“If Shakespeare had never existed, he asked, would the world have differed much from what it is today? Does the progress of civilisation depend upon great men? Is the lot of the average human being better now than in the time of the Pharaohs? Is the lot of the average human being, however, he asked himself, the criterion by which we judge the measure of civilisation?”—Virginia Woolf in To The Lighthouse (via daysofreading) (via awritersruminations)
“The young man had killed himself; but she did not pity him; with the clock striking the hour, one, two, three, she did not pity him, with all this going on. There! the old lady had put out her light! the whole house was dark now with this going on, she repeated, and the words came to her, Fear no more the heat of the sun. She must go back to them. But what an extraordinary night! She felt somehow very like him - the young man who had killed himself. She felt glad that he had done it; thrown it away while they went on living. The clock was striking. The leaden circles dissolved in the air. But she must go back. She must assemble. She must find Sally and Peter. And she came in from the little room.”—Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway
I have burned to write to you ever since you were here last. The East Wind made my journey in the train an impossibility; it set up ponds and pools in my left lung wherein the Germs and the Toxins—two families I detest—bathed and refreshed themselves and flourished and multiplied. But since then so many miracles have happened that I don’t see how one will be able to bear real, full Spring. One is almost tired already—one wants to swoon, like Charles Lamb, before the curtain rises—Oh God! to look up again and see the sun like a great silver spangle, big bright buds on the trees, and the little bushes caught in a net of green. But what I chiefly love, Virginia, is to watch the people. Will you laugh at me? —it wrings my heart to see the people coming into the open again, timid, airing themselves; they idle, their voices change and their gesture. A most unexpected old man passes with a paper of flowers (for whom?), a soldier lies on the grass hiding his face, a young girl flies down a side street on the—positive—wing of a boy—…
Virginia, I have read your article on Modern Novels. You write so damned well, so devilish well.
But I positively must see you soon. I want to talk over so much—Your room with the too deep windows—I should love to be there now. Last time the rambler roses were nearly over and there was a sound of someone sawing wood.
“Suddenly, as if the movement of his hand had released it, the load of her accumulated impressions of him tilted up, and down poured in a ponderous avalanche all she felt about him.”—Virginia Woolf, To The Lighthouse (via daysofreading) (via awritersruminations)
Six years ago Jonathan and Caroline Zoob were settled in south-west London with no thought of moving, when a newspaper article caught their eye: ‘How would you like to share your home with 7,000 visitors a year?’ They read on to discover that the National Trust was looking for new tenants for Monks House, the former country home of Leonard and Virginia Woolf. The tenants would live upstairs, look after the garden and open the house to the public twice a week. Jonathan, a keen gardener, and Caroline, an embroiderer and textile artist, were intrigued and within two days of sending off their CVs, were on their way to an interview at the house.(…)
In 1919 Virginia Woolf and her husband Leonard, leading lights of the literary Bloomsbury Group, bought this modest weatherboarded house in the main street of Rodmell as a retreat from London life. The large garden and beautiful view across the river Ouse to the hills beyond made up for some of the disadvantages of the house. These included a well as the only source of water and oil lamps for lighting.
During their years at Monk’s House the Woolfs entertained some of the best-known literary and artistic figures of the day. Among the visitors were Vita Sackville-West, Lytton Strachey, E.M. Forster, Maynard Keynes, T.S. Eliot and Roger Fry. Many were members of the Bloomsbury Group which Virginia and Vanessa founded with their brother Thoby.
There are only echoes of Virginia Woolf at Monk’s house but the house is full of reminders of the talented circle in which she moved. At Monk’s House there are pieces of painted furniture by Vanessa and Duncan Grant in post-Impressionist style. In the sitting room there is a table and chairs in muted abstract designs relieved by a panel of peaches on the back of each chair. Decorated china by Duncan Grant, Vanessa Bell and her son Quentin is displayed on the mantlepiece and in the dresser in the tiny kitchen. Every room is hung with paintings by the family circle. There are paintings and portraits by Vanessa including a haunting likeness of Virginia.
The garden is still as the couple left it. There is a large open lawn where they played bowls, some fine old trees and three ponds. Near the house there is a formal garden where paths, yew hedges and flint walls shelter a herbaceous area.
Virginia and Leonard Woolf divided their time between Monk’s House and their London house until 1940 when the latter was bombed. After the novelist Virginia Woolf took her life in 1941, drowning in the River Ouse, her ashes were scattered under an elm just beyond the garden of Monks House.
The plaque which her husband, Leonard, raised to her memory is now inside the garden. It has a quotation from her novel ‘The Waves’.
“London itself perpetually attracts, stimulates, gives me a play and a story and a poem, without any trouble, save that of moving my legs through the streets… To walk alone in London is the greatest rest.”— Virginia Woolf on London
I told you in the course of this paper that Shakespeare had a sister; but do not look for her in Sir Sidney Lee’s life of the poet. She died young—alas, she never wrote a word. She lies buried where the omnibuses now stop, opposite the Elephant and Castle. Now my belief is that this poet who never wrote a word and was buried at the cross–roads still lives. She lives in you and in me, and in many other women who are not here to–night, for they are washing up the dishes and putting the children to bed. But she lives; for great poets do not die; they are continuing presences; they need only the opportunity to walk among us in the flesh. This opportunity, as I think, it is now coming within your power to give her. For my belief is that if we live another century or so—I am talking of the common life which is the real life and not of the little separate lives which we live as individuals—and have five hundred a year each of us and rooms of our own; if we have the habit of freedom and the courage to write exactly what we think; if we escape a little from the common sitting–room and see human beings not always in their relation to each other but in relation to reality; and the sky. too, and the trees or whatever it may be in themselves; if we look past Milton’s bogey, for no human being should shut out the view; if we face the fact, for it is a fact, that there is no arm to cling to, but that we go alone and that our relation is to the world of reality and not only to the world of men and women, then the opportunity will come and the dead poet who was Shakespeare’s sister will put on the body which she has so often laid down. Drawing her life from the lives of the unknown who were her forerunners, as her brother did before her, she will be born. As for her coming without that preparation, without that effort on our part, without that determination that when she is born again she shall find it possible to live and write her poetry, that we cannot expect, for that would he impossible. But I maintain that she would come if we worked for her, and that so to work, even in poverty and obscurity, is worth while.
“Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.
For Lucy had her work cut out for her. The doors would be taken off their hinges; Rumpelmayer’s men were coming. And then, thought Clarissa Dalloway, what a morning—fresh as if issued to children on a beach. What a lark! What a plunge! For so it had always seemed to her, when, with a little squeak of the hinges, which she could hear now, she had burst open the French windows and plunged at Bourton into the open air. How fresh, how calm, stiller than this of course, the air was in the early morning; like the flap of a wave; the kiss of a wave; chill and sharp and yet (for a girl of eighteen as she then was) solemn, feeling as she did, standing there at the open window, that something awful was about to happen; looking at the flowers, at the trees with the smoke winding off
them and the rooks rising, falling; standing and looking until Peter Walsh said, “Musing among the vegetables?”—was that it?—”I prefer men to cauliflowers”—was that it?”— Mrs.Dalloway, Virginia Woolf
“A certain melancholy has been brooding over me this fortnight. I date it from Katherine’s death. The feeling comes to me so often now – Yes. Go on writing of course: but into emptiness. There’s no competitor.”—Virginia Woolf, on Katherine Mansfield (via katherinemansfieldproject)
The following is a quote from a speech given by writer Virginia Woolf to a graduating class in 1931. I’m not sure why, when reading the transcript of the speech, this hit me so hard. But, when I did read it, I found myself laughing aloud (something that generally doesn’t accompany my…
“The merest schoolgirl, when she falls in love, has Shakespeare or Keats to speak her mind for her; but let a sufferer try to describe a pain in his head to a doctor and language at once runs dry.”— Virginia Woolf
“My God I love to think of you, Virginia, as my friend. Don’t cry me an ardent creature or say, with your head a little on one side, smiling as though you knew some enchanting secret: ‘Well Katherine, we shall see’… But pray consider how rare it is to find some one with the same passion for writing that you have, who desires to be scrupulously truthful with you – and to give you the freedom of the city without any reserves at all.”—Katherine Mansfield, in a letter to Virginia Woolf (via katherinemansfieldproject)
Moths that fly by day are not properly to be called moths; they do not excite that pleasant sense of dark autumn nights and ivy–blossom which the commonest yellow–underwing asleep in the shadow of the curtain never fails to rouse in us. They are hybrid creatures, neither gay like butterflies nor…
"In July 1934, Virginia Woolf wrote in her diary, “After 18 years I at last got rid of an affectionate domestic tyrant.” She was referring to her cook, Nellie Boxall — whose name she persistently spelled “Nelly” — whom she had finally fired after years of emotional tussling between mistress and servant.”
"The result is an absorbing and complex portrait of Woolf’s particular relation to domestics and domesticity (in her later years, amazingly, she learned to cook),but also an analysis of the shifting mores of the period and, most particularly, of the often forgotten individuals whose faithful service to the Woolfs and to servant-swapping Bloomsbury enabled the creation of much high-modernist art.”
"Clearly the relationship between Nellie and her employer was one of mutual disgruntlement and repeated scenes, as consuming as any dysfunctional intimate friendship. But after the single sentence in her diary in which Virginia records Nellie’s departure, the cook vanishes from her records forever: “After 1934 Nellie Boxall was expunged, as if she had indeed been murdered on that last day. No more references, no more fleeting glimpses of her as there are of Lottie Hope or Sophie Farrell, only a blank, after 18 years of intimacy. No letters or reminders were kept.” This is all the more surprising because, Light makes clear, their paths continued to cross. “
"Sophie Farrell came to work as a cook for Virginia’s parents, Julia and Leslie Stephen, in 1886, when Virginia was only 4 years old. Sophie stayed on with the family after Julia Stephen’s early death from rheumatic fever in 1895, and would remain a presence in Virginia’s life right up to its end(…)"
(NOTE: This essay was written on very short notice. Someone else was scheduled to write about Woolf but, as we all know, things happen and it just wasn’t possible but I do hope that this person one day writes about Woolf and, when she does, I want to read it because she…
“Wind and storm colored July. Also, in the middle, cadaverous, awful, lay the grey puddle in the courtyard, when holding an envelope in my hand, I carried a message. I came to the puddle. I could not cross it. Identity failed me. We are nothing, I said, and fell. I was blown like a feather. I was wafted down tunnels. Then very gingerly, I pushed my foot across. I laid my hand against a brick wall. I returned very painfully, drawing myself back into my body over the grey, cadaverous space of the puddle. This is life then to which I am committed.”— Virginia Woolf