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I have one foot in each of two literary worlds–Virginia Woolf and creative nonfiction–and am always pleased when I find crossover between the two, as in this remembrance of Louise DeSalvo in Brevity: “Losing Louise, Finding Joy: The Death of a Mentor and the Afterlife of Her Legacy.”

She died Oct. 31, 2018, in Montclair, N.J., at the age of 76.

 

Kind. Gentle. Tough. Those were the words used to describe Cecil Woolf in the Camden New Journal story reporting on the Oct. 19 memorial service held in his honor at St. Peter’s Church in Belgravia, London.

Cecil Woolf and Jean Moorcroft Wilson at their home in London, June 2017.

About 150 friends, relatives, colleagues, and admirers attended the service for Cecil, the oldest living relative of Virginia and Leonard Woolf, who died June 10 in London at the age of 92.

Claire Nicholson, chair of the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain, and Vivien Whelpton of the War Poets Association spoke, as did his widow, Jean Moorcroft Wilson. Each recalled Cecil’s work as a a gentleman, a publisher, and an advocate for social justice.

More memorials in print

Issue 95, the Spring/Summer 2019 issue of the International Virginia Woolf Society’s Miscellany will include a special section devoted to Cecil.

In addition, a paper based on the panel “The Woolfs, Bloomsbury, and Social Justice: Cecil Woolf Monographs Past and Present,” which was presented at the 29th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf, has been accepted for publication in the two-volume conference proceedings. Published by Clemson University Press, each volume will include 16 essays.

Retitled “The Woolfs, Bloomsbury, and Social Justice: the Ongoing Legacy of Cecil Woolf Publishers as an Advocate for Social Justice,” the paper will be co-written by:

  • Karen Levenback (Franciscan Monastery). Introduction to Cecil Woolf Publishers
  • Lois Gilmore (Bucks County Community College), “A Legacy of Social Justice in Times of War and Peace.”
  • Paula Maggio (Blogging Woolf), “Cecil Woolf Publishers: Using the Power of the Press to Advocate for Peace.”
  • Todd Avery (University of Massachusetts, Lowell), “Just Lives of the Obscure: Cecil Woolf, Biography, and Social Justice.”
  • Vara Neverow (Southern Connecticut State University) Respondent

This photo of Cecil Woolf as a young lance-corporal fighting in Italy in the Second World War was used on the cover of the Order of Service at his Oct. 19 memorial service.

What: Free Talk: “Not Quite So Kind: Woolf and the limits of kindness”
Who: Anne E. Fernald, professor of English and Women’s Studies at Fordham University
When: Nov. 1, 1:30-4:30 p.m. Lunch at 1:30, talk at 2 p.m., refreshments at 3:30.
Where: Fordham London Centre, 2 Eyre Street Hill, London
How: Reserve free tickets.

Anne Fernald

On Woolf and kindness

In Woolf’s 1925 novel, Mrs. Dalloway, kindness has its limits. When the shell-shocked veteran Septimus Warren Smith and his wife announce theirintention to seek a second opinion from Sir William Bradshaw, their doctor, Dr. Holmes turns on them with stunningly rapid bitterness “if they were rich… by all means let them go to Harley Street; if they had no confidence in him, said Dr. Holmes, looking not quite so kind” (84).

In Mrs. Dalloway and throughout her writing, Woolf explores both the limits of mere kindness and what it means to be of a kind, to be kin, stressing the common root of adjective and noun. This talk unpacks several of Woolf’s key uses of the word kind to explore how, in 2019, we might understand the complex interactions of social cues, intimacy, fondness, and mistrust in Woolf and how those stories continue to resonate today.

About Ann Fernald

A scholar of modernism with a special focus on Virginia Woolf, Fernald is the editor of the Cambridge University Press Mrs. Dalloway (2014), and one of the editors of The Norton Reader, a widely-used anthology of essays. She is the author of Virginia Woolf: Feminism and the Reader (2006), as well as articles and reviews on Woolf and feminist modernism. She is a co-editor of the journal Modernism/modernity. She occasionally updates her blog, Fernham, and can be found on twitter @fernham.

Cecil Woolf pauses in front of Persephone Books, Lamb’s Conduit Street, London, in June 2016.

Tucked away on Lamb’s Conduit Street in Bloomsbury, Persephone Books has been my favorite London bookstore since I first visited it — twice — during my 2016 trip.

That’s not just because it is located on the same street where Jacob Flanders of Virginia Woolf’s Jacob’s Room had his very own room. It is also because the shop reprints neglected fiction and non-fiction by mid-20th century (mostly) women writers. It is, in short, a treasure.

A stack of gray dust covers

Every time I visit, I cannot resist purchasing as many as I can carry of Persephone’s 135 books. From Marghanita Laski’s To Bed With Grand Music to Barbara Euphan Todd’s Miss Ranskill Comes Home, each is unique. And none has disappointed.

A stack of Persephone Books, each with its gray dust cover and colorful endpaper with matching bookmark, is eternally in my TBR pile, including the three I bought this year: They Were Sisters by Dorothy Whipple; Tory Heaven or Thunder on the Right, another by Laski; and Wilfred and Eileen by Jonathan Smith.

This year, though, I decided to spare myself. Having enough to carry, I had Persephone ship my books to my home in the U.S. They arrived within a week of my return, accompanied by a gracious hand-written note of thanks.

Still urgent today

And now Persephone, founded by Nicola Beauman, has printed a new edition of Virginia Woolf’s classic feminist polemic, A Room of One’s Own (1929). It is wrapped in Persephone’s classic soft gray dust cover, with the 1930 Vanessa Bell textile design “Stripe” as its endpaper and matching bookmark.

A Room of One’s Own, with its central premise that a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction, is a volume whose message has urgency and currency today, says Clara Jones, who wrote the preface.

The poetry and pragmatism of Woolf’s central claim about the room and the money have taken on renewed urgency today. The ubiquity of debt for a generation of young people who pay large university tuition fees, are charged prohibitive rents and paid low wages, combined with the fact that all but the luckiest (or best connected) with literary ambitions will begin their apprenticeship by working for free, make Woolf’s trinity of space, privacy and financial security as worth striving for as ever. – Clara Jones, Preface to Persephone edition of A Room of One’s Own

It is 90 years since Woolf wrote her iconic piece. You can read more about the Persephone edition (cost £13) on the Persephone website and in the Stratford-upon-Avon Herald.

About the founder and her store

Beauman herself is a legend in the world of book publishing — and in the world of Woolf. Along with Clara Farmer of the Hogarth and Chatto and Windus, she appeared on a panel at the 27th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf in Reading, England. Aptly enough, the conference theme was Woolf and the World of Books, with Beauman and Farmer’s panel titled “Publishers, Publishing & Bookselling.”

Beauman began Persephone 20 years ago as a mail-order publishing business with a list of 12 books. She now has 30,000 subscribers to her free magazine The Persephone Biannually. And when the shop celebrated its 20th anniversary earlier this year, a crowd of fans stopped in throughout the day and evening.

Here’s what Beauman had to say about the books she publishes in an April 14 New York Times story acknowledging her store’s 20 years in business:

The connection between them is that they were forgotten and they’re very well-written. I’m very keen on story and on page-turners. When I get to the end of a book I like to put it down and feel absolutely wrenched by what I’ve read, to be in a different world.
I can attest to the power of the books Persephone publishes. Upon finishing each of my Persephone Books, I find it difficult to make my way back into my own everyday world. I am that affected by what I have read.

Get a close look at Lamb’s Conduit Street, as well as the inside and outside of Persephone, with this YouTube video, the 2018 pilot episode of “Fran’s Book Shop.”

Inside Persephone Books with founder Nicola Beauman at work at her desk, July 2017.

A table full of “Fifty Books We Wish We Had Published” at Persephone Books in July 2017

A wall full of books in the traditional gray dust covers at Persephone Books in 2017

Persephone Books isn’t shy about making political statements. This banner hung in the shop in 2018.

A Woolf sighting at Persephone Books in June 2018

The window display at Persephone Books changes. This was the view in July.

 

 

 

Last week, I wrote about the Virginia Woolf cookie cutter. This week, I am writing about the Virginia Woolf pen. Or to be more accurate, I am embedding Matthew Holliday‘s Oct. 21 tweets about the Bloomsbury group, Virginia Woolf, and fountain pens.

A limited edition Woolf pen

But first let me mention the Writers Edition Virginia Woolf Montblanc pen set, which pays tribute to The Waves. Launched in 2006 in a limited edition, the run included 4,000 sets including a ballpoint pen, fountain pen, and mechanical pencil, as well as 16,000 fountain pens and 18,000 ballpoint pens.

Out of range

None of them are currently for sale on the Montblanc website. But you can find them on ebay at prices ranging from $499 for the ballpoint to $3,450 for the set.

We can all put the pen on our wish list. Sadly, few of us will find our wish coming true. The cookie cutter, however, is infinitely more affordable.

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Virginia Woolf as a cookie

The Virginia Woolf cookie cutter may give me a reason to bake. Yes, you read that right. There IS a Virginia Woolf cookie cutter.

The Virginia Woolf cookie cutter with the finished product, as it appears on the Etsy site.

I first heard about it thanks to a Facebook post last week from Kristin Czarnecki, president of the International Virginia Woolf Society.

Included in the post was a photo of the finished product that her friend Holly Barbaccia had baked. The post and photo generated 56 likes and 10 comments. Woolf and cookies are popular, it seems.

Women writers in cookie form

Of course I had to have one for myself. A quick Google search turned up an article on Book Riot about “Fun Bookish Cookie Cutters,” which led to the Etsy link for the cutter — on sale for $5.20 — featuring my favorite writer.

I quickly ordered mine, then wished I had stuck around on the site to order a few more, as there are cookie cutters in the shape of Maya Angelou, Emily Dickinson, Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Frida Kahlo, and others.

Tips from the Etsy site for using the 4.1-inch plastic cutter include these:

  • Use chilled (not frozen) dough.
  • Use flour or nonstick spray to reduce sticking with highly detailed cutters.
  • If your dough is too moist it will stick to the cutter– add some flour to your dough.
  • Still sticking? Pop your dough in the freezer for a couple minutes. If it is too warm, it will stick.
  • Dough spreads when it bakes. Unless you use a recipe for cookies that won’t spread (Google it, there are some great ones) your cookies will look like blob versions of whatever cutter you use. Note to readers: I did that and found this one, which had a five-star rating. It recommends freezing the cookies — after they are cut out and before they are baked — for 10 minutes, then baking them immediately. Freezing chills the butter, and will prevent the cookies from spreading flat in the oven, the recipe promises.

Photo posted on Kristin Czarnecki’s Facebook page of two of the Virginia Woolf cookies baked and decorated by Holly Barbaccia.

 

Editor’s Note: Maggie Humm provided Blogging Woolf with the story and images of her experience working with France Culture radio and the French TV channel ARTE’s series Invitation Au Voyage on programs about Virginia Woolf.

By Maggie Humm

A cold, windy day in April 2019 saw me walking and talking in Kensington for France Culture radio about Virginia Woolf’s London childhood and her own daily walks with her father. Thankfully, my talk didn’t have to be in French or delivered sideways as in The West Wing.

Maggie Humm with the French TV channel ARTE’s series Invitation Au Voyage in St. Ives

France Culture has over 3,000 podcasts and items about Virginia Woolf. Director Simonetta Greggio simply said, “I love Woolf.”

Woolf and France past

As Blogging Woolf readers know, Charles Mauron translated “Time Passes” from To the Lighthouse in Commerce as early as Winter 1926, and Woolf’s works were translated into French more quickly than into other languages.

Woolf knew several leading French intellectuals including Mauron – Jacques Raverat and Jacques-Émile Blanche – and the translation of Mrs Dalloway had a preface by André Maurois. Simone de Beauvoir discusses Woolf in The Second Sex.

To the lighthouse

Top of my bucket list however was visiting Godrevy Lighthouse thanks to Lolita Rivé of Elephant Productions who invited me to present “Cornwall Through the Eyes of Virginia Woolf” as part of the French TV channel ARTE’s series Invitation au Voyage.

It’s not possible to convey my excitement and delight reading To the Lighthouse at Godrevy Lighthouse, as well as reading The Waves on St. Ives beach.

Maggie Humm heads to Godrevy Lighthouse with the French TV channel ARTE’s series Invitation Au Voyage. As Woolf said about St. Ives Regatta Day – it made her ‘think of a French picture’ (MOB: 132). Vive la France!

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