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Archive for the ‘Woolf diary’ Category

The year 2014 has started off right, with writers citing Virginia Woolf heading into the new year.

The Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain marked the new year by quoting Woolf’s 1 January 1935 Diary entryVW Diary Vol. 5 on its Facebook page: “I must press a good deal of work in – remembering 53 – 54 – 55 are on me. And how excited I get over my ideas! And there’s people to see.”

A writer for Delaware’s Cape Gazette uses the following famous quote of Woolf’s in a story looking back on 2013 dining experiences: ““One cannot think well, love well or sleep well if one has not dined well.”

And a story in the Tampa Bay Times, “Five things you need to know before ‘Downton Abbey’ returns Sunday,” holds out hope that Woolf will appear in a cameo role during season four of the popular PBS soap opera. But we have heard that her appearance ended up on the cutting room floor.

 

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Marta Rodríguez Iborra submitted this guest post to Blogging Woolf. It describes her impressions of Virginia Woolf’s Diary entry written one week after Katherine Mansfield’s death.

Among all the entries of the second volume of Virginia Woolf’s Diary I would like to comment briefly on the 16 January 1923 record, as I consider it to be quite unique. Katherine Mansfield died on 9 January 1923, and so a week later VW tries to describe the impact that this loss has had on her in her private diary.

Katherine Mansfield

Katherine Mansfield

VW has some difficulty in expressing what she feels. “It is strange to trace the progress of one’s feelings. […] A shock of relief? –a rival less?” However, despite the confusion and the apparent two-fold dimension of this tragic event, VW confesses to have fallen into depression. If KM is not there anymore, what is the point of writing? VW remembers that KM once wrote a letter to her with the request: “Do let us meet in the nearest future darling Virginia, and don’t quite forget”. Now in this 16 January1923 diary entry, VW wants to analyze how far she is obeying Katherine. First of all, though, before answering that question, she needs to find out what kind of relationship they had.

Any reader of VW’s diary knows that she writes in it as a professional writer. She is obviously under time pressure and she does not correct her texts as they are private, but as far as the style, the choice of themes and the depth of her observations are concerned, one notices that VW can hardly take off her mask of experienced writer, of an intellectual woman. In fact the mask is her skin. As an exquisite writer Woolf describes emotions in a literary way, at the exact distance avoiding a pathetic undertone. So even after KM’s death VW does not surrender to sentimentalism. The colour and music of her sentences are perfectly and naturally controlled by her pen. However, in this specific diary entry she exceptionally lets go. And those leaks are pure and too important to get to know our Bloomsbury diarist in a new dimension. Through the half open door of this entry the reader does not only see Virginia’s Woolf writer’s mask/face, but she/he reaches her soul, too.

In order to understand her emotion and “analyse” the situation VW writes down some of her visual impressions of KM in a kind of a flash back subjective description. “She had a look of a Japanese doll, with the fringe combed quite straight across her forehead”. Isn’t it a delicate way of describing Katherine Mansfield? And she adds “Sometimes we looked very steadfastly at each other, as though we had reached some durable relationship, independent of the changes of the body, through the eyes.” After this deep and poetic statement VW controls herself again as she doesn’t want so sound too melancholic and she continues the portrait of KM in the way she usually illustrates acquaintances or friends, namely sharply and with a particular tincture of humour or sarcasm: She had “beautiful eyes- rather doglike, brown, wide apart”, “her nose was sharp, a little vulgar” and then she moved “like some suffering animal.”

VW asks herself if KM ever cared for her and she immediately acknowledges she did. For example, the way KM looked at her, the fact that KM wanted her to read her diary. So yes, VW admits that despite the fact that KM never answered one of her letters (VW seems not be able to forget it) their friendship was true and long-lasting. “She would promise never never to forget.”

The end of the 16 January 1923 diary entry contains some traces of guilt (VW feels she did not give KM credit for her illness) and quite an important confession: VW openly admits that KM’s is “the only writing I have ever been jealous of”. Isn’t it amazing for a writer such as VW to confess she was jealous of KM’s literature? And then any good reader can feel VW’s deep pain in sentences such as “For two days I felt I had grown middle aged, & lost some spur to write.” But then again Woolf needs to gain some distance to what she has revealed, so she immediately writes that the feeling is going and that she no longer pities KM that much. However, unable to escape a sort of emotional spiral she once again admits with conviction “I have the feeling that I shall think of her at intervals all through life”. And the reason why is because “we had something in common which I shall never find in anyone else.”

In the following diary entry dated 28 January, VW confesses that she continues to write but that she does it “into emptiness” because there is no competitor anymore. That might be true, but one also feels a painful ellipsis there. VW misses KM as a human being, as a woman, as a writer, as a friend, almost as a sister, or even as an alter ego, as another I.

How could Virginia Woolf possibly ever forget Katherine Mansfield?

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archivistMeandering through the bounteous bookshelves of a writer friend in Seattle for whom I was recently house-sitting, I zeroed in on The Archivist, a 1998 novel by Martha Cooley.

The story revolves around a cache of letters from T.S. Eliot to Emily Hale that Hale bequeathed to a university library (unnamed in the novel) in 1965, with the stipulation that they not be opened until 2020. This is true; the letters are at Princeton, sealed until 2020. The archivist’s wife is a poet, and they share an interest in Eliot. After her death he takes the university position right around the time of the bequest and meets a graduate student who is interested in the letters.

Eliot’s work weaves in and out, as do issues of Jewishness, war atrocities, conversion, and identity. Eliot’s life with and abandonment of his first wife Vivienne comes into it but not so much their London milieu, with a few exceptions, including this:

Roberta (the student) to Matthias (the archivist):

I was just remembering how Virginia Woolf once said Eliot was sordid and intense. Did you know that when he was still married to Vivienne, he occasionally wore face powder when they went to dinner parties? Can you imagine? I guess he couldn’t resist the temptation to dramatize his suffering—God knows Vivienne wore hers on her sleeve.

English: T. S. Eliot, photographed one Sunday ...

English: T. S. Eliot, photographed one Sunday afternoon in 1923 by Lady Ottoline Morrell (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Of course I had to see if that was accurate (Woolf’s description, not the face powder) and found it in Woolf’s Diary, Nov. 12, 1934, about a performance of Eliot’s uncompleted verse drama, “Sweeney Agonistes”: “The acting made more sense than the reading but I doubt that Tom has enough of a body & brain to bring off a whole play: certainly he conveys an emotion, an atmosphere: which is more than most: something peculiar to himself; sordid, emotional, intense—a kind of Crippen, in a mask: modernity & poetry locked together.”

Seems to me she’s talking more about the play and his approach to it than Eliot himself. While she does implicate Eliot’s character and craft with her curt observations, the quote, out of context, strikes me as a bit too convenient for Cooley, the Woolf citation too dishy to resist. Still, it was a fascinating novel.

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Personal details of Virginia Woolf’s final years are available to the public for the first time after the University of Sussex acquired this engagement diary and seven more at a Sotheby’s auction.

Personal details of Virginia Woolf’s final years are available to the public for the first time after the University of Sussex acquired this engagement diary and seven more at a Sotheby’s auction.

The University of Sussex has purchased Virginia Woolf’s small pocket engagement diaries that she used to detail her personal life from 1930 to 1941. The last entry is for March 28, 1941, which is written in pencil by  Leonard Woolf, and simply states “Died.”

The University of Sussex has purchased Virginia Woolf’s small pocket engagement diaries that she used to detail her personal life from 1930 to 1941. The last entry is for March 28, 1941, which is written in pencil by  Leonard Woolf, and simply states “Died.”

The diaries briefly record Woolf’s meetings with contemporaries, including E. M. Forster and T. S. Eliot, along with visits to her artist sister Vanessa Bell. They also indicate when she would be staying at her home Monk’s House in Rodmell, East Sussex.

Some of the diaries include pencil lines through several dates and appointments, accompanied by the word “Bed,”indicating periods when she was experiencing health problems.

The University’s Special Collections has an extensive collection of materials related to Woolf. It bought the diaries to complement the Monks House Papers, which were donated to the University’s Special Collections in 1972 and contain Woolf’s correspondence from other writers, family, friends, admirers and publishers. They also include her reading notebooks, drafts of essays and typescripts of some of her works, proofed and corrected in her own hand.

The Monks House Papers fall into three groups: letters, manuscripts and press-cuttings. There is documentation of Woolf’s career from her earliest journalism to what was possibly her final short fiction, ‘The Watering Place’, a two-page manuscript which draws on a diary entry of 1941 written shortly before her suicide.

Fiona Courage, special collections manager, said: “The collection very much represents Woolf’s ‘everyday’ life in the same way that the pocket engagement diaries do. As with the engagement diaries, our collections relate to Woolf as an individual rather than her public persona of novelist, reviewer and essayist.

“The activities recorded in these engagement diaries  may not have found their way into her more detailed daily diaries, but  are significant in terms of her daily life, her social circle and her physical and mental state. The diaries also complement a set of appointment diaries belonging to Leonard Woolf, and held within his papers at the University.”

She added that these diaries have never been made publically available for research.“By acquiring them we can now make them accessible to scholars, enthusiasts and the general public.”

The University was able to raise the £60,000 necessary to buy the diaries with support from the V&A/MLA Purchase Grant Fund*, the Friends of the National Libraries and a number of individual donors.

Besides the Monk’s House Papers and the small engagement diaries, the University of Sussex Special Collections holds the following related materials:

  • Leonard Woolf Papers
  • Charleston Papers
  • Birrell Papers
  • Nicolson Papers
  • A.O. Bell Papers
  • Quentin Bell Papers
  • Emery Collection
  • Maria Jackson Letters
  • Mrs Woolf and the Servants: research papers

Additional biographical and literary manuscripts of Virginia Woolf that were at Monk’s House are now in the Berg Collection of the New York Public Library in New York. The Berg Collection holds the largest collection of Woolf manuscripts in the world.

Read more:

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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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VW Diary Vol. 5Today we have a link to a blog post sent in by a Blogging Woolf reader. It discusses Virginia Woolf’s lifelong habit of keeping a diary and how that practice has morphed into blogging for many today.

Is this a sad development or just a reality we must accept? And does the medium affect the message? Read “The Diary of Virginia Woolf and the Blogosphere” by at Blue Duets.

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Virginia Woolf was born 129 years ago today, so I decided to search through a volume or two of her diaries to see whether she made an effort to document the doings of the day.

I started with her last, Vol. V, the diaries that cover the last years of her life, 1936 to 1941. There were entries before and after Jan. 25, but none that mentioned her birthday itself. Instead, her entry for the day following her birthday in 1940 speaks of “moments of despair” (260), and her 1941 entry of depression and rejection (354).

In both cases, though, Woolf shakes off the gloom. In 1940, she writes that her despair is really “glacial suspense” that has “given way . . . to ecstasy” (260). In 1941, she bravely says “[t]his trough of despair shall not, I swear, engulf me” (354).

In Volume III, which includes entries from 1925 to 1930, I found one entry that mentions her birthday and notes an unusual occurence in the natural world. On Jan. 26, 1930, Woolf wrote:

I am 48: we have been at Rodmell–a wet, windy day again; but on my birthday we walked among the downs, like the folded wings of grey birds; & saw first one fox, very long with his brush stretched; then a second, which had been barking, for the sun was hot over us; it leapt lightly over a fence & entered the furze — a very rare sight (285).

Sighting two foxes and feeling the heat of the sun. Not bad for a 48th birthday in England in January.

Past posts about Woolf’s birthday include:

You can also go here for past birthday remiscences of Woolf from Nonsuch Blog readers. And read more about the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain’s Twelfth Annual Birthday Lecture on Woolf, Eliot and Mansfield. It was held Jan. 22.

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VW Diary Vol. 5Once again, Virginia Woolf has said it for me – her words expressing my mind far better than I can do it myself. Thinking about the new year and what it might mean for me, I thought I would see what Woolf had to say. I found two witty and wonderful examples in her diary.

January 2, 1931:
Here are my resolutions for the next 3 months; the next lap of the year.
To have none. Not to be tied.
To be free & kindly with myself, not goading it to parties: to sit rather privately reading in the studio.
To make a good job of The Waves.
To stop irritation by the assurance that nothing is worth irritation [referring to Nelly].
Sometimes to read, sometimes not to read.
To go out yes—but stay at home in spite of being asked.
As for clothes, to buy good ones.

January 4, 1936:
To read as few weekly papers…as possible [until The Years is finished];
to fill my brain with remote books & habits;
altogether to be as fundamental & as little superficial, to be as physical & as little apprehensive, as possible.

Five years apart, these entries have a common theme – reminders of what’s important: her work and well-being, an appreciation of simplicity. And that works for me too. Happy New Year!

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I know more people who, like myself, keep threatening to read Remembrance of Things Past “some day” than those who have actually done so.

This year I have the time and the resolve; I have acquired the first volume and have dipped in for a few warm-up sessions. Initial reactions: I find the languid pace entrancing at times, frustrating at others. I love his keen observations, his humor, but I can’t stay focused for very long at a time, so it will be slow going.

And of course I keep thinking about Woolf, about comparisons between the two, and particularly about her own response to this work at the time of its publication and acclaim. She started reading it in 1922 and was still working her way through in 1934, when she is said to have finished.

Proust appears frequently in her diaries and letters over the years, as a topic of conversation among friends as well as her own reactions to her reading. Given the frequency and relevance of her remarks, I’m amazed that Leonard Woolf includes no mentions of Proust in A Writer’s Diary, since clearly her reading influenced both her thinking and her writing.

She starts the second volume in January of 1923 and wonders if her writing will be influenced by his, as “one can hardly fail to profit” (Diary 2: February 10, 1923). She later writes: “No doubt Proust could say what I mean… . He makes it seem easy to write well; which only means that one is slipping along on borrowed skates” (Diary 2: Nov. 18, 1924). In 1932 she remarks that reading Proust, she feels free and can escape, compared to Lawrence, who makes her feel confined.

And so with a cup of tea and a madeleine, I open to page 66…

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News blogs and Web sites are busy publishing ruminations about books and writing. Here are links to a few with connections to my favorite author. Virginia Woolf, of course.

  • In the Wall Street Journal, Rebecca Stott names Woolf’s Orlando as number two in a list of the top five works of historical fiction.
  • A Seattle Post-Intelligencer reader blog, written by a local librarian named Ann G., is “Looking back at reading by the decade.” In the post, Ann picks her favorite book by decade. For the 1930s, her choice is The Years. The novel, Woolf’s last published in her lifetime, was praised by the New York Times as her “richest novel” when it came out in 1937. It became a best seller in the United States that year. As a result, Woolf was featured on the April 12, 1937, cover of Time magazine. The cover story compared Woolf to Margaret Mitchell, whose Gone With the Wind was a 1936 best seller.
  • In an ode to diaries on The Guardian’s Web site, writer Gyles Brandreth pays homage to an edited volume of Woolf’s diary entries. Brandreth praises the volume, titled A Moment’s Liberty: The Shorter Diary of Virginia Woolf, for including “a gem on every page.” Anne Olivier Bell is the editor.
  • Margaret Drabble opines about the unique genre of the short story on The Guardian Web site. In her piece, she says Woolf tried to emulate her rival Katherine Mansfield’s short story style. But Drabble finds Woolf’s style “less accomplished, and sometimes embarrassingly whimsical.”
  • The New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2009 includes at least two by authors who read Woolf. They include
    • Family Album by Penelope Lively, whose City of the Mind is clearly influenced by Mrs. Dalloway, and
    • A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster by Rebecca Solnit, plenary speaker at this year’s Woolf and the City, the 19th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf.

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