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Archive for the ‘Monk’s House’ Category

Virginia Woolf’s writing lodge at Monk’s House

Emily Florence, a researcher for Lonelyleap, is working on an audio project about people’s connection to place. She sent the message below to the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain. Please contact her directly if you would like to be involved in the National Trust audio project she describes.

I am a researcher at Lonelyleap working on an audio project for the National Trust about people’s connection to place. I wondered whether you or any of your members who have visited Monk’s House might be interested in participating in the project. Obviously the house is a special place for anyone with an interest in Virginia Woolf and so I imagine there may be many people who feel a strong connection to it. Would you mind posting this on your group and asking anyone interested to get in touch via the email stories@lonelyleap.com?

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Share a photo of your room of your own with Virginia and Leonard Woolf’s Monks House.

The National Trust property in Rodmell, East Sussex, is creating a Woolf installation in her writing lodge, and there are two ways you can get involved:

  • Send an image of “A Room of Your Own” and briefly describe what you do in the space.
  • Donate your copy of the book, highlighting your favorite word, lines, or passage. Doodles, highlights and margin notes are welcome!

All images used will be added to a database and combined with other images to create an audio-visual installation. Books will not be returned.

Find out more about the A Room of One’s Own project.

This project explores the significance of the room in Virginia Woolf’s text as a creative space, be it real or psychological. – National Trust website

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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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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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This is new but not new. Virginia Woolf’s Monk’s House photo albums are on the Harvard University Library website.

Word of them showed up in a Feb. 12, 2016, post on the History Buff website, “Peek Inside Virginia Woolf’s Personal Photo Album.”  Duckworth

They’ve been there for some time. When I found them, they were posted as individual volumes. Once you scrolled past the introductory text, you could click on individual images, such as the one at right, a photo of George Duckworth.

You could also find them as Monk’s House Photograph Album.

This link on the Harvard University Library website displays the 144 individual pages of WoolfVirginia Woolf’s Monk’s House photo albums individually in a lefthand sidebar when you choose the “Show Thumbnails” option.

The image of very other page in the sidebar shows no photos attached. However, when you click on the image of a blank page, you will see that those blank pages appear to be the backs of the pages with the photos. Apparently, those pages were intended to be left empty.

You can also view Leslie Stephen’s Photograph Album on the Smith College site.

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When I visited Monk’s House back in 2004, I was not permitted to take interior photographs. So of course I bought the National Trust book.

Today I came across a few photos of the house that were shared on Twitter by @CasaLettori, with text in Italian. The photos remind me of the home’s loveliness. I’m sharing them here, with the thought that camera phones have changed everything.

 

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Photo collages posted on Twitter of the gardens at Monk’s House and Charleston Farmhouse introduced me to The Dahlia Papers blog. So I could not resist taking a closer look at Nan Morris’s garden photos.

Now, though, I am wondering how Morris, a garden designer based in South London and Suffolk, got permission to snap photos inside Monk’s House. When I visited years ago, it was strictly forbidden. I want her secret!

Morris provides lots of details about the gardens at both Sussex locations and gives a well-deserved shout-out to Carolyn Zoob’s gorgeous book, Virginia Woolf’s Garden.

For more tweets about lovely gardens, follow Morris at @nonmorris. To read her posts about Monk’s House and Charleston, click on the links below.

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