completed a novel called “The Hours,” it would not have been the Mrs. Dalloway that has become a cornerstone of 20th-century literature.”

The back story

The facsimile edition includes an essay from Woolf scholar Helen Wussow that provides the genesis of the character of Mrs. Dalloway, as well as that of the manuscript itself.

According to Wussow, Leonard Woolf wrote to Vita Sackville-West after Virginia’s death to tell her that her friend and lover had left a manuscript to her. Leonard’s job was to choose which Vita would receive. He decided upon Mrs. Dalloway, sending Vita the entire manuscript on June 21, 1941. The British Library eventually purchased it from her.

Wussow also details the whereabouts of the typescript (not yet found) and page proofs for the novel, as well as Woolf’s working methods.

More on SP Press

Other SP Press limited edition copies of handwritten manuscripts include classics such as The Great Gatsby, Jane Eyre and The Picture of Dorian Gray. Follow them on Twitter @saintsperes.

Title – 1 – 1923. Courtesy of SP Books

1st opening, on the 1st page of notebook 1. Courtesy of SP Books

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While doing research on Mrs. Dalloway a few years ago, one of the aspects of the novel I became interested in was the role of time construction in the narrative.

As we know, Mrs. Dalloway takes place in a few different times and places. However, a more curious question became how many hours, from Clarissa going to buy the flowers by herself, to the end of the narrative, “for there she was,” does the novel take place in?

Mrs. Dalloway can be broken down into three sections: the beginning, when Clarissa goes out to buy flowers at ten; the ending, her “rebirth” after a long, nearly fatal, illness, followed by the central part of the novel, including flashbacks and the preparation for the dinner party in the evening; finally, the third section of the novel, the 30 “dead,” years in between.

Anna Benjamin’s 1965 essay “Towards An Understanding Of The Meaning Of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway includes a chart detailing the times in which corresponding events take place in the text, according to textual evidence. While Benjamin admits the beginning and ending times for the novel “are not preciously stated” she, using textual evidence, concludes that the novel begins at ten in the morning and ends approximately around midnight.

At the time in which Benjamin is writing there is some contention as to how long the novel takes. Melvin Friedman argues for ten to ten. Dean Doner argues rather unreasonably for 17 hours, from ten to three in the morning. Molly Hoff has also written about this in more contemporary times. Nowhere in my research did I find a more conclusive chart than Benjamin’s:

10 a.m.

“First a warning, musical; then the hour, irrevocable. The leaden circles dissolved in the air.

11 a.m.

Peter calls on Clarissa a little after eleven.

11:30 a.m.

“…struck out between them with extrordinary vigour, as if a young man, strong, indifferent, inconsiderate, were swinging dumb-bells this way and that.”

11:32 a.m.

“like a hostess who comes in her drawing room…”

11:45 a.m.

“…the quarter struck-the quarter to twelve…”


“…whose stroke was wafted over the nothern part of London; blent with that of other clocks, mixed in a thin…etheral way with the clouds and wisps of smoke…twelve o’clock struck as Clarissa….laid her green dress…

1:30 p.m.

…a sense of proportion, until the mound of time was so far diminished that a commericial clock…announced genially…

1:30-2 p.m.

Lunchtime in Mayfair.

3 p.m.

…for with overpowering directness and dignity the clock struck three…

3:30 p.m.

…that solemn stroke which lay flat like a bar of gold on the sea…

3:32 p.m.

“…came shuffling in with its lap full of odds and ends, which it dumped down as if Big Ben were all very well with his majesty…”

6 p.m.

Mrs. Dalloway’s letter reaches Peter.

8 p.m.

Peter sees young people heading to the pictures.

8 p.m.

Dinner is also over at the Dalloways. The first guests arrive for the party.


“…with the clock striking the hour…one, two, three…There!”

This chart makes the most sense to me. I have found it quite useful for both my own research on the novel and for discussion and understanding the text in general. I wonder if there is a more useful, or recent, chart out there amongst Woolf scholars?

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Two controversies take up significant space in our Woolf sightings this week.

Dust-up number one: V.S. Naipaul’s arrogant claim brought to light in a Guardian report that no woman writer can match him — not even Jane Austen or Virginia Woolf. For this topic, see sightings numbered 23 through 27.

Dust-up number two: Michael Cunningham, author of The Hours, is justly criticized by participants on the VWoolf Listserv for reducing Woolf to an insecure mad woman in another Guardian interview. Other complaints include the factual inaccuracies in his musings about Woolf and her work, the false modesty inherent in his complaint that he is considered a peripheral expert on Woolf and his lack of knowledge about her. See numbers seven through nine.

  1. Can You Learn About Happiness From Virginia Woolf? I Think So, Forbes (blog)
    Assay: Recently, I posted a quotation from Virginia Woolf for my weekly quotation. I often quote from Woolf, because she’s one of my very favorite writers. And, as has happened before, I got a few comments from readers saying,
  2. More Re-read Recommendations from Ms. Cheap & friends, The Tennessean (blog)
    Here is the list plus some other great ones that people have recommended to add to the list: A Room of One’s Own, by Virginia Woolf. Patrick O’Brian series of Jack Aubrey-Stephen Maturin sea stories. Let me know what books you would add (just
  3. When bad people write great books, Salon
    TS Eliot was an anti-Semite, Virginia Woolf a snob and Ezra Pound a flaming fascist, but I’m not ready to shrug off “The Waste Land,” “To the Lighthouse” or “The Cantos.” Charles Dickens’ shortcomings, on the other hand, were more personal than
  4. Old-fashioned fun, Buffalo News
    “I spent a lot of years trying to be Virginia Woolf, trying to be Chekhov,” Simonson said. “With the Major, I have found my authentic voice. And it is funny.” To celebrate “Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand” being selected as The Buffalo News Book Club’s
  5. The philosopher, his dream for an Oxbridge in London and a rumpus on campus, Evening Standard
    “Yes, but then you think of Virginia Woolf looking mournful. No, we think New College of the Humanities works pretty well, has the right kind of resonance.” At around this point, the doorbell rings and I nip to the loo. I count no fewer than nine
  6. Alchemist’s “Fool for Love”; too cool?, ThirdCoast Digest
    The play’s Virginia Woolf-like premise and powerful tension are grueling, but even so, this cast seems under-wrought. Ligocki Peters’ May maintains a singular, disconnected mode. As the focal point of two lovers, she seems aloof.
  7. Across the literary pages, Spectator.co.uk (blog)
    Michael Cunningham, author of The Hours, disabuses readers of the Guardian of their misconceptions about Virginia Woolf. ‘Virginia Woolf was great fun at parties. I want to tell you that up front, because Woolf, who died 70 years ago this year,
  8. Woolf, my mother and me, The Guardian
    Virginia Woolf was great fun at parties. I want to tell you that up front, because Woolf, who died 70 years ago this year, is so often portrayed as the Dark Lady of English letters, all glowery and sad, looking balefully on from a crepuscular corner of
  9. Michael Cunningham discusses The Hours, The Guardian
    Drawing inspiration from the life and work of Virginia Woolf, the novel is told through the narratives of three generations of women. In 1920s Richmond Virginia Woolf struggles to make a start on her new book. In 1940s Los Angeles Laura,
  10. Captivating Portraits and Raw Collages: Why Carl Köhler’s Art is Worth the Looking, NY Arts Magazine
    Henry Miller, Virginia Woolf, Antonin Artaud – Carl Köhler knew them all. At least, so it seems when facing his portraits. From the edgy, black lines of Franz Kafka, crudely cut in wood, to the airy blue shades used to capture the sensitivity of Joyce
  11. Our Dinner with the Dead at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, SF Weekly (blog)
    The conceit was that 12 dead celebrities, through an elaborate metaphysical contrivance/wormhole, had ended up at a dinner salon hosted by Virginia Woolf. Over the course of two hours, McSweeney’s editor and poet Jesse Nathan held forth with imagined
  12. 6/5: McSweeney’s Jesse Nathan and composer Chris Janzen’s Dinner at the , San Francisco Chronicle (blog)
    What would happen if Gertrude Stein, Thelonious Monk, Bobby Fischer, Salvador Dali, Billie Holiday, and Michael Jackson showed up for a dinner party at Virginia Woolf’s house? This fantastical scenario comes to life in “Dinner,” a
  13. Diary: Patti Smith, Vanity Fair

    Patti Smith as pictured on the Vanity Fair website

    I was an artist, but the world insisted on treating me as though I were just another little girl with a tattoo on her shoulder, a reefer in her mouth, and a Virginia Woolf doll drowning each day in her basin. Walking into the lobby of the Chelsea hotel

  14. Theater review: ‘Ordinary Days’ at Serenbe Playhouse, Access Atlanta
    In “Ordinary Days,” aspiring artist Warren (Serenbe founder Brian Clowdus) finds a notebook that belongs to graduate student Deb (Laura Floyd) and contains all her thesis research on the English novelist Virginia Woolf. The pair meet in front of a
  15. A Wider View of Authorship: Eroticizing the Past, Bookslut
    Her narrative draws upon many texts, most readily Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar’s The Madwoman in the Attic and Rainer Marina Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet. The first part of the book, entitled “Journeys,”
  16. Four Economic Questions to Ponder, Minyanville.com
    2008 and (to a much lesser degree) in 2011 resemble the frail psyches of Cleopatra and Marc Antony, Kurt Cobain, Marilyn Monroe, Ernest and Margaux Hemingway, Hunter S. Thompson, Vincent van Gogh, Billie Holiday, Diane Arbus and Virginia Woolf.
  17. Battle of the sexes, The Hindu
    “I love authors like Virginia Woolf, Mahashweta Devi and Ismat Chughtai not because of their feminism but because of the frank portrayal of human nature which can put to shame any man worth his salt,” admits Payal Tewari. She adds that the diversity
    Orhan Pamuk born this day (7th June, 1952) often calls himself an admirer of modern writers like Faulkner, Proust and Virginia Woolf. In his teens he sought painting but soon gave up the idea after winning a Novel Contest for his novel kakanlik ve Isik
  19. Hans P. Kraus Jr. to Exhibit Early British Masters of Photography at , Art Daily
    Julia Margaret Cameron’s dramatic portrait, Stella – study of Mrs. Herbert Duckworth, an 1867 albumen print, depicts the timeless Victorian beauty who was Cameron’s niece and the mother of Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell. The skies over prewar London
  20. Lost generation, Boston Globe
    Virginia Woolf, feeling faint on a wintry Berlin trip, needs to eat; she points to some pastry at a nearby table; Heinrich Mann, who is eating it, nods politely. Joseph Roth walks by. (Woolf, representing a different kind of contemporary shattering,
  21. The Other Mann, Wall Street Journal
    Amid so many germane references to writers sent abroad by the Nazis, the book includes dozens of passages about a writer who was not: Virginia Woolf. This tick is, at best, irrelevant; at worst, ludicrous. (She had nothing to do with Heinrich Mann or
  22. House of Exile by Evelyn Juers, The Independent
    Apart from the Mann brothers, the likes of BertoltBrecht, Sigmund Freud, Joseph Roth and Ernst Toller jostle for space with Virginia Woolf, whose struggle for life and art is threaded through the narrative. But it is Heinrich Mann who stands at the
  23. Naipaul reconciles with Theroux, then denigrates all women writers, Buffalo News (blog)
    Is Virginia Woolf the “equal” of James Joyce? Is Toni Morrison a better writer than Saul Bellow? Each us us can advance our respective arguments, but these are arguments about status and value, not about reading and writing as creative experiences in Read Woolf vs. Joyce in the context of women’s history.
  24. Offensive but VS Naipaul’s views also reflect the malady of a “mimic man”, Economic Times
    Virginia Woolf isn’t around to point out he’s, with due ill-will, inverting precisely what she said in A Room of One’s Own. Jane Austen too can’t make a character out of him, in her quiet, sharp way. But if she could, with her hinted-at knowledge of
  25. Naipaul is right in part about women novelists, Evening Standard
    And no, I’m afraid Virginia Woolf doesn’t do it. I adore (early) Muriel Spark and I’m prepared to hear it for Elizabeth Bowen, Iris Murdoch, Barbara Pym, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Edith Wharton and the back catalogue of Virago, but, pound for pound,
  26. uncommon reader, Calcutta Telegraph
    Trying to justify the merit of the novels of Virginia Woolf or the stories of Katherine Mansfield is as absurd as defending the works of James Joyce or DH Lawrence. Apparently, it does not take Mr Naipaul long to decide whether a book he is reading is
  27. Against Art in Politics, and Politics in Art, The Atlantic
    Much less from F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, JD Salinger, Virginia Woolf, or the utterly appalling Percy Bysshe Shelley. So it doesn’t surprise me that Naipaul is kind of a jerk about women. Nor does it really bother me.
  28. First Lady of Fleet Street by Eilat Negev and Yehuda Koren – review, The Guardian
    Beer was examined by the doctor who subsequently treated Virginia Woolf, and she seems to have fallen victim to a practice she had once described as the popular tendency for head doctors “to imprison those from whom they differ in opinion”.
  29. House of Tammam Debuts U.K.’s Only Ethical Ready-to-Wear Wedding Gowns, Ecouterre (blog)
    Founded by Lucy Tammam, who also serves as the label’s creative director, House of Tammam is based in London’s Bloomsbury district, where novelists such as Virginia Woolf and Mary Shelley lived just around the corner. Whereas Woolf and Shelley were …
  30. Classics scholar turns his attention to 20th century author’s letters, Shetland Times Online
    He has published work on Virginia Woolf and Dorothy L Sayers, and now his edition of a collection of letters written by Rose Macaulay to her first cousin Jean Smith has been published under the title Dearest Jean. Macaulay was one of the most versatile
  31. Works by Ivy Ma on display tomorrow, 7thSpace Interactive (press release)
    Through this exhibition, visitors will be able to better appreciate scenes depicted in the classic films of Fei Mu, Yasujiro Ozu and Yoshimitsu Morita and the writing of Virginia Woolf from another perspective. The exhibition’s movie-related imagery
  32. More Than a Room of One’s Own, New York Times (blog)
    He goes on to explain that, in part, women fall short because they aren’t the boss at home. “She is not a complete master of a house, so that comes over in her writing too.” Maybe Virginia Woolf should have asked for more real estate.
  33. Charleston: the Bloomsbury Group’s favourite house, Telegraph.co.uk

    Charleston Farmhouse

    Virginia Woolf wandered its corridors, discussing philosophy with her sister Vanessa Bell. John Maynard Keynes wrote The Economic Consequences of the Peace in an upstairs bedroom. Duncan Grant – who lived here until his death in 1978

  34. A Book For All and None, Oxford Times
    As is the way in Oxford, he knows Beatrice — a Virginia Woolf expert — by sight and by reputation. The progress of their affair is interwoven with details of Nietzsche’s involvement with Russian émigré Louise von Salome more than a century before.
  35. Professors prepare for new fall courses, K College Index
    Smith’s new class, Early Modern Women’s Literature, will look at the work of “Shakespeare’s sisters,” a phrase coined by Virginia Woolf in A Room of One’s Own. In the work, Woolf laments “why no woman wrote a word of that extraordinary literature,” the
  36. Modern Is Modern Is … New York Times
    was in her late 20s and early 30s, she wrote her masterpiece, “The Making of Americans,” the first major modern experimental novel in English, predating by a decade the mature work of James Joyce and Virginia Woolf and offering an analog to Cubism.
  37. Femme- fiction unbound, Pasadena Weekly
    Mansfield left her native New Zealand for England to start her writing career, associating with notable literati like Virginia Woolf and DH Lawrence before succumbing to tuberculosis in 1923 at age 34. Gilman wrote thousands of works and journalistic
  38. SFist Tonight, 6/2: ‘Resistance to the Indignities of Modern Life’ Art Show , SFist
    poem songs that narrate — with words, jazz, rock and roll, and electronica — a fantastical, salon-like dinner party populated by Gertrude Stein, Virginia Woolf, Bobby Fischer, Michael Jackson, Billie Holiday, Glenn Gould, and other dead
  39. Honing in on the Humanities, The Stanford Daily
    However, the guidance of his fellow, Heather Love, led him to a thesis on the transience of identity in Virginia Woolf’s Waves, which relates to her topic, the power of group stigmatization. “She recognized what I was interested in and pushed me in
  40. Movie Title: Dish: Women, Waitressing & The Art of Service (Until June 9 , Uptown
    Waitressing, we see, may perfectly illustrate Virginia Woolf’s famous observation that men need women so they may feel superior to them. Of course, it goes deeper than that: it shows us that everyone seems to need to feel superior to someone.

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