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Virginia Woolf in Richmond by Peter Fullagar launches today. The book is a companion piece for the heritage project that will create the first-ever life-sized, full-figure bronze statue of Virginia. Installation is planned for the terraces at Richmond upon Thames Riverside.

The book, the film, and the launch

Published by Aurora Metro Books, the book provides an overview of the 10 years that Virginia and Leonard spent in Richmond, just a 15-minute train trip from central London. In it, Fullagar explores Virginia’s diaries and letters, along with Leonard’s autobiography, to reveal how Richmond influenced Virginia’s personal life, as well as her writing life from 1914-1924.

The book and film are set to launch today, from 7-9 p.m. at the Richmond Literary Festival — and tickets for the event sold out a week ago.

The statue and its location

The statue features Virginia on a park bench. She is turned to face the empty space to her right that can be filled by any visitor who happens to take a seat there. The project, organized by the arts and education charity Aurora Metro Arts & Media, will be backed by a £50,000 public fund-raising campaign.

While the sculpture design by Laury Dizengremel has generated mixed reviews based on its likeness to Virginia and its placement in Richmond, after reading Fullagar’s manuscript in preparation for writing the foreward to Virginia Woolf in Richmond, I think the suburb deserves a fitting tribute to Virginia. In his book, Fullagar makes a good case for Richmond’s importance in the personal and professional lives of the Woolfs.

Read on for a Q&A with the author, which includes Fullagar’s explanation of how Richmond came to be seen as a place Virginia disliked, rather than one she appreciated, valued, and enjoyed, as born out by her personal writing.

Q&A with author Peter Fullagar

Why were Virginia Woolf’s years in Richmond important?

Virginia Woolf lived in Richmond from 1914 to 1924 and in my opinion, I think they were crucial to her development as a writer and also for her health. In the previous years and in early 1915, Virginia had some of her severest health issues, and the area of Richmond was quiet with fewer distractions than central London to aid in her recovery. Richmond was also close to Burley House in Twickenham, the ‘rest home’ run by Miss Jean Thomas, where Virginia stayed when her illness was at its worst.

It was Leonard’s idea to give Virginia a hobby to keep her occupied while in Richmond, and this was the founding of the Hogarth Press. The Hogarth Press gave Virginia control over her publications as she became anxious when sending her work to publishers for them to critique. The Press also allowed Virginia the freedom to experiment with her writing, and this is apparent with Jacob’s Room, published in 1922.

However, I don’t think it was just the Press which gave Virginia stability; it was Hogarth House as well, due to its solid and safe walls, which I believe gave Virginia protection. In Leonard’s autobiography, he called the years in Richmond essential for her growth as a writer. Even when leaving Richmond and Hogarth House in 1924, Virginia writes a very eloquent and emotional diary entry which demonstrates her affection for the town and house. It is a shame that her time in Richmond is often overlooked.

What type of research did you do to carry out this writing project?

We knew from the start that the book was going to be heavily based on Virginia’s diaries and letters, and it is unfortunate that the originals are not held in the UK. Therefore, I bought every volume of her diaries and letters and meticulously went through each volume to find references to Richmond and the surrounding area as well as looking at her feelings while she was in the town. It was important for me to look at her own words while researching as this gave me her true feelings. As anyone who has read her diaries, she did not hold back with her emotions and opinions and they are a great treasure trove that has yet to be fully explored.

It was vital to also look at what Leonard had to say about the time in Richmond as he can often be overlooked as well, and I found that his multi-volume autobiography often went into much more detail than Virginia did. I wanted to get Leonard’s opinion of Richmond and Hogarth House, as it was essentially his decision to make about where the couple should live. It was also interesting to see his reluctance to move away from Richmond as he thought staying there would be more beneficial for Virginia.

What new insights about Woolf did your work on this project give you?

Looking through Virginia’s diaries and letters, I feel I’ve got to know more about the woman herself. Previously, I’d mainly read her fiction, but her personal writing reveals many different sides to her. I found that she had a wicked wit and was rather humorous, but in a deadpan way; an example here is when she is explaining about a walk in Richmond Park with her dog Max, and unfortunately, her suspenders fell down.

She was a great observer of people and things, and it was fascinating to see how she viewed the people in her life; her disparaging comments of Katherine Mansfield, followed by her lamenting Katherine’s death was intriguing to read and really showed me the duality that seems to permeate Virginia’s life and writing.

It was, of course, disheartening to read about her struggles with mental health, but what was encouraging was that she was attempting to understand it and recognise the symptoms. However, it is merely the fact that she wrote it down and recorded it at a time when mental health was still rather taboo and misunderstood which impressed me the most.

What draws you to Woolf?

I first read Woolf while at school and then focused on her diaries for my Masters’ dissertation, so for a long time she has been part of my life. I’m very much a fan of the stream of consciousness writing style, and I find that I am intensely drawn to her works of fiction, especially The Waves, which is probably my favourite. She seems to be able to capture so many facets of a person through her writing, and I am sure that her life experiences have enabled her to do this.

Through my Masters and research for this book, I have become even more interested in her personal writing, as well as those of other writers such as George Orwell. It’s fascinating to read and analyse feelings and emotions through the medium of diaries, and I am sure that I will continue to be intrigued.

How and why did you get involved with the Virginia Woolf statue project?

This was certainly a stroke of luck and good fortune. After I had decided to leave the teaching profession, I looked for volunteer roles to help me learn about editing and proofreading, as this was something I had always wanted to do. I came across Aurora Metro, and it was because they run a literature prize named after Virginia (The Virginia Prize for Fiction) and their campaign for a statue that I got in contact.

I met with Cheryl Robson, the publisher, and we discussed how I could become involved with volunteering and helping out with editorial matters, but it was my interest in Virginia Woolf which led me to write articles on the statue project and eventually be asked to write the book.

How do these two projects — the book and the statue — support each other as well as our understanding of Woolf’s life and work?

I think that both projects complement each other very well. The statue project wants to erect a statue of Virginia Woolf in Richmond because she has not adequately been recognised as being associated with the town. The statue now has planning permission, which is a great step forward, and now we can continue raising funds to make it become a reality.

The book, which as you know, focuses on Richmond, and tries to refute the idea that Virginia disliked living there. This has mainly been fueled by the fictional quote from the film The Hours, which has, unfortunately, been taken as truth by some people. The book aims to show how she felt about Richmond as it is often forgotten. I hope that after reading the book, people will understand why Richmond deserves to be recognised as a critical part of Virginia’s life and work and why the statue of Virginia needs to be put in its right place.

What can you tell us about the film made regarding the statue project?

The film for the statue project is a short ten-minute film, quoting some of Virginia’s diaries and letters to demonstrate her true feelings about Richmond. There are interviews with writers such as Anne Sebba, broadcasters such as Bamber Gasgoyne and Henrietta Garnett, Virginia’s niece. I appear in the film as well, talking about some of my research for the book.

However, what I think is most important in the film is that we get to see the sculptor, Laury Dizengremel, talking about her inspiration for the statue – seeing her enthusiasm for the project is a joy. I think it is a wonderful way to show people visually how and why Richmond was important to Virginia.

Do you have another Woolf project on your agenda? And if so, what can you tell us about it?

This is an interesting question. The process of writing the book has been thoroughly enjoyable and I’ve loved doing the research for it, and to see the book come to life is magical. I am considering what to do next. There are many different avenues to explore, especially concerning Leonard Woolf, as I feel that he is sometimes left in Virginia’s shadow, but he was equally important in his own right. There were also many notable people who visited Leonard and Virginia, so there may be something that piques my interest there. Watch this space!

Author Peter Fullagar with his new book Virginia Woolf in Richmond, which launches today.

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First, there was the conference. Then came the party. In London. With the Woolfs.

On the Monday evening following days one, two, three, and four of the 27th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf, Cecil Woolf and Jean Moorcroft Wilson hosted a party in London for their visiting Woolfian friends who remained in town.

I was happy to be among them. But I was chagrined to arrive on their doorstep 20 minutes early due to lightning fast service by my Uber driver.

Cecil and Jean, however, didn’t blink when they answered my too-early knock. They ushered me in and escorted me up the stairs, past stacks of books from their Bloomsbury Heritage Series and a smattering of hats from Jean’s famous collection.

Cecil poured me a glass of wine and settled me in their persimmon-colored sitting room that is casually decorated with original Bloomsbury art by Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant. It was magical.

Cecil and Jean are tremendous hosts who know how to make each guest feel specially welcome, no matter when they arrive. They created a wonderful evening full of camaraderie, good food, and drink, while introducing us to their daughter Emma Woolf, author of numerous books and a regular BBC contributor.

Afterward, when thinking about the evening, a quote came to mind that perfectly captures the mood and magic of the evening.

No need to hurry. No need to sparkle. No need to be anybody but oneself. – Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own (1929)

Cecil Woolf and Jean Moorcroft Wilson hosted a post-conference party at their London home, which also houses Cecil Woolf Publishers.

This side table decorated by Duncan Grant held appetizers, as well as my little Virginia. #travelswithvirginiawoolf

Cecil Woolf and daughter Emma Woolf at the party.

Louise Higham, Suzanne Bellamy, John McCoy, and Eleanor McNees (far right) were among the party guests.

A firescreen painted by Duncan Grant.

Bloomsbury art above the fireplace, along with a piece by Suzanne Bellamy and a photo of Jean.

Judith Allen and her husband Steve.

More Bloomsbury art.

 

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Whether we celebrate it June 20 or June 13, may we all think of Clarissa and Virginia in London today, as we arrange some flowers of our own, read some Woolf, and take a walk. 

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Wandering around Bloomsbury on my first day in London this June, I happened upon the Morton Hotel.

I wasn’t exactly looking for it. But Ann Martin of the University of Saskatchewan had planted the name in my mind with an offhand comment at this year’s Woolf conference. Upon hearing that I would be alone in the capital city for a few days, she remarked, “You could have tea at the Morton.”

And so I did. I had written about tea at the Morton before — back in 2014 — but I had forgotten the details. Consequently, my afternoon relaxing in the hotel’s Library bar and lounge was full of a series of lovely surprises, all with a Bloomsbury touch.

I chose a seat in front of the fireplace, where I set in for a good read as well as refreshment. I relaxed with a selection of books about Bloomsbury laid out on a sofa table and the Morton’s traditional afternoon tea, which is truly lovely and reasonably priced at £15. It included a tiered dish of tiny crustless sandwiches, pastries and fresh fruit, along with scones served with jam and clotted cream.

All around me — from entry to ladies room — were photo collages of Bloomsbury figures as well as reproductions of art by the Bloomsbury group and Hogarth Press book covers designed by Vanessa Bell.

Next time you’re in London, take tea at the Morton. It’s open 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., Monday through Sunday. Meanwhile, take a look at what you’ll find.

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Entry to the Morton Hotel, 2 Woburn Place, in Russell Square

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The chandelier in the entryway features Hogarth Press book covers.

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Once inside the entry, look to your left and “take the lift to the basement.”

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The cozy sitting area in front of the fireplace, my chosen spot.

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Books ranging from Bloomsbury Rooms to Bloomsbury Portraits are available for browsing.

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Traditional afternoon tea: as delicious as it looks.

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Collages of Bloomsbury photos decorate the walls.

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This sitting area nestled into a corner featured art by Vanessa Bell.

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Even the hallway to the ladies room — as well as the ladies itself — was decorated with Bloomsbury art.

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After an unforgettable time at the Woolf Conference in Leeds, my boyfriend and I treated ourselves to a short stay in London as a reward for ourselves. I successfully presented a paper at the conference (and didn’t pass out from being so star-struck over all of the scholars!), while he had successfully completed chapter two of his Ph.D dissertation.

We tried to pack in as many literary trips as we could, and we couldn’t leave England without making a trip to check out the Dalloway Terrace, named after Clarissa Dalloway herself.

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Menus and a Woolf book outside of the restaurant.

The Dalloway Terrace restaurant is located in The Bloomsbury Hotel which is in a fantastic location in the heart of Bloomsbury. The hotel is a three-minute walk to the British Museum, seven-minute walk to Russell Square, and ten-minute walk to many Woolf sites, such as the lovely statue in Tavistock Square dedicated to the author.

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A view of the terrace.

The dreamy atmosphere is the highlight of this outdoor restaurant. Marble topped tables are surrounded by benches which are made comfortable with big pillows. Each chair on the terrace is draped with a wool blanket in anticipation of the ever changing English weather. Candles flicker on tables which are separated by big pots of lush, green plants. It is absolutely lovely.

The servers were kind, helpful and highly attentive, and the food was delicious. The restaurant offers several different menus, including breakfast, brunch, lunch, afternoon tea, and dinner menus, along with a tempting cocktail menu. The afternoon tea at the Dalloway has been getting rave reviews, and many Londoners suggest making a trip to the Bloomsbury Hotel specifically to enjoy the tea service.

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Cake and cream at the Dalloway.

We ordered a few British specialties, such as fish and chips, and we couldn’t skip the delectable dessert menu, from which we ordered a few ice creams and cakes. Everything was presented very elegantly, and every bite was full of flavor. We decided that the old cliche about British food being bland is highly incorrect and dated!

After a few Bloomsbury-themed afternoon cocktails, we started to feel that Clarissa herself might enjoy this restaurant; one could almost see her among the twinkling lights, charming friends between the spatter of rain drops on the clear dividers—planning her next party perhaps.

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Afternoon tea on the terrace (image from TripAdvisor.com).

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The dissertation felt worlds away while at the Dalloway!

The meal was delightfully regenerating and the terrace was a perfect place to take a break from enjoying one of the most exciting and literary cities in the world. One could easily spend a few hours on the terrace, sipping cocktails, enjoying small cakes, and discussing the importance of Modernist literature. We did this several times during our trip!

My partner and I enjoyed the Dalloway Terrace so much that we dined there multiple times while in London–and we are already dreaming of our next meal at the this beautiful and delicious restaurant. Enjoying yummy food in such a dreamy environment was a highlight of our trip. We highly recommend making a trip to visit this lovely retreat in the heart of London.

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A happy Yankee on a London terrace.

We did not make reservations for our dining experiences, but the restaurant highly recommends reservations, especially on the weekends.

The Dalloway Terrace accepts reservations for individual dining, group dining, and private events.

If you are in London you can find the Dalloway Terrace inside of the Bloomsbury Hotel located at 16-22 Great Russell Street, London, WC1B 3NN, or phone the restaurant at +44 (0) 207 347 1221.

You can find information about booking a room at The Bloomsbury Hotel here.

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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 and I on a bench in Tavistock Square garden. Virginia and Leonard lived at 52 Tavistock Square from 1924-1939.

Cecil Woolf and I share a bench in Tavistock Square garden. Virginia and Leonard lived at 52 Tavistock Square from 1924-1939. Cecil remembers them sharing a bottle of wine while sitting at a table in the garden.

Cecil Woolf with the bust of Virginia Woolf located in Tavistock Square garden, dedicated in 2004.

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 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.

Cecil Woolf at 46 Gordon Square, where Virginia lived from 1905-1907.

No walk around London would be complete without a stop at a bookstore, so we visited Persephone Books.

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. The shop carries books from Cecil Woolf Publishers.

We were guided along the way by "Virginia Woolf Life and London: Bloomsbury and Beyond," written by Jean Moorcroft Wilson, Cecil's wife of many years.

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 the Bloomsbury Heritage Series each year, introducing them at the annual Woolf conference.

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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I’m guessing that many Virginia Woolf common readers and scholars will be traveling to London Sign PostLondon this year and next, since the 2016 and 2017 Annual International Conferences on Virginia Woolf will be held in England — this year in Leeds and next year in Reading.

No doubt they’ll be looking for Woolf’s London, including all of the places she lived and the streets Clarissa Dalloway walked.

So now is a good time to share a few fun resources that will help visitors eat, sleep and shop as Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group did.

For more tips on traveling in the steps of Virginia Woolf, visit In Her Steps. This page includes travel tips for London and beyond. It also includes links to Woolf tours, both audio and in-person.

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