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Archive for the ‘Bloomsbury pacifists’ Category

Here is the call for papers for the International Virginia Woolf Society’sMLA logo guaranteed panel at MLA 2017, held Jan. 5-8 in Philadelphia. Both align with the theme “Virginia Woolf Scholars Come to Their Senses.”

Two possible approaches are being offered:

  1. papers addressing sense modalities in Woolf’s writing.  How and to what end does Woolf evoke sensory experiences of smell, touch and taste in her writing?
  2. papers offering or debating “corrective” readings of Woolf that suggest some kind of “progress” in Woolf criticism. Have earlier readings, such as poststructuralist or lesbian, been supplanted by contemporary approaches, or do we need a model other than “progression” to address Woolf’s critical heritage?

Abstracts of between 250-500 words should be sent by March 21 to Pamela Caughie at pcaughi@luc.edu. (Please note the “e” is dropped in Caughie). Participants must be MLA members by April 7, 2016.

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My two-week stint doing research at the NYPL Berg Collection is over, and letters and rare books took up the last two days of my Short-Term Research Fellowship on the topic of the Bloomsbury pacifists.

The letters were written by Vanessa Bell and Lytton Strachey to a variety of correspondents, including Virginia and Leonard Woolf, Duncan Grant and Nick Bagenal. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to read them in their original form, taking time to decipher the usually elegant handwriting of the letter writers and savoring the idea of a world where friends and colleagues posted missives to each other on a regular, if not daily, basis.

It was special to be able to touch and handle papers nearly 100 years old that belonged to writers and artists I have read so much about and admire so greatly.

It was also invaluable to have access to such rare books as Clive Bell’s Civilization (1928), Julian Bell: Essays, Poems and Letters (1938) and David Garnett’s A Rabbit in the Air: Notes from a Diary Kept While Learning to Handle an Aeroplane (1932).

So while I knew that my research would come to an end, I felt sad when it did. I even felt a little lost when I turned the last page of Garnett’s book, realized I had no more documents or books in my queue and knew that I would soon be on my way back to my regular everyday life in Ohio.

I will miss the grandeur of the NYPL’s Schwartzman building, the luxurious silence of the Berg reading room, the helpful friendliness of librarians Anne Garner and Rebecca Filner, the expertise of Curator Isaac Gewirtz and the technical expertise of a regular volunteer and Yeats scholar named Neal who eagerly came to my aid when my laptop refused to reboot after loading some troublesome and unwanted Microsoft updates.

I hope all of those mentioned above will consider this an official public thank you for helping me have such a valuable experience.

Here are links to past posts about my research at the Berg and the Morgan Library & Museum:

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Those who know me know that I am fascinated by the idea of how weather affects human behavior and human history.

Yesterday, while I was reading David Garnett’s 1941 book War in the Air: September 1939 to May 1941 at the Morgan Library & Museum, references to weather’s affects on the outcome of World War II kept popping out at me.  We all know the important role weather played in the scheduling of the Allied D-Day invasion of Normandy, but weather played a vital role in the war at many other times as well.

The period of the so-called Phoney War, the first eight months of Britain’s involvement in WWII, was one of them. From September 1939 to April 1940, the general public in Britain and France expected their governments to launch an all-out air attack on Germany, but that didn’t happen. It turns out that neither the Germans nor the Allies was prepared for such a move.

Ultimately, both sides saw the Phoney War as advantageous, according to Garnett. And for the Brits, weather played a part in that advantage. Since the prevailing winds of Western Europe come in from the Atlantic, Britain’s Royal Air Force was almost always in a better position to know weather conditions — and plan around them — than the German Luftwaffe, which had to send aircraft out on weather reconnaissance missions, costing them time and money.

Garnett also explains that the winter of 1939-1940 was particularly hard. Bomber crews suffered frostbite, and planes were lost because of icing. However, the weather had more severe consequences for Germany than for either England or France. Freezing weather halted traffic on the Danube, caused the overworked German railways to break down and caused a coal shortage as well. The cold winter weather made the estuaries of Germany’s rivers and shallow sea around the Friesian islands fill with floating ice. This then made it impossible for sea planes to take off or land on the water without risk of damaging their floats.

It also prevented the Germans from laying more magnetic mines designed to blow up British vessels made of steel as they traveled above them. In November of 1939, Hitler had predicted that these mines would be his “secret weapon” and would be responsible for Britain’s quick defeat. The bitter cold of that winter prevented that from happening.

The cold probably delayed the invasion of the Low Countries and the attack on the Western Front by one or two months as well, thus making it impossible for German forces to invade England in the summer of 1940 as planned.

November 1940 was full of clear days and cloudless skies in the south of England, tempting the German Air Force to begin a new form of annoying daylight raids. During these raids, weather conditions were also right for the high-speed, high-flying German aircraft to leave a trail of white vapor behind them. That allowed the people of Kent and East Sussex to watch the planes’ progress as they headed south across the English Channel.

A number of factors combined to make Germany’s May 1940 invasion of France a success. Chief among them was the weather. A spell of dry and perfect weather lasted from the beginning until the end of the attack. As Garnett wrote:

A week of rainy or foggy days in the middle of May might easily have saved France (100).

Read more about the rest of my time at the Berg for my NYPL Short-Term Research Fellowship on the Bloomsbury pacifsts:

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Having worked my way through Vanessa Bell’s letters to Maynard Keynes yesterday, I spent today with two of the Morgan’s rare books on the topic of the Bloomsbury pacifists.

The Morgan Library & Museum actually has five pertinent rare books on the topic in its catalogue, and originally I thought I would get through all of them today. But once I got a look at the content of the first, We Did Not Fight: 1914-1918 Experiences of War Resisters, a collection of essays edited by Julian Bell and published in 1935, I knew I would have to schedule another work day at the Morgan.

The volume includes an introduction by Julian Bell in which he answers a question that had puzzled me: Why would Julian, an advocate of pacifism, end up volunteering for the Spanish Civil War? I found the answer to that at the end of his introduction when he says that his generation will succeed in ending war–and will use force to do so, if force is necessary (xix). It’s true that Julian was an ambulance driver, not a soldier, in the Spanish Civil War. But some pacifists, absolutists, would argue that any work that supports war should be rejected.

We Did Not Fight contains other essays that illuminate the circumstances surrounding conscientious objectors during World War I. Some recount the political and social climate at the beginning of the war. Others detail the particular hardships of working class COs. And still others describe the support and comraderie provided by the No-Conscription Fellowship, organized by the Quakers and Independent Labour Party supporters, which met from 1914 through 1919.

The final essay, “The Tribunals” by Adrian Stephen, brother of Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf, details the ways the tribunals functioned. After the passage of the first Military Services Act in January 1916 instituted conscription of unmarried men age 19-40, local tribunals were set up to administer it. Their role was to make life and death decisions about who would be exempted from military service.

The second book I looked at was a pamphlet published by The Peace Pledge Union. Titled WarMongers, it was written by Clive Bell and published in September of 1938. My time had run so short by the time I got to it, that I resorted to taking photos of most of its pages so I could read it later. Thankfully, that is a practice the Morgan allows.

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

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Last week, NYPL Berg Collection librarian Rebecca Filner gave me the hot tip that I could find unpublished letters written by Vanessa Bell to Maynard Keynes at the Morgan Library & Museum. Today I went there to read them.

The routine at the Morgan is different than that at the Berg. At the Morgan, one is required to lock one’s personal items in a small locker, wash one’s hands, then read a full page of instructions about handling the rare materials before any are handed over. Then the materials come to you one slim folder at a time, after being checked and logged by the librarian. When you are ready for another, you let her know, and she picks up the current folder and brings a new one. As a reader, you never carry the materials.

At the Berg, one is brought as many as five folders at once and just expected to be careful. There is no hand washing procedure, and the librarian locks your purse in a bookcase after one has checked other items in the NYPL cloakroom. Sometimes I returned the materials to the librarian’s desk; other times she picked them up from me.

Today at the Morgan, I focused on letters written during World War I. About 17 of them connected to the Bloomsbury pacifists, the topic of my Short-Term Research Fellowship. But other tidbits included in these letters caught my eye as well. Here are a few of them:

  • Vanessa gave her children haircuts and shaped the hair of one of her servants into what sounded like a stylish bob (May 1916).
  • Vanessa complained that a vist from Ottoline Morrel was so taxing she couldn’t spend more than one weekend a year with her (August 1916).
  •  Both Vanessa and Clive asked Keynes to look over their investments and make suggestions for ways they could maximize their income (February 1918).
  • Keynes invested in David “Bunny” Garnett’s bee keeping enterprise (February 1918).
  • Wood was so scarce during the latter part of the war that Vanessa asked Keynes to save packing cases from a recent wine purchase for her to use as rabbit hutches (February 1918).
  • Vanessa couldn’t imagine anything more hellish than Keynes’s upcoming three-day trip to America (October 1918).

The bit that popped out at me the most, though, was the contrast between Vanessa’s letters to her sister Virginia written shortly before the birth of her daughter Angelica on Christmas Day 1918 and those written to Keynes. The letters to Virginia were filled with a panicky rush of last-minute requests and instructions regarding the upcoming birth and the care of Vanessa’s two older children. Her letters to Keynes are measured and sedate, calculated to reassure him that all is well.

To Keynes, she writes that Duncan Grant (Angelica’s father, although Vanessa’s husband Clive Bell played that role for many years) is quite anxious to be useful around the house. She mentions that he has cut up wood for the fire and done other necessary chores, while agreeing to stay on until after the baby is born.

Vanessa also boasts that Grant is spoiling her. She says she spends the mornings in bed, is only allowed downstairs for lunch, then is kept quiet in the drawing room for the rest of the day. Best of all, she notes, Grant never lets on that this domestic pampering routine is the least bit boring.

I found it interesting the way Vanessa changed the tone and content of her letters, based upon her audience.

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

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Door to the Berg Collection

After four hours of reading mostly unpublished letters from Vanessa Bell to her sister Virginia Woolf today, I felt sad.

The letters — and there are 371 of them dating from 1910 to 1940 in the New York Public Library’s Berg Collection — are full of details about living arrangements, house guests, child rearing, artistic endeavors and personality conflicts.

But the thing that stuck out to me today — which is well off my research topic of the Bloomsbury pacifists — was how much Vanessa had to juggle. And that made me sad.

The letters written during the World War I years, which was also the period of time in which she had young children at home, had the biggest impact on me. In them, I saw how much she did to keep so many balls in the air at once.

Vanessa kept the household running smoothly, doing her best to economize on household expenses such as coal and foodstuffs and to work around such challenges as war rationing and exiting servants.  She kept the men in her life, Clive Bell and Duncan Grant and David “Bunny” Garnett, happy and productive, and she helped Grant and Garnett obtain conscientious objector status. She raised three children, instructing at least two of them in French and music, along with the similarly aged children of friends.

To me, several of the most poignant letters were written shortly before Christmas 1918, after the Armistice but before Vanessa gave birth to her third child and only daughter, Angelica. Those letters, obviously written hastily, with last-minute thoughts scribbled up the margin and across the top of the page, were full of instructions to Virginia about the children.

Virginia had generously agreed to care for Vanessa’s two eldest, Julian and Quentin, when she gave birth to her third child. And Vanessa was frantic to convey her gratitude, as well as her advice — about using nightlights and administering bromide and promising to ship additional clean clothing for the boys after their arrival.

While writing the last of the letters, on Christmas Eve, Vanessa went into labor. Angelica was born on Christmas Day.

Even then, there was no real rest for Vanessa. For she had guests. Garnett was at Charleston Farmhouse on the day of the birth, and Maynard Keynes was a houseguest as well.

More amazing than all this is that on top of the busy life as a wife and mother that Vanessa led, she produced art, wonderful art. How did she find the time and energy for it all?

All I can say is, she was a woman. And that is what women do. Isn’t it?

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

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Today at the New York Public Library’s Berg Collection, I got firsthand help from curator Isaac Gewirtz.

First, he showed me an article he wrote comparing the proof copy of Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own to the first published copy. It includes an appendix listing every variant between the recently-acquired proof (long thought to have been lost) and the first published version.

As the article shows, Woolf made significant revisions, many related to her views on war and patriarchy. Dr. Gewirtz’s article was published last year in Woolf Studies Annual Volume 17.

Second, Dr. Gewirtz gave me a printout of a Feb. 4 Guardian article that discusses a newly found letter related to the Dreadnought Hoax in which Woolf and four of her friends impersonated Abbysinian royalty to dupe a British admiral and board a Royal Navy dreadnought ship in 1910.

Written by Horace de Vere Cole, one of the pranksters, the letter is being offered for sale by Rick Gekoski, a London dealer in rare books and manuscripts who is imported from the U.S. The letter is accompanied by an original photograph of the hoaxers.

Third, Dr. Gewirtz told me that the Berg Collection holds one of the few existing photos of the Bloomsbury Group members who participated in the Dreadnought Hoax.

All three pieces of information connect to my research topic, the Bloomsbury pacifists.

Isaac Gewirtz is another reason why I ♥ librarians, including library curators.

Read more about my time at the Berg:

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