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Archive for the ‘Bloomsbury’ Category

We have already followed Virginia Woolf to locations at Newnham College, King’s College, and the Fitzwilliam Museum during our time at the Literature Cambridge course Virginia Woolf’s Gardens.

But today, the first overcast, drizzly day since we arrived, we went off on our own. We made a trek to nearby Grantchester — and two other spots in Cambridge we just discovered.

The Orchard

Virginia Woolf, along with Maynard Keynes and E. M. Forster, was a member of the Bloomsbury Group and a member of the Grantchester Group as well. Focused around poet Rupert Brooke, who lived in the picturesque Grantchester, the latter group met at Orchard House there, where Brooke is said to have hosted wild parties.

The original pavilion of The Orchard still exists, and one reaches it via a long path from High Street surrounded by a quiet green lawn dotted with apple trees and dark green deck chairs grouped around tables.

An outdoor display board tells the story of the Grantchester Group. Indoors, photos and a display case of Rupert Brooke books, photos and memorabilia, tell his story. Photos of other writers and celebrities, including Woolf, cover the walls.

Byron’s Pool

The river Cam runs through Grantchester Meadows, which includes Byron’s Pool. In the early 1900s a group of Cambridge undergraduates and their friends, dubbed the neo-Pagans, bathed there, according to the University of Cambridge website.

Rupert Brooke and Virginia Woolf are also said to have swum naked by moonlight at Byron’s Pool in 1911. Today, cars on the M11 roar past that spot.

Now one must be a member to obtain access to pool, as entry is not granted without a key. But a gracious friend of someone affiliated with the Literature Cambridge course drove us down the nearest Cambridge road behind the pool, and we snapped a photo of the field that fronts it.

One warm night there was a clear sky and a moon and they walked out to the shadowy waters of Byron’s Pool. ‘Let’s go swimming, quite naked,’ Brooke said, and they did. – Rupert Brooke: A Biography by Christopher Hassall (1964)

The Porch

Also in Cambridge, we found The Porch at 33 Grantchester St., the home of Caroline Emilia Stephen, Woolf’s aunt. Her niece and Woolf’s cousin, Katharine Stephen, was a librarian and later the Principal at Newnham College, where Woolf gave her “Women and Fiction” talk in October 1928.

Both Woolf and her sister Vanessa Bell stayed with their aunt at The Porch when they visited their brothers Adrian and Thoby during May Week at Trinity College. Woolf herself made “formational visits” to her aunt, who she sometimes called “the nun,” from 1904 to 1906. Virginia and Adrian also lived with Stephen for a period of time in 1907, after Vanessa’s marriage to Clive Bell.

As Jane deGay writes on the Leeds Centre for Victorian Studies Blog: “[Caroline] Stephen played a key role in helping Virginia Woolf distance herself from patriarchal ideologies by developing a radical approach to religion and spirituality that was deeply feminist.”

A Quaker, it was this aunt who at her death in 1909 left Woolf the £2,500 inheritance that gave her a modest income of her own. The amount indicates the special relationship she had with Woolf, as she left Adrian and Vanessa just £100 each.

Sign directing visitors to The Orchard Tea Garden in Grantchester, where Virginia Woolf drank tea with Rupert Brooke and others.

The original pavilion where Woolf and others met for tea on rainy days

Sign noting the literary significance of the original pavilion at The Orchard

Information board outside the pavilion noting members of the Grantchester Group, which included Virginia Woolf

Just two of the photos lining the walls inside the pavilion. Woolf’s is on the right.

Past this field of grasses and wildflowers and the stand of trees beyond sits Byron’s Pond, where Woolf and Brooke went skinny dipping.

The Porch, 33 Grantchester Rd., Cambridge, the home of Woolf’s Aunt Caroline Emilia Stephen. Woolf and her sister Vanessa Bell stayed here.

Closeup of the home’s sign, identifying it as The Porch

 

 

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I’d heard the rumor — that a Virginia Woolf “collage” could be spotted in the ladies room of London’s Tavistock Hotel. But I did not expect what I actually found.

Tavistock Hotel in Bloomsbury, London

I went in search of the hotel’s unusual homage to Woolf after the 28th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf in June at the University of Kent in Canterbury, England.

The clerk at the Tavistock’s front desk directed me to the lobby level ladies room, where I expected to see a lone framed Woolf collage on the wall near the door or the sinks.

Loo decor

I found something entirely different. The wall behind each toilet in each ladies room stall was decorated with a long framed graphic featuring Woolf and her works. Each was cut to feature a different element of her work.

Luckily, the ladies room was unoccupied when I entered, so I was able to take a photograph of each stall. However, some of my photos are a bit tipsy, due to the fact that I had to prop each stall door open with my foot while hurriedly snapping individual pictures.

I made sure to include the commode and toilet tissue roll in the photo when I could manage it, as evidence that this Woolf sighting actually took place in a loo. 

 

The hotel’s Woolf & Whistle serves light meals and beverages.

Traditional afternoon tea is also offered at the Tavistock Hotel’s Woolf & Whistle.

 

About the Tavistock

Blue plaque honoring Virginia and Leonard Woolf installed to the left of the front entrance of the Tavistock Hotel.

The hotel is famous because it is built on the site of Virginia and Leonard’s flat at 52 Tavistock Square, in which they lived from 1924-1939.

A blue plaque commemorating that fact was unveiled on the exterior of the building in April.

 

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Remember The Bloomsbury Cookbook: Recipes for Life, Love and Art by Jans Ondaatje Rolls? Published in 2014 with all proceeds going to The Charleston Trust, it offered more than 180 recipes — some handwritten and never before published — from Frances Partridge, Helen Anrep and David and Angelica Garnett.

The recipes, according to publisher Thames & Hudson, promised to “take us into the very heart” the world of the Bloomsbury Group by recreating mealtime atmospheres at locations such as Monk’s House, Charleston Farmhouse and Gordon Square.

I pored over the book recently and picked recipes that I thought were closest to a Bloomsbury version of a traditional American Thanksgiving holiday meal.

I won’t be substituting any of these dishes for my family’s standby favorites, but here’s the Thanksgiving menu I chose from the book of Bloomsbury recipes.

A Bloomsbury Thanksgiving Menu

Cauliflower Soup, p. 306

Charleston Grouse, p. 274

Frances Partridge’s Haricots Verts, p. 79

Gingernut Biscuits, p. 25

Neptune’s Fruit Banquet, p. 207

Homemade Gateau de Pommes, p. 200 or

Baked Apple Pudding, p 343

Beyond recipes

The book is more than a cookbook. It includes photographs, letters, journals and paintings that contribute a social history angle as well.

Read more about Virginia Woolf and cookbooks on Alice Lowe’s blog.

 

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Anne Olivier Bell, art scholar, Bloomsbury matriarch, widow of Virginia Woolf’s nephew Quentin, and editor of her diaries, died yesterday at the age of 102.

Bell also helped Quentin pen his 1972 biography of his aunt and the two were instrumental in saving Charleston Farmhouse, preserving it for future generations of Bloomsbury scholars and fans.

In addition, she was known for playing an instrumental role in saving European art from the Nazis during World  II, serving in the Monuments Men effort.

As a result of her marriage to Quentin, Olivier moved into the heartland of the Bloomsbury milieu and, having inherited its values, became one of the most vigorous (and vigilant) guardians and promoters of the Bloomsbury revival. – “Anne Olivier Bell obituary,” The Guardian, July 19, 2018.

Read The Guardian obituary.

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  • Bloomsbury Spirit is the first exhibition in Sweden of the art and home decor of the Bloomsbury Group, including a recreation of Charleston. It takes place at Artipelag, set on Värmdö in the Stockholm Archipelago, just 20 minutes from the city centre of Stockholm. Dates: Through Sept. 30. Get tickets.
  • Virginia Woolf: an exhibition inspired by her writings is at Pallant House Gallery​ and features 80 female artists from 1854 to the present. Dates: May 26-Sept. 16. Organized by Tate St. Ives​ with Pallant & The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge​. Pallant House Gallery is located at 9 North Pallant, Chichester, West Sussex, PO19 1TJ.

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Lots of Woolf on the Web these days. Here are a few important sightings gleaned via Twitter links shared by Jane deGay and Maggie Humm.

  • Sentencing Orlando: Virginia Woolf and the Morphology of the Modernist Sentence, edited by Elsa Högberg and Amy Bromley, is a collection of 16 original essays offers fresh perspectives on Orlando through a unique attention to Woolf’s sentences.
  • Six Ways Virginia Woolf Pre-Empted Spring’s Key Looks,” by Kaye Fearon in British Vogue, Feb. 21, 2018.
  • Bonnie Greer on Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group, a podcast discussing the friendships, work and designs behind the artists, coordinated with the Virginia Woolf exhibition at Tate St Ives, 10 February – 29 April 2018. Then view her art walk below.

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This Christmas day, I unwrapped a present from my landlady and, completely unexpectedly, a small purple hardback book with gold lettering and a beautiful portrait of Virginia Woolf fell onto my lap. I was delighted, and proceeded to read it cover to cover amidst wrapping paper and ended up holding back tears to prevent myself being utterly embarrassed in front of my in-laws.

virginia woolf life portraits

© Zena Alkayat and Nina Cosford

Virginia Woolf (Life Portraits) by Zena Alkayat and Nina Cosford poetically weaves the story of Woolf’s life with Alkayat’s considered text and Cosford’s illustrations, a fresh response to the Bloomsbury aesthetic. It opens with the following quote from Mrs Dalloway:

She sliced like a knife through everything; at the same time was on the outside, looking on.

This liminality, both the relation between work and life and Woolf’s psychological flux, is represented thoughtfully throughout the biography.

street haunting in life portrait

© Zena Alkayat and Nina Cosford

Alkayat focuses on the personal details of life: how Vanessa Bell’s sheepdog Gurth accompanied her “street haunting”, how Leonard and Virginia Woolf spent nights during the First World War in their coal cellar sitting on boxes, and that they later named their car “the umbrella”. She also puts us on a first name basis with Virginia, Vanessa and Duncan, et al. – a choice which made me feel closer to their world.

charleston in woolf life portrait

© Nina Cosford

Cosford’s illustrations are both sensitive to the Bloomsbury style and offer a fresh perspective. Her bold lines and patterns used to illustrate the pages about Vanessa Bell’s cover designs for Virginia Woolf’s novels, for example, are edged with mark-making in the mode of Bell. Her use of colour also seems emotive, following the waves of high and low that punctuate the narrative. Her illustrations capture the paraphernalia of every-day life, from the objects atop Woolf’s writing desk – diary, hair grips, photo of Julia, sweets – to the plants in the garden at Monks House, bringing Virginia’s life closer to home.

monks house plants

© Nina Cosford

Illustration and text come together beautifully in this miniature autobiography and would provide any reader with a poetic and surprising escape into the life of Virginia Woolf.

 

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