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Botanic Garden gates

Today at the Literature Cambridge course on Virginia Woolf’s Gardens, we went To the Lighthouse.

Not literally. But that was the focus of both the lecture by Trudi Tate and our small group tutorials this morning, before we veered off across the land to the Cambridge University Botanic Garden. There, garden historian Caroline Holmes led us on an afternoon tour of plants from all over the world.

We didn’t make it through the entire 40 acres of the garden that opened in 1846. Nevertheless, we saw, felt, and sniffed a wide variety of the more than 8,000 species growing there.

Discussing the garden in To the Lighthouse

Predictably enough, our morning discussions about To the Lighthouse focused on Woolf’s use of the garden in her 1927 novel. In her lecture, Tate touched on ways the garden connects to mother and memory, as well as the Victorian past.

Later this morning, in our four-person tutorial group led by Karina Jakubowicz, two things stand out to me from our discussion. One was the way the urns full of red trailing geraniums fail to attract Mr. Ramsay’s full attention but cause him to go off on intellectual tangents. The other was the meaning of Mrs. Ramsay’s green cashmere shawl in the “Time Passes” section. We all thought there was more to explore there.

Walking the gardens

Now for photos from the day, starting at Wolfson College, home of this year’s Literature Cambridge course, and ending with a walk through the Cambridge University Botanic Garden.

The Wolfson College garden where two of the four tutorial groups at this year’s Literature Cambridge class discussed Woolf’s “To the Lighthouse” this morning.

Entrance to the Cambridge University Botanic Garden on Trumpington Street

The knowledgeable Caroline Holmes provided the history of the trees and other plants at the Botanic Garden during our tour, adding a touch of humor throughout.

The iconic fountain designed by David Mellor, a focal point at the eastern end of the Botanic Garden’s Main Walk

Path through the Winter Garden

Floral close-up

One of the many trees on the Main Walk of the Botanic Garden

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King’s College, Cambridge

It’s day two of the Literature Cambridge course Virginia Woolf’s Gardens, and we spent two hours touring the gardens of King’s College, Cambridge. Then came the best part of all. We saw the window of a room that was the setting for a scene in Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own.

Not a room of her own

That important part of our tour came at the end, as we got a look at the second floor window of the room overlooking the college green where, our guide told us, Woolf wrote the first chapter of A Room of One’s Own (1929). Later, Trudi Tate, director of Literature Cambridge, corrected that statement. Instead, she told us, the room was the setting for the well-appointed lunch Woolf describes in the first chapter of Room.

The room, of course, was not her own, but was the quarters of Dadie Rylands. Women were not admitted to King’s until 1972, so they obtained their degrees at the University of Cambridge’s two women’s colleges, Newnham, founded in 1869, and Girton, founded in 1871.

We were not able to visit the actual room that helped inspire Woolf, as it is now the accounting office for the college. Ironically, it was off limits to Woolf pilgrims, we who revere her feminist polemic about the ways the patriarchy limits women. I do admit that our group of more than two dozen would have crowded such small quarters.

Bloomsbury paintings in the hundreds

However, after viewing the Provost’s Garden, we were allowed inside the nearby Provost’s Lodge. There, we were taken to two first-floor rooms that were hung with original paintings by Bloomsbury artists Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant, Roger Fry, and Dora Carrington.

I took plenty of photos of the paintings we saw, but publication of them — even on the internet — is not permitted without permission, and we did not want to trouble our guide to obtain that.

As it turns out, hundreds of paintings by Grant and Bell are hung around the college, many of them donated by Maynard Keynes. A catalogue of the Bloomsbury art is in the works, but it will be several years before it is ready. We were told that it may be available in digital format.

Corrected and updated: 17 July 2019

Virginia Woolf wrote the first chapter of “A Room of One’s Own” in Dadie Rylands’ room at King’s College, Cambridge, which was behind the second floor window shown here.

This was part of the view Woolf would have seen from Dadie Rylands’ room at King’s College, Cambridge, where she wrote the first chapter of “A Room of One’s Own.” As our guide told us, the buildings, the green, and the gardens have changed little since Woolf’s day.

Woolf mentions undergraduates punting on the river in “A Room of One’s Own.” They, and tourists, still do that today.

In the Provost’s Garden at King’s College, Cambridge.

A flower bed in the Provost’s Garden, with a pot of colorful sweet peas growing up a trellis.

Giant magnolias from the U.S. frame a doorway in the Provost’s Garden.

Sun-kissed floral closeup in the Provost’s Garden.

The Wine Room in the Provost’s Lodge is filled with paintings by members of the Bloomsbury Group. It is often used now as a seminar room. The 23 students in our group snapped lots of photos of the art.

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This afternoon, as part of our Literature Cambridge course on Virginia Woolf’s Gardens, we visited Newnham College in search of Virginia Woolf. We found her in several places.

Garden walk

Lottie Collis leads us on a garden tour.

First, we found her in the gardens, as we were led on a walking tour of the college’s four gardens by Lottie Collis, head of the garden team. We went from the original mid-Victorian garden with winding paths to the Arts and Crafts garden focused on form and function, to the sunken rose garden. All were in place in 1928 when Woolf visited.

Each garden was peaceful and beautiful in its own way, providing sensual stimulation to the eye as well as the nose, particularly when among the roses. In that outdoor space, the air smelled like heaven.

Site of the talk

But the most exciting part of the tour for me was our visit to Newnham’s dining hall, the site where Virginia Woolf gave her October 1928 talk on women and fiction. That talk, along with one given at Girton College, became A Room of One’s Own (1929), a landmark text for feminists worldwide.

The size, grandeur, and light-filled beauty of the room took my breath away. It was a room fitting for someone of Woolf’s current stature and the women who came before her. It was completely unlike the small, dim setting I had imagined for Woolf’s famous talk about the poorly treated women students she described.

Reactions to Woolf’s Newnham College talk

Woolf came to Newnham at the invitation of the Newnham Arts Society. Her audience that day is estimated at roughly around 40, but since no records were kept of the luncheon menu or the participants, it is difficult to be certain of the number or of the food served at the lunch.

Reactions to her talk about women and fiction were mixed. The first, published in the student magazine Thersites during the Michaelman Term of 1928, was positive. The next one, published years later in A Newnham Anthology of 1970, was not.

The woman who led our tour of the dining hall shared them both with our class and with Blogging Woolf. And we share them below, along with photos from our garden tour and our visit to the dining hall.

Exhibit of Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group

The Newnham College Library has a special exhibit of Hogarth Press books by Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group on the second floor of the new wing of the library. We viewed the exhibit. But sadly, photographs were not permitted. All of the materials are housed in the library’s special collections.

1928 commentary on Woolf’s talk.

Commentary on Woolf’s talk published in the Newnham Anthologies of 1970.

Mid-Victorian style garden outside Newnham’s Old Hall.

Students in the Literature Cambridge class, Virginia Woolf’s Gardens, walk the path on a tour of Newnham College gardens.

Just one view of one of the Newnham Hall gardens.

Students in the Literature Cambridge Virginia Woolf’s Gardens course In the Sunken Rose Garden at Newnham College.

Closeup of a yellow rose in bud in the Sunken Rose Garden at Newnham College

A perennial bed at Newnham College

The Newnham College dining hall where Virginia Woolf gave her famous talk on women and fiction in 1928.

Another view of the Newnham College dining hall where Woolf spoke in 1928.

A view of the elaborate, light-filled dining hall ceiling at Newnham College.

Alcove in the Newnham College dining hall.

View of the gardens from along the corridor leading to the Newnham College dining hall where Woolf gave her famous 1928 talk.

 

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I’m all settled in to my spacious and comfy room of my own at Wolfson College at the University of Cambridge.

I took the train up from London a day earlier than necessary for the Literature Cambridge course on Virginia Woolf’s Gardens.

That means we had a bit of time to explore a small parcel of Cambridge, enjoy a lovely tea at Harriets Cafe and Tea Rooms, check in and collect our welcome packets from Trudi Tate and her crew, and — in typical American fashion — load up on some Cambridge swag.

King’s Parade in Cambridge is jammed with tourists, shoppers, and Cambridge folks on Sunday. We were among them.
Trudi Tate and Rosa welcome Bee, a UK student and one of 23 in the Virginia Woolf’s Gardens course at Wolfson College at the University of Cambridge.
Students, including Yuriko, found a table full of Literature Cambridge T-shirts. I bought a red one from Rosa.
Suellen from the U.S. and Hans from the Netherlands take part in a Woolf-related conversation at Literature Cambridge check-in.
Cambridge, Wolfson, and Lit Cambridge T-shirts. I had to have all three.
The Classic Tea at Harrietts Cafe and Tearoom. The house blend is delicious.
View from my room of my own in the Conference Center at Wolfson College at the University of Cambridge.

 

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Virginia Woolf’s writing Lodge at Monk’s House

Blogging Woolf is on the way to Wolfson College at the University of Cambridge for the Literature Cambridge course Virginia Woolf’s Gardens.

I will be there July 14-19 and will post about my experiences, as we learn about the importance of gardens to Woolf’s life and work, from her early story “Kew Gardens” (1917) to her last novel, Between the Acts (1941).

Other course readings include Jacob’s Room (1922), Mrs. Dalloway (1925), To the Lighthouse (1927), Orlando (1928) and A Room of One’s Own (1929).

Daily schedule

Each day of the fully booked course starts with a lecture presented by a leading scholar. A seminar or a Cambridge-style one-hour supervision (tutorial) for small groups of students will discuss the topic of the day, looking closely at that day’s text. Each will be taught by lecturers and post-docs from the University of Cambridge.

Lecturers include Suzanne Raitt, Gillian Beer, Alison Hennegan, Clare Walker Gore, Karina Jakubowicz, Oliver Goldstein, Trudi Tate, Kabe Wilson and Caroline Holmes.

Manuscript, excursions, and more

We will also get to view the manuscript of A Room of One’s Own held in Cambridge.

When the course ends, many of us will head out on two excursions — to Monk’s House and Charleston. I visited both sites in 2004 but am eager to go again.

We’ll also have time to explore Cambridge on our own, go punting, discuss literature with other students, and reflect on Woolf, gardens, and more.

 

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I made the leap. I signed up to attend the Literature Cambridge course Virginia Woolf’s Gardens this summer at Wolfson College, University of Cambridge.

Along with others, I will be there July 14-19 learning about the importance of gardens to Woolf’s life and work, from her early story “Kew Gardens” (1917) to her last novel, Between the Acts (1941).

Other course readings include Jacob’s Room (1922), Mrs. Dalloway (1925), To the Lighthouse (1927), Orlando (1928) and A Room of One’s Own (1929).

Daily schedule

Each day starts with a lecture presented by a leading scholar. A seminar or a Cambridge-style one-hour supervision (tutorial) for students in groups of three or four follows, taught by lecturers and post-docs from the University of Cambridge to discuss the topic of the day, looking closely at that day’s text.

Lecturers include Suzanne Raitt, Gillian Beer, Alison Hennegan, Clare Walker Gore, Karina Jakubowicz, Oliver Goldstein, Trudi Tate, Kabe Wilson and Caroline Holmes.

Manuscript, excursions, and more

We will also get to view the manuscript of A Room of One’s Own held in Cambridge.

When the course ends, I’ll head out on two excursions — to Monk’s House and Charleston. I visited both sites in 2004 but am eager to go again.

Virginia Woolf’s writing Lodge at Monk’s House

We’ll also have time to explore Cambridge on our own, go punting, discuss literature with other students, and reflect, the website tells us.

Listen to Caroline Zoob’s podcast

Hear Caroline Zoob, author of Virginia Woolf’s Garden, interviewed by Literature Cambridge lecturer Karina Jukubowicz.

Spots available

There is still space available in the course. You can get more information and book online.

‘Everything tended to set itself in a garden where there was none of this gloom.’
– To the Lighthouse.

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  • St. Martins in the Field, Trafalgar Square.
    Monday, 17th Sept. 2018. 1 p.m. – Free Lunchtime concert.
    One of the five works to be sung by mezzo-soprano Marta Simmonds, accompanied by Lana Bode (piano), is Dominic Argento’s “The Diary of Virginia Woolf”. Read more.
  • St Ives September Festival 2018
    PORTHMEOR STUDIOS, Back Road West, Borlase Smart Room
    Thursday 20 September at 3.30 – 4.30 p.m.
    Sarah Latham Phillips MA
    Introducing the Bloomsbury Group; at the heart of which were the two sisters, Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell. Avant-garde, controversial and influential: the Bloomsbury Group. Painters, art critics, writers and economists: Roger Fry, Duncan Grant, Clive Bell, Lytton Strachey, Leonard Woolf, E. M. Forster, John Maynard Keynes, Adrian Stephen and David Garnett.
    Tickets £5.50 Read more.
  • Celebration of “Orlando: A Biography” at Charleston, September–December (mainly 11–14 October) 2018
    Read more.

     

  • Bookings have just opened for Literature Cambridge’s 2019 summer courses:

    Virginia Woolf’s Gardens, 14-19 July 2019.

    Fictions of Home: Jane Austen to the Present, 21-26 July 2019.

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