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Archive for the ‘A Room of One’s Own’ Category

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.

 

 

 

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A Room of One’s Own. We have read it. We have discussed it. We have been inspired by it. But today 23 of us got an up-close view of Virginia Woolf’s original draft manuscript for the book. Now you can, too, thanks to Leonard Woolf and the Fitzwilliam Museum.

At the Fitzwilliam

Leonard Woolf donated a large piece of the manuscript to the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge in 1942, after the museum’s director requested that Leonard give the institution something related to Virginia’s work. But because it was wartime, the manuscript lay neglected for nearly 50 years.

Titled “Women & Fiction,” it is the first draft of the book Woolf would eventually call A Room of One’s Own, and it has two other connections with Cambridge. The book had its origins in two talks on women and fiction that Woolf gave at Newnham and Girton Colleges in Cambridge in October 1928. And a lunch Woolf ate in Dadie Rylands’ room at King’s College inspired the luncheon scene in the first chapter of the book.

Background of the manuscript

Our visit to the Fitzwilliam to view Woolf’s manuscript was today’s outing for the Literature Cambridge course on Virginia Woolf’s Gardens. Dr. Trudi Tate, director of the course, shared some of the book’s background.

Dr. Trudi Tate

”Woolf worked incredibly quickly on this book, so fast, in fact, that she found it difficult to read her own handwriting when she had to type it up,” Tate said.

”As Beth Daugherty tells us, she wrote a huge amount of the book in two months, March and April 1929. She began to create the book in her mind when she was lying in bed, recovering from illness. She drafted it rapidly, in ‘one of my excited outbursts of composition’ (Diary 3, 218-19),” Tate explained.

Significance of the manuscript

The manuscript’s significance as the working draft for A Room of One’s Own was not recognized by scholars until the 1990s, according to the Fitzwilliam’s website.

At that time, S.P. Rosenbaum published a full transcription (1992). In his introduction, he gives details of Woolf’s lectures at the Cambridge colleges and traces the text’s evolution — from talks to magazine article to feminist polemic in book form.

The 20 pages from chapter three of the manuscript that are not part of the Fitzwilliam document are preserved separately in the Monk’s House Papers at the University of Sussex.

Creative process of the book

Tate detailed how Woolf’s writing process for Room included several stage of creation:

  1. the lectures, including the “Women & Fiction” essay and the “Women in Fiction” draft viewed at the Fitzwilliam
  2. A Room of One’s Own typescript
  3. A proof copy of the book
  4. The first published edition of the book, published by the Hogarth Press in Britain and Harcourt Brace in the U.S. in 1929.

Digitized version available online

The digitized version of the manuscript that was once on display at the Fitzwilliam as part of the museum’s past exhibition “Virginia Woolf: an exhibition inspired by her writings” is available online. View the entire manuscript on the Fitzwilliam Museum website.

A side view of Virginia Woolf’s manuscript of “Women & Fiction,” which was the first draft of “A Room of One’s Own.”

The cover of Woolf’s draft manuscript for “Women & Fiction”

Page one of the manuscript, with Woolf’s own edits. Note: This page is the same color as the others but the lighting makes it look lighter.

Page seven of the manuscript with Woolf’s edits and margin notes

Page 12 of the manuscript

Each student in the Literature Cambridge course Virginia Woolf’s Gardens was able to view the manuscript up close and take photos of it.

After learning about the manuscript and viewing it, the students in the Literature Cambridge course from countries including Japan, Italy, Germany, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, India, the UK, and the U.S., took turns reading the first chapter of “A Room of One’s Own” aloud.

Some of the 23 students in the Literature Cambridge course on Virginia Woolf’s Gardens

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King’s College, Cambridge

It’s day two of the Literature Cambridge course Virginia Woolf’s Gardens, and we spent two hours touring the gardens of King’s College, Cambridge. Then came the best part of all. We saw the window of a room that was the setting for a scene in Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own.

Not a room of her own

That important part of our tour came at the end, as we got a look at the second floor window of the room overlooking the college green where, our guide told us, Woolf wrote the first chapter of A Room of One’s Own (1929). Later, Trudi Tate, director of Literature Cambridge, corrected that statement. Instead, she told us, the room was the setting for the well-appointed lunch Woolf describes in the first chapter of Room.

The room, of course, was not her own, but was the quarters of Dadie Rylands. Women were not admitted to King’s until 1972, so they obtained their degrees at the University of Cambridge’s two women’s colleges, Newnham, founded in 1869, and Girton, founded in 1871.

We were not able to visit the actual room that helped inspire Woolf, as it is now the accounting office for the college. Ironically, it was off limits to Woolf pilgrims, we who revere her feminist polemic about the ways the patriarchy limits women. I do admit that our group of more than two dozen would have crowded such small quarters.

Bloomsbury paintings in the hundreds

However, after viewing the Provost’s Garden, we were taken inside the nearby Provost’s Lodge. There, we were shown two first-floor rooms hung with original paintings by Bloomsbury artists Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant, Roger Fry, and Dora Carrington.

I took plenty of photos of the paintings we saw, but publication of them — even on the internet — is not permitted without permission, and we did not want to trouble our gracious guide to obtain that.

As it turns out, hundreds of paintings by Grant and Bell are hung around the college, many of them donated by Maynard Keynes. A catalogue of the Bloomsbury art is in the works, but it will be several years before it is ready. We were told that it may be available in digital format.

Corrected and updated: 17 July 2019

Virginia Woolf wrote the first chapter of “A Room of One’s Own” in Dadie Rylands’ room at King’s College, Cambridge, which was behind the second floor window shown here.

This was part of the view Woolf would have seen from Dadie Rylands’ room at King’s College, Cambridge, where she wrote the first chapter of “A Room of One’s Own.” As our guide told us, the buildings, the lawn, and the gardens have changed little since Woolf’s day.

Woolf mentions undergraduates punting on the river in “A Room of One’s Own.” They, and tourists, still do that today on the River Cam located just beyond the lawn pictured above.

In the Provost’s Garden at King’s College, Cambridge, a private place we viewed on our tour.

A flower bed in the Provost’s Garden, with a pot of colorful sweet peas growing up a trellis.

Giant magnolias from the U.S. frame a doorway in the Provost’s Garden.

Sun-kissed floral closeup in the Provost’s Garden.

The Wine Room in the Provost’s Lodge is filled with paintings by members of the Bloomsbury Group. It is often used now as a seminar room. The 23 students in our group snapped lots of photos of the art.

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This afternoon, as part of our Literature Cambridge course on Virginia Woolf’s Gardens, we visited Newnham College in search of Virginia Woolf. We found her in several places.

Garden walk

Lottie Collis leads us on a garden tour.

First, we found her in the gardens, as we were led on a walking tour of the college’s four gardens by Lottie Collis, head of the garden team. We went from the original mid-Victorian garden with winding paths to the Arts and Crafts garden focused on form and function, to the sunken rose garden. All were in place in 1928 when Woolf visited.

Each garden was peaceful and beautiful in its own way, providing sensual stimulation to the eye as well as the nose, particularly when among the roses. In that outdoor space, the air smelled like heaven.

Site of the talk

But the most exciting part of the tour for me was our visit to Newnham’s dining hall, the site where Virginia Woolf gave her October 1928 talk on women and fiction. That talk, along with one given at Girton College, became A Room of One’s Own (1929), a landmark text for feminists worldwide.

The size, grandeur, and light-filled beauty of the room took my breath away. It was a room fitting for someone of Woolf’s current stature and the women who came before her. It was completely unlike the small, dim setting I had imagined for Woolf’s famous talk about the poorly treated women students she described.

Reactions to Woolf’s Newnham College talk

Woolf came to Newnham at the invitation of the Newnham Arts Society. Her audience that day is estimated at roughly around 40, but since no records were kept of the luncheon menu or the participants, it is difficult to be certain of the number or of the food served at the lunch.

Reactions to her talk about women and fiction were mixed. The first, published in the student magazine Thersites during the Michaelman Term of 1928, was positive. The next one, published years later in A Newnham Anthology of 1970, was not.

The woman who led our tour of the dining hall shared them both with our class and with Blogging Woolf. And we share them below, along with photos from our garden tour and our visit to the dining hall.

Exhibit of Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group

The Newnham College Library has a special exhibit of Hogarth Press books by Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group on the second floor of the new wing of the library. We viewed the exhibit. But sadly, photographs were not permitted. All of the materials are housed in the library’s special collections.

1928 commentary on Woolf’s talk.

Commentary on Woolf’s talk published in the Newnham Anthologies of 1970.

Mid-Victorian style garden outside Newnham’s Old Hall.

Students in the Literature Cambridge class, Virginia Woolf’s Gardens, walk the path on a tour of Newnham College gardens.

Just one view of one of the Newnham Hall gardens.

Students in the Literature Cambridge Virginia Woolf’s Gardens course In the Sunken Rose Garden at Newnham College.

Closeup of a yellow rose in bud in the Sunken Rose Garden at Newnham College

A perennial bed at Newnham College

The Newnham College dining hall where Virginia Woolf gave her famous talk on women and fiction in 1928.

Another view of the Newnham College dining hall where Woolf spoke in 1928.

A view of the elaborate, light-filled dining hall ceiling at Newnham College.

Alcove in the Newnham College dining hall.

View of the gardens from along the corridor leading to the Newnham College dining hall where Woolf gave her famous 1928 talk.

 

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To mark the 90th anniversary of the first publication of Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, Malvern Garden Buildings has created  a writing retreat inspired by Woolf’s writing lodge at Monk’s House in Rodmell for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, which runs through May 25.

VW's writing Lodge

Virginia Woolf’s writing lodge at Monk’s House

The shed, which was created with the help of the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain and Monk’s House, was unveiled by Woolf’s great-niece Cressida Bell on Press Day, May 20.

It is painted a dove grey color and features double French doors opening onto a deck, as does the Monk’s House Lodge.

Inside, the lodge is furnished with a desk in the spirit of Woolf, an armchair with a tray, and a bookcase filled with a set of volumes covered in marbled paper — as was Woolf’s Shakespeare collection. Completing the look are writing paraphernalia and other objects from the 1920s and 1930s.

Once you view Malvern’s creation, I guarantee you will want one for your own back garden. I know I do.

Read more about the project and view photos as well.

A screenshot of the Malvern Garden Buildings Facebook post, as shared by the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain.

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Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own has inspired a two-story bronze sculpture, “Beyond Thinking,” which apparently has a double meaning and is prompting discussion on social media and beyond.

It will be unveiled at Newnham College, Cambridge, on the 70th anniversary of the first degree ceremony for its female graduates, held in 1948.

Positioned at the entrance to the College’s new Dorothy Garrod building, named after the pioneering archeologist, the sculpture is the first thing that students and visitors will see.

Artist Cathy de Monchaux commissioned artwork inspired by Virgina Woolf’s ‘A Room of One’s own’ at Newnham College, Cambridge photographed by Alun Callender.

Former Turner Prize nominee Cathy de Monchaux, who is known for using vulvas in her work, created the piece, which stands out in relief from a wall and repeats an intricate motif. It is one that — depending upon the viewer — can be seen as a vulva or an open book.

While The Guardian reported that the sculpture depicts the female vulva, the college says it depicts a tower of books.

Two views

The sculpture is “standing out in relief from a wall . . . [and] repeats an intricate genital motif which can also be seen as an open book, the pages lined with the branches of a tree of knowledge,” writes The Guardian.

The sculpture “shows a vertical column of open books set into the fabric of the building. Instead of words, a vine-like structure is embedded in the pages. The spine of each open book holds a female figure gazing out at the world,” says the college news release.

Take the poll

You can decide for yourself by viewing additional photos and taking the online poll available on this CambridgshireLive post.

A Room of One’s Own (1929) was based on a talk Woolf gave to the female students of Newnham and Girton Colleges, Cambridge, in 1928.

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A digital version of the original manuscript of Virginia Woolf’s groundbreaking polemic A Room of One’s Own (1928) is now online, thanks to the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, which is hosting the last stop on the tour of an exhibition that celebrates Woolf’s writing and art.

According to the BBC, curator Suzanne Reynolds calls Room, “one of the founding texts of 20th Century feminist thought.”

The free exhibition is titled “Virginia Woolf: An Exhibition Inspired by Her Writings,” opens tomorrow at the Fitzwilliam and runs through Dec. 9. It celebrates Woolf’s writing while showcasing the works of more than 80 artists on the themes of female identity, domesticity and landscape.

Cambridge is the third and final stop of the exhibition, which has traced a path of Woolf’s life from the Tate St Ives in Cornwall to Pallant House in Sussex.

 

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