I first met Cecil Woolf in 2007. I was attending my first Virginia Woolf conference, the seventeenth annual conference held at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.
I, of course, was in awe. He, of course, was friendly, gracious, and encouraging. If I hadn’t known it already, I would not have imagined he was someone “important.” He was just so genuine and down to earth.
Since then, we have become friends, corresponding by snail mail and email and meeting at Woolf conferences. He sends me books. I send him cards. He gives me chocolates. I give him manuscripts.
For a long time, I have imagined coming to London and walking around Virginia’s favorite city with her nephew, the son of her husband Leonard’s youngest brother. Today my imagined day of “street haunting” became reality. Cecil and I spent seven hours exploring Bloomsbury together, with a stop for lunch and another for tea as we walked nearly six miles, according to my helpful but intrusive phone app.
As you can imagine, the conversation with this witty, insightful, and well-read man never flagged — and neither did his energy on this fine June day in London.
Here are some photos from the day. I only wish I could share the conversation as easily.
Cecil Woolf and I share a bench in Tavistock Square garden. Virginia and Leonard lived at 52 Tavistock Square from 1924-1939.
Cecil Woolf with the bust of Virginia Woolf located in Tavistock Square garden, dedicated in 2004.
Cecil Woolf planted this Gingko biloba tree in Tavistock Square garden on Dec. 16, 2004, to commemorate the centennial of the arrival of his uncle Leonard in Colombo, Ceylon.
Cecil Woolf at 46 Gordon Square, where Virginia lived from 1905-1907.
No walk around London with Cecil Woolf would be complete without a stop at a bookstore, so we visited Persephone Books, 59 Lamb Conduit Street.
We were guided along the way by “Virginia Woolf Life and London: Bloomsbury and Beyond,” the classic Woolf guidebook written by Jean Moorcroft Wilson, Cecil’s wife of many years.
Speaking of books, Cecil and Jean publish several new volumes in their Bloomsbury Heritage Series each year, introducing them at the annual Woolf conference. Here is part of this year’s display.
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