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Barbara Lounsberry’s volumes on Virginia Woolf’s diaries are available at a deep discount from the University of Florida Press through Dec. 7.

The volumes include Becoming Virginia Woolf ($18), Virginia Woolf’s Modernist Path ($35), and Virginia Woolf, the War Without, the War Within ($40).

Order online by visiting the UFP website and entering the discount code MSA18 at checkout. You can also download the flyer.

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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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img_1932Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on Jan. 25, 2016. It was so popular, we think it bears republishing today.

Today is Virginia Woolf’s birthday. She was born in Kensington, London, 135 years ago today, on Jan. 25, 1882, at 12:15 p.m.

Below are entries from her published diaries dated on her birthday or the day after. Some refer specifically to the gifts she received, the things she did and the people she saw on her birthday. The last one, written on Jan. 26, 1941, the year of her death, does not.

1897

Passionate Apprentice

Monday 25 January

My birthday. No presents at breakfast and none til Mr Gibbs came, bearing a great parcel under his arms, which turned out to be a gorgeous Queen Elizabeth — by Dr Creighton. I went out for a walk round the pond after breakfast with father, it being Nessas drawing day. Went out with Stella to Hatchards about some book for Jack, and then to Regent St. for flowers and fruit for him; then to Wimpole St. to see how he had slept, and then to Miss Hill in Marylebone Rd. Jo [Fisher] was there discussing the plans for Stellas new cottages with Miss Hill. All three learnedly argued over them for half an hour, I sitting on a stool by the fire and surveying Miss Hills legs — Nessa went back to her drawing after lunch, and Stella and I went to Story’s to buy me an arm chair, which is to be Ss present to me — We got a very nice one, and I came straight home, while Stella went on to Wimpole St. Gerald gave me £1, and Adrian a holder for my stylograph —Father is going to give me Lockharts Life of Scott — Cousin Mia gave me a diary and another pocket book. Thoby writes to say that he has ordered films for me. Got Carlyles Reminiscences, which I have read before. Reading four books at once — The Newcomes, Caryle, Old Curiosity Shop, and Queen Elizabeth — (21-22)

1905

25 January

Another lazy morning — read however the greater part of my review book, so that will be written tomorrow with luck — & then? — I must turn about for something fresh to do. My birthday, by the way — the 25th but, as usual, it was somehow rather forgotten which one begins to expect at my age —! Violet to lunch, & she did bring a present — a huge china inkpot which holds almost a jar full of ink, & is rather too large to be practicable. I must cultivate a bold hand & a quill pen — Georges motor after lunch, in which we did various long distance jobs — then home, read my review book, & dinner at 7.30 as we went with Gerald to Peter Pan, Barries play — imaginative & witty like all of his, but just too sentimental — However it was a great treat (227-228).

1915

VW Diary I

Monday 25 January

My birthday—& let me count up all the things I had. L. had sworn he would give me nothing, & like a good wife, I believed him. But he crept into my bed, with a little parcel, which was a beautiful green purse. And he brought up breakfast, with a paper which announced a naval victory (we have sunk a German battle ship) & a square brown parcel, with The Abbot in it—a lovely first edition— So I had a very merry & pleasing morning—which indeed was only surpassed by the afternoon. I was then taken up to town, free of charge, & given a treat, first at a Picture Palace, & then at Buszards. I don’t think I’ve had a birthday treat for 10 years; & it felt like one too—being a fine frosty day, everything brisk & cheerful, as it should be, but never is. The Picture Palace was a little disappointing—as we never got to the War pictures, after waiting 1 hour & a half. But to make up, we exactly caught a non-stop train, & I have been very happy reading father on Pope, which is very witty & bright—without a single dead sentence in it. In fact I dont know when I have enjoyed a birthday so much—not since I was a child anyhow. Sitting at tea we decided three things: in the first place to take Hogarth, if we can get it; in the second, to buy a Printing press; in the third to buy a Bull dog, probably called John. I am very much excited at the idea of all three—particularly the press. I was also given a packet of sweets to bring home (28).

1918

Friday 25 January

My Birthday. L. slid a fine cow’s horn knife into my hand this morning. Nelly has knitted me a pair of red socks which tie round the ankle, & thus just suit my state in the morning. Another event kept me recumbent. Barbara came, & together we “dissed” 4 pages, & L. printed off the second 4 at the printers—altogether a fine days work. At this rate Katherine’s story will be done in 5 weeks. We rather think of doing a little book of woodcuts, either after this book or at the same time, on our small press. Our dinner tonight was a sacrifice to duty on a fine scale; never were we more ready for an evening alone; books to read; a sense of a great deal of talk already discharged this week; but rather before 7.30 came Clara [Woolf] & the Whithams, whom we had asked with a view to killing each other off without more waste than was inevitable. Whitham’s elaborately literary get up is a fair index of his mind. He is what the self-taught working man thinks genius should be; & yet so unassuming & homely that its more amusing than repulsive. His passion for writing is the passion of the amateur—or rather of the person who’s got it up from a text book. Seeing Cannan’s new novel he said “Ah, Cannan, yes—he’s very weak in construction isn’t he?” And so with all the rest. He told me his books had a way of “screaming”, & with great enthusiasm, after asking the fate of my fiction which is a point of honour in professional circles, he ran over all the novels he’s got ready or half ready, or only in want of “phrasing”—which process he applies at the end. He begins with a synopsis, which takes him 3 months: but I didn’t listen to the whole story. They withdraw soon to Devonshire, where directly the war ends (but even the war hasn’t prevented him from adding a new book to the list) he is going to work hard. Writing all the morning, reading & walking the rest of the day (113).

1921

VW Diary II

Tuesday 25 January

Here have I waited 25 days before beginning the new year; & the 25 is, not unfortunately my 25th, but my 39th birthday; & we’ve had tea, & calculated the costs of printing Tchekov; now L. is folding the sheets of his book, & Ralph has gone, & I having taken this out of the press proceed to steal a few minutes to baptise it. I must help L. & can’t think of a solemn beginning. I’m at a crisis in Jacob: want to finish in 20,000 words, written straight off in a frenzy. And I must pull myself together to bring it off. . . Spring has miraculously renewed herself. Pink almond blossoms are in bud. Callow birds crow. In short, he’s out of love & in love, & contemplated eloping with a Spaniard in a motor car. “But after all, I said to myself as I walked back, I like to think of my book & my armchair. It’s terrible, terrible. I can’t give up my old friends after all” (86).

1930

Diary Vol. 3

Sunday 26 January

I am 48: we have been at Rodmell—a wet, windy day again; but on my birthday we walked among the downs, like the folded wings of grey birds; & saw first one fox, very long with his brush stretched; then a second; which had been barking, for the sun was hot over us; it leapt lightly over a fence & entered the furze—a very rare sight. How many foxes are there in England? At night I read Lord Chaplin’s life. I cannot yet write naturally in my new room, because the table is not the right height, & I must stoop to warm my hands. Everything must be absolutely what I am used to (285).

1931

Monday 26 January

Heaven be praised, I can truthfully say on this first day of being 49 that I have shaken off the obsession of Opening the Door, & have returned to Waves: & have this instant seen the entire book whole, & how I can finish it–say in under 3 weeks (7).

1941

VW Diary Vol. 5

Sunday 26 January

A battle against depression, rejection (by Harper’s of my story & Ellen Terry) routed today (I hope) by clearing out kitchen; by sending the article (a lame one) to N.S.: & by breaking into PH 2 days, I think, of memoir writing.

This trough of despair shall not, I swear, engulf me. The solitude is great. Rodmell life is very small beer. The house is damp. The house is untidy. But there is no alternative. Also days will lengthen. What I need is the old spurt. “Your true life, like mine, is in ideas” Desmond said to me once. But one must remember one cant pump ideas. I begin to dislike introspection. Sleep & slackness; musing; reading; cooking; cycling; oh & a good hard rather rocky book–viz: Herbert Fisher. This is my prescription. We are going to Cambridge for two days. I find myself totting up my friends lives: Helen at Alciston without water; Adrian & Karin; Oliver at Bedford, & adding up rather a higher total of happiness. There’s a lull in the war. 6 nights without raids. But Garvin says the greatest struggle is about to come–say in 3 weeks–& every man, woman dog cat even weevil must girt their arms, their faith–& so on.

Its the cold hour, this, before the lights go up. A few snowdrops in the garden. Yes, I was thinking: we live without a future. Thats whats queer, with our noses pressed to a closed door. Now to write, with a new nib, to Enid Jones (354-355).

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Virginia Woolf’s diary entries from around Christmas bring into sharp relief the feelings that the festive season stirs. Her pieces are coloured by the unpredictable shifts of British winter weather, express the pull between social event and solitude, and are self-reflective in their review of the past.

The following entries span the twenty-year period from 1920-40 and express the layered and complex connotations that our annual traditions hold.

woolf-xmas

“A Virginia Woolf Christmas – Monks House Welcome Home” design by Amanda White

19 December 1920, Hogarth House

In 1920, Woolf’s entry anticipates her New Year’s return to Rodmell and the comfort and routine this will bring. She imagines the “soft, grey walk” she will take in the dappled cool winter light on the greyed heather and chalky mud of the Sussex Downs. Woolf weaves this expectation for the New Year with the immediacy of Christmas at the end of the entry where we join her in delighting in an early Christmas gift from Leonard:

So we reach the end of the year; which is for us cheerful, I think. For one thing we want to get to Rodmell; to see what has happened to the garden. I shall like a soft grey walk. Then the post. Then reading. Then sitting in the chimney corner […] (I use my new blotter, just given me by L., for the first time).

26 December 1929, Monks House

In 1929 Monks House delivers the atmospheric weather that Woolf had imagined at the beginning of the century. She writes, moreover, of its changeability and its effect on her – producing a “violent Christmas” which gives way to a “serene Boxing day”. Here we also see her desire for solitude in the face of incessant society and the hope that, for once, this will truly be possible:

And I am sitting in my new room, with curtains, fire, table; and two great views; sometimes sun over the brooks and storm over the church. A violent Christmas; a brilliant serene Boxing day. I find it almost incredibly soothing – a fortnight alone – almost impossible to let oneself have it. Relentlessly we have crushed visitors: we will be alone this once, we say; and really, it seems possible.

21 December 1933, 52 Tavistock Square

Christmas’s habit of repeating itself is hinted at in 1929 where the impossibility of retreat seems to be routine. In 1933, Woolf is particularly reflexive on the patterns of Christmas, calling the morning of preparing to go down to Rodmell a “relic”, seemingly aged and outdated:

This is the relic of a morning when I should tidy, pack, write letters and so on. We lunch at quarter to one, and then go, this yellow cold morning. No longer the great tradition that it used to be.

24 December 1940, Monks House

Woolf’s seasonal self-reflection is also present in our final entry from 1940, which begins by fantasising about living at Alciston Farm House but ends on a note of quiet contentment with home at Monks House:

“We lunched with Helen [Anrep at Alciston]; and again ‘I could have fancied living there’. An incredible loveliness. The downs breaking their wave, yet one pale quarry; and all the barns and stacks either a broken pink, or a verdurous green; and then the walk by the wall; and the church; deep hollows, where the past stands almost stagnant. And the little spire across the fields… L. is now cutting logs, and after my rush of love and envy for Alciston farm house, we concluded this [Monks House] is the perfect place.”

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Today is Virginia Woolf’s birthday. She was born in Kensington, London, 134cake years ago today, on Jan. 25, 1882, at 12:15 p.m.

Below are entries from her published diaries dated on her birthday or the day after. Some refer specifically to the gifts she received, the things she did and the people she saw on her birthday. The last one, written on Jan. 26, 1941, the year of her death, does not.

1897

Passionate Apprentice

A Passionate Apprentice [1990] (ed. by Mitchell A. Leaska) The early journals, 1897-1909

Monday 25 January
My birthday. No presents at breakfast and none til Mr Gibbs came, bearing a great parcel under his arms, which turned out to be a gorgeous Queen Elizabeth — by Dr Creighton. I went out for a walk round the pond after breakfast with father, it being Nessas drawing day. Went out with Stella to Hatchards about some book for Jack, and then to Regent St. for flowers and fruit for him; then to Wimpole St. to see how he had slept, and then to Miss Hill in Marylebone Rd. Jo [Fisher] was there discussing the plans for Stellas new cottages with Miss Hill. All three learnedly argued over them for half an hour, I sitting on a stool by the fire and surveying Miss Hills legs — Nessa went back to her drawing after lunch, and Stella and I went to Story’s to buy me an arm chair, which is to be Ss present to me — We got a very nice one, and I came straight home, while Stella went on to Wimpole St. Gerald gave me £1, and Adrian a holder for my stylograph —Father is going to give me Lockharts Life of Scott — Cousin Mia gave me a diary and another pocket book. Thoby writes to say that he has ordered films for me. Got Carlyles Reminiscences, which I have read before. Reading four books at once — The Newcomes, Caryle, Old Curiosity Shop, and Queen Elizabeth — (21-22)

1905

25 January
Another lazy morning — read however the greater part of my review book, so that will be written tomorrow with luck — & then? — I must turn about for something fresh to do. My birthday, by the way — the 25th but, as usual, it was somehow rather forgotten which one begins to expect at my age —! Violet to lunch, & she did bring a present — a huge china inkpot which holds almost a jar full of ink, & is rather too large to be practicable. I must cultivate a bold hand & a quill pen — Georges motor after lunch, in which we did various long distance jobs — then home, read my review book, & dinner at 7.30 as we went with Gerald to Peter Pan, Barries play — imaginative & witty like all of his, but just too sentimental — However it was a great treat (227-228).

1915

VW Diary I

The Diary of Virginia Woolf, Vol. I 1977 (ed. by Anne Olivier Bell) 1915-1919

Monday 25 January
My birthday—& let me count up all the things I had. L. had sworn he would give me nothing, & like a good wife, I believed him. But he crept into my bed, with a little parcel, which was a beautiful green purse. And he brought up breakfast, with a paper which announced a naval victory (we have sunk a German battle ship) & a square brown parcel, with The Abbot in it—a lovely first edition— So I had a very merry & pleasing morning—which indeed was only surpassed by the afternoon. I was then taken up to town, free of charge, & given a treat, first at a Picture Palace, & then at Buszards. I don’t think I’ve had a birthday treat for 10 years; & it felt like one too—being a fine frosty day, everything brisk & cheerful, as it should be, but never is. The Picture Palace was a little disappointing—as we never got to the War pictures, after waiting 1 hour & a half. But to make up, we exactly caught a non-stop train, & I have been very happy reading father on Pope, which is very witty & bright—without a single dead sentence in it. In fact I dont know when I have enjoyed a birthday so much—not since I was a child anyhow. Sitting at tea we decided three things: in the first place to take Hogarth, if we can get it; in the second, to buy a Printing press; in the third to buy a Bull dog, probably called John. I am very much excited at the idea of all three—particularly the press. I was also given a packet of sweets to bring home (28).

1918

Friday 25 January
My Birthday. L. slid a fine cow’s horn knife into my hand this morning. Nelly has knitted me a pair of red socks which tie round the ankle, & thus just suit my state in the morning. Another event kept me recumbent. Barbara came, & together we “dissed” 4 pages, & L. printed off the second 4 at the printers—altogether a fine days work. At this rate Katherine’s story will be done in 5 weeks. We rather think of doing a little book of woodcuts, either after this book or at the same time, on our small press. Our dinner tonight was a sacrifice to duty on a fine scale; never were we more ready for an evening alone; books to read; a sense of a great deal of talk already discharged this week; but rather before 7.30 came Clara [Woolf] & the Whithams, whom we had asked with a view to killing each other off without more waste than was inevitable. Whitham’s elaborately literary get up is a fair index of his mind. He is what the self-taught working man thinks genius should be; & yet so unassuming & homely that its more amusing than repulsive. His passion for writing is the passion of the amateur—or rather of the person who’s got it up from a text book. Seeing Cannan’s new novel he said “Ah, Cannan, yes—he’s very weak in construction isn’t he?” And so with all the rest. He told me his books had a way of “screaming”, & with great enthusiasm, after asking the fate of my fiction which is a point of honour in professional circles, he ran over all the novels he’s got ready or half ready, or only in want of “phrasing”—which process he applies at the end. He begins with a synopsis, which takes him 3 months: but I didn’t listen to the whole story. They withdraw soon to Devonshire, where directly the war ends (but even the war hasn’t prevented him from adding a new book to the list) he is going to work hard. Writing all the morning, reading & walking the rest of the day (113).

1921

VW Diary II

The Diary of Virginia Woolf: Volume II 1978 (ed. by Anne Olivier Bell with Andrew McNeillie) 1920-1924.

Tuesday 25 January
Here have I waited 25 days before beginning the new year; & the 25 is, not unfortunately my 25th, but my 39th birthday; & we’ve had tea, & calculated the costs of printing Tchekov; now L. is folding the sheets of his book, & Ralph has gone, & I having taken this out of the press proceed to steal a few minutes to baptise it. I must help L. & can’t think of a solemn beginning. I’m at a crisis in Jacob: want to finish in 20,000 words, written straight off in a frenzy. And I must pull myself together to bring it off. . . Spring has miraculously renewed herself. Pink almond blossoms are in bud. Callow birds crow. In short, he’s out of love & in love, & contemplated eloping with a Spaniard in a motor car. “But after all, I said to myself as I walked back, I like to think of my book & my armchair. It’s terrible, terrible. I can’t give up my old friends after all” (86).

1930

Diary Vol. 3

The Diary of Virginia Woolf: Volume III 1980 (ed. by Anne Olivier Bell with Andrew McNeillie) 1925-1930.

Sunday 26 January
I am 48: we have been at Rodmell—a wet, windy day again; but on my birthday we walked among the downs, like the folded wings of grey birds; & saw first one fox, very long with his brush stretched; then a second; which had been barking, for the sun was hot over us; it leapt lightly over a fence & entered the furze—a very rare sight. How many foxes are there in England? At night I read Lord Chaplin’s life. I cannot yet write naturally in my new room, because the table is not the right height, & I must stoop to warm my hands. Everything must be absolutely what I am used to (285).

1931

Monday 26 January
Heaven be praised, I can truthfully say on this first day of being 49 that I have shaken off the obsession of Opening the Door, & have returned to Waves: & have this instant seen the entire book whole, & how I can finish it–say in under 3 weeks (7).

1941

VW Diary Vol. 5

The Diary of Virginia Woolf: Volume V 1984 (ed. by Anne Olivier Bell with Andrew McNeillie) 1936-1941.

Sunday 26 January
A battle against depression, rejection (by Harper’s of my story & Ellen Terry) routed today (I hope) by clearing out kitchen; by sending the article (a lame one) to N.S.: & by breaking into PH 2 days, I think, of memoir writing.

This trough of despair shall not, I swear, engulf me. The solitude is great. Rodmell life is very small beer. The house is damp. The house is untidy. But there is no alternative. Also days will lengthen. What I need is the old spurt. “Your true life, like mine, is in ideas” Desmond said to me once. But one must remember one cant pump ideas. I begin to dislike introspection. Sleep & slackness; musing; reading; cooking; cycling; oh & a good hard rather rocky book–viz: Herbert Fisher. This is my prescription. We are going to Cambridge for two days. I find myself totting up my friends lives: Helen at Alciston without water; Adrian & Karin; Oliver at Bedford, & adding up rather a higher total of happiness. There’s a lull in the war. 6 nights without raids. But Garvin says the greatest struggle is about to come–say in 3 weeks–& every man, woman dog cat even weevil must girt their arms, their faith–& so on.

Its the cold hour, this, before the lights go up. A few snowdrops in the garden. Yes, I was thinking: we live without a future. Thats whats queer, with our noses pressed to a closed door. Now to write, with a new nib, to Enid Jones (354-355).

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Becoming Virginia Woolf Her Early Diaries and the Diaries She Read, by Barbara Lounsberry, will be out next fall.

The book, which covers Woolf’s second, spare Modernist diary stage, from mid-1918 to mid-1929, can be purchased at a discount through Dec. 11. Download the flyer for details.

Published by the University Press of Florida, Lounsberry’s book is described as the only full-length work to explore the topic of Woolf’s diaries. In it, she illuminates how Woolf’s private and public writing was shaped by the diaries of other writers, including Samuel Pepys, James Boswell and more.

Screen Shot 2015-12-03 at 8.37.39 PM

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Diary Vol. 3We all know that Virginia Woolf was on the BBC. Her essay, “Craftsmanship,” was  broadcast as part of BBC Radio’s “Words Fail Me” series on 29 April 1937.

The piece took up about 21 minutes of air time, but less than eight minutes were actually recorded. To those of us who love her work, it seems tragic that her voice reading every word  of her essay is not preserved on tape. But tape was expensive, and more of her words were preserved than was typical for such broadcasts. Three to four minutes was the standard, according to the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain.

But until now, I didn’t know that Woolf also recorded her thoughts about the BBC in her diary — and that those thoughts would be used in a current-day analysis of BBC objectivity. Here’s what Woolf recorded in her diary for 6 May 1926:

There is a brown fog; nobody is building; it is drizzling. The first thing in the morning we stand at the window & watch the traffic in Southampton Row. This is incessant. Everyone is bicycling; motor cars are huddled up with extra people … It is all tedious & depressing, rather like waiting in a train outside a station. Rumours are passed round – that the gas would be cut off at 1 – false of course. One does not know what to do … A voice, rather commonplace & official, yet the only common voice left, wishes us good morning at 10. This is the voice of Britain, to which we can make no reply. The voice is very trivial, & only tells us that the Prince of Wales is coming back, that the London streets present an unprecedented spectacle.

These words of Woolf’s are used to introduce an 18 August 2014 piece in The Guardian that questions whether this trust in the BBC is still well-placed. The article quotes Woolf extensively in its review of BBC coverage of the General Strike of 1926.

One quote shares Woolf’s response to Winston Churchill’s efforts to make the BBC an offshoot to the British Gazette, the government’s short-lived publication that served as an effective propaganda tool for the government. Churchill, a correspondent in the Boer War, shaped the paper’s editorial stance, all while he was serving as Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Winston … said it was monstrous not to use such an instrument [as broadcasting] to the best possible advantage.

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