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Posts Tagged ‘Virginia Woolf’s diary’

Virginia Woolf would have been 140 today. So today, as we near the end of year two ofVW Diary Vol. 5 the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems fitting to look at the moody diary entry she wrote a day after her fifty-ninth birthday in 1941, when she, Leonard, and the rest of the world were living through year two of the Second World War.

Her diary entry of Sunday, Jan. 26, 1941, shows that despite the difficult state of the world, she slogs on with her work as she battles depression and vows that “[t]his trough of despair shall not, I swear, engulf me.”

She bemoans the solitude and the smallness of her current life at Monk’s House in Rodmell and details her “prescription” for survival:

Sleep & slackness; musing; reading; cooking; cycling; oh & a good hard rather rocky book – p. 355, The Diary of Virginia Woolf, Volume 5.

Woolf’s words convey pandemic feelings

To me, so much of this entry pertains to our pandemic state in the present day. We work. We battle uncomfortable feelings. We refuse to be engulfed by despair. We see our current lives as smaller — much smaller — than they once were.

But we go on anyway, doing whatever necessary in this “cold hour.” We sleep. We think. We read, we cook, we cycle. We surf, we Google, we Zoom.

We press our noses to the closed door, hoping it will open soon.

Here is Woolf’s diary entry for the day after her 59th birthday in its entirety.

1941

Sunday 26 January

A battle against depression, rejection (by Harper’s of my story & Ellen Terry) routed today (I hope) by clearing out kitchen; by sending the article (a lame one) to N.S.: & by breaking into PH 2 days, I think, of memoir writing.

This trough of despair shall not, I swear, engulf me. The solitude is great. Rodmell life is very small beer. The house is damp. The house is untidy. But there is no alternative. Also days will lengthen. What I need is the old spurt. “Your true life, like mine, is in ideas” Desmond said to me once. But one must remember one cant pump ideas. I begin to dislike introspection. Sleep & slackness; musing; reading; cooking; cycling; oh & a good hard rather rocky book–viz: Herbert Fisher. This is my prescription. We are going to Cambridge for two days. I find myself totting up my friends lives: Helen at Alciston without water; Adrian & Karin; Oliver at Bedford, & adding up rather a higher total of happiness. There’s a lull in the war. 6 nights without raids. But Garvin says the greatest struggle is about to come–say in 3 weeks–& every man, woman dog cat even weevil must girt their arms, their faith–& so on.

Its the cold hour, this, before the lights go up. A few snowdrops in the garden. Yes, I was thinking: we live without a future. Thats whats queer, with our noses pressed to a closed door. Now to write, with a new nib, to Enid Jones (354-355).

Google Doodle in commemoration of Woolf’s 136th birthday

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My fifth day at the New York Public Library’s Berg Collection was yesterday. But since I skipped out early to go to the Athena Film Festival at Barnard College, I don’t have a lot to say about my research for the day.

Instead, I’ll tell you about my visit to the library’s current free exhibit at its 42nd Street location. Of course, it includes two Virginia Woolf items. And one of them is mentioned in the banners publicizing the exhibit.

Celebrating 100 Years” contains highlights from the library’s extensive collections, including everything from a Gutenberg Bible to one of Malcolm X’s journals. It features more than 250 items and is available through March 4.

The Woolf items on display are the walking stick she was carrying when she walked into the River Ouse on March 28, 1941, the day she died, and her March 24, 1941, diary entry, her last, in which she wrote:

A curious sea side feeling in the air today.

Read more about my time at the Berg for my NYPL Short-Term Research Fellowship:

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