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Archive for the ‘Woolf Travel’ Category

Since I am currently studying in Canterbury, it would be unthinkable for me, Virginia Woolf’s admirer and scholar, not to visit St. Ives, the mythic place that inspired the most of Virginia Woolf’s novels, but particularly Jacob’s Room, To the Lighthouse and The Waves.

Talland House

My own exploration of the site has been inspired by Ratha Tep’s Back to the lighthouse: In search of Virginia Woolf’s lost Eden in Cornwall” that appeared in The New York Times on Feb. 26, 2018.

However, as I and my husband chose to visit St. Ives at the very beginning of November, the weather conditions did not permit us to see all the places we had longed to see.

From London to St. Erth

We started our journey to St. Ives early on Friday morning and after we had arrived in London, we boarded the Great Western Service from London to St. Erth.

Surprisingly, the five-hour journey turned out to be quite tolerable, thanks to the comfortable service and a good read (Woolf’s Orlando). How different, longer and more uncomfortable the Stephens’ journey must have been at the turn of the 20th century, with all the luggage and servants packed for their summer stay in Talland House!

In St. Erth we had to change for a local service running to St. Ives, a beautiful scenic ride alongside the Cornish coast.

In St. Ives

We arrived in St. Ives around 6 p.m. and made our way up the hill to our B&B that I had chosen due to its location with a view of The Island with St. Nicholas Chapel and Godrevy Lighthouse – the lighthouse!

Although we found a lot of useful information about tourist attractions in St. Ives and its surroundings in a folder in our room, the official guide booklet did not mention Virginia Woolf and the Stephens as famous residents of the town.

The view from our window – Godrevy Lighthouse in the distance
The view of the Island and St. Nicholas Chapel

Exploring the town

The following day, which was extremely windy, we started our exploration of the town. In spite of the construction of modern buildings, numerous hotels and other vacation accommodation, the spirit of the old town from the Stephens’ days was still noticeable – crooked hilly streets in the centre, several churches and the incessant sound of breaking waves.

After hiking up to St. Nicholas Chapel, we visited Talland House, which is located right above the local railway station and which is nowadays, unfortunately, encircled by quite ugly blocks of summer apartments. Luckily, the house is now in the hands of Chris and Angela Roberts who try to renovate the house and re-create the garden in its original spirit. You can read about their praiseworthy effort on a sign attached to the wall of the house.

Woolf talks about her father’s discovery of the house in “A Sketch of the Past” as follows:

Father on one of his walking tours, it must have been in 1881, I think – discovered St. Ives. He must have stayed there, and seen Talland House to let. He must have seen the town almost as it had been in the sixteenth century, without hotels, or villas; and the Bay as it had been since time began. It was the first year, I think, that the line was made from St Erth to St Ives – before that, St Ives was eight miles from a railway. Munching his sandwiches up at Trengenna perhaps, he must have been impressed, in his silent way, by the beauty of the Bay; and thought: this might do for your summer holiday, and worked out with his usual caution ways and means.

Main shopping street in the town centre
Talland House – the steps below the left French window are those where the Stephens used to take their family photo
Sign about the current owners’ aim for Talland House garden
Talland House garden

View from the garden

Even though the house is not opened to the public to admire its Victorian beauties, we were still able to appreciate the view from the garden – Godrevy Lighthouse in the distance, which made Leslie Stephen move his London household to St. Ives every summer until 1894. We visited the garden in an inappropriate season so we could not see its blooming flowers.

However, we were able to see the steps below the left French window of the house where the family used to sit and have their family pictures taken. Moreover, the window directly makes you think of the window from the novel To the Lighthouse which symbolised the distance and seemingly impassable boundary between the house and the lighthouse, or the private life of the family and the outside.

Quite surprisingly, despite the distance from the ocean, the breaking of waves was still audible from the garden of Talland House, as well as from our hotel room, with the same intensity as Woolf describes in the following quotation from “A Sketch of the Past”:

If life has a base that it stands upon, if it is a bowl that one fills and fills and fills – then my bowl without a doubt stands upon this memory. It is of lying asleep, half awake, in bed in the nursery at St Ives. It is of hearing the waves breaking, one, two, one, two, and sending a splash of water over the beach; and then breaking, one, two, one, two, behind a yellow blind.

The view of the Lighthouse from Talland House garden

The fact that Woolf places this memory of St Ives and at the base of her life-experience bowl reveals how much she was influenced by the place. As she mentions later in the same memoir, “In retrospect nothing that we had as children made as much difference, was quite so important to us, as our summers in Cornwall”, by which she admits the formative effect of the Stephens’ holidays on the Cornish coast. It was so overwhelming to stand in front of the house to which Woolf pays tribute in To the Lighthouse, but sadly, without being able to talk to the Stephens.

To the lighthouse . . . sort of

The following day we decided to pursue James’s childish wish to visit the lighthouse. Owing to windy weather conditions and rough sea we were forced to abandon the idea of making a boat trip and we went by bus to Upton Towans (line T2 for those who would like to do the same) and from there we followed the Coastal Path to Godrevy Beach and the headland providing the best view of Godrevy Lighthouse.

The scenery along the path was astonishing and it was exciting to approach closer and closer the lighthouse which is the main source of the novel’s symbolism. The inner voice in my head was repeating Mr. Ramsay’s excuse “It won’t be fine” and Nancy’s and Lily’s concern about “What does one send to the Lighthouse?”

When we got to the closest viewpoint on the mainland, we sat on a bench and observed waves breaking on the little island’s shore. It is a pity that today you cannot see the lighthouse’s rotating “yellow eye” because it has been replaced by LED light mounted on a platform nearby the original lighthouse.

I must frankly admit that after two days of harsh wind and rain, after getting soaked while watching seals in a cove, I started to be more sympathetic to Mr. Ramsay’s scathing sentence “It won’t be fine” – was he just the more rational one? Did my own journey to the lighthouse reconcile me with the man?

Coastal path to Godrevy Lighthouse
Godrevy Lighthouse

I would recommend visiting St. Ives to all those who are deeply in love with Virginia Woolf and her writing because it is great to get a sense of the place that I had been imagining in my head for at least a decade.

More Cornish coast magic to explore

Unfortunately, we did not have time to visit surrounding villages such as Zennor where Woolf lived when she returned to the town as an adult woman. I am convinced that this visit to St. Ives is not our last one and that we will continue exploring the magic of the Cornish coast and landscape. We definitely need to make a boat trip from St. Ives to the lighthouse, which must be really enjoyable in the summer.

 

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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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woolf course

Can it get any more exciting than this? Literature Cambridge is offering a summer course on Virginia Woolf this July.

Here is the information that Trudi Tate, Director of Literature, Cambridge, and a lecturer at the summer course, sent Blogging Woolf, along with fee details I copied from the website:

Summer Course: Virginia Woolf in Cambridge, 18-22 July 2016

Literature Cambridge offers specialised summer courses in the beautiful university city of Cambridge. In 2016, our special author course is on Virginia Woolf. This is a rare opportunity to immerse yourself for five full days in Woolf’s writings and her context.

Each day we will have an expert lecture, followed by questions and discussion. On four days, there will be a Cambridge-style supervision. Students work in pairs, discussing the text of the day for an hour with an experienced Cambridge supervisor.

Susan Sellers will be a lecturer at the Cambridge summer course.

Susan Sellers, author of Vanessa and Virginia (2009), is one of several lecturers at this summer’s Literature Cambridge course.

There will be guided excursions to places of interest, including Girton and Newnham Colleges (where Woolf gave talks that became A Room of One’s Own), Grantchester (where Woolf met Rupert Brooke), and Bloomsbury in London.

In the evenings there will be literary readings or talks, as well as time to read further, explore Cambridge, and to reflect.

In 2016, we will be based in Homerton College, a lovely Victorian campus with beautiful large gardens, 10 minutes by bus from the city centre. Students live, take classes and take most of their meals in college, with opportunities to explore the rest of Cambridge. (It is also possible to come as a non-residential student: see the website.)

There are no prerequisites, but students must be over 18. At present we do not have the capacity to offer undergraduate credits, but we will explore this for 2017 and beyond if there is a demand.

I am really delighted to offer this unique opportunity to study Woolf in depth in the company of Woolfians from all over the world – teachers, students, scholars, and ‘common readers’. We are all her common readers and I look forward to working with you.

Fees

The course fee of £875, covers lectures, supervisions, course materials, excursions and talks. The residential fee of £570, includes six nights bed and breakfast (ensuite), four evening meals, plus one formal dinner. Non-residential students are welcome; evening meals and formal dinner may be paid for separately if desired.

An early bird discount of 5% will be offered for those booking by 15 January 2016.

More details

For more information, email info@literaturecambridge.co.uk

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Blogger Kathleen Dixon Donnelly has developed a personal walking tour, “‘Such Friends’: Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group,” which has just been published by VoiceMap as a GPS audio walking tour.

You can download it from iTunesGoogle Play and their own site, www.VoiceMap.me for just $1.99 at this link.

As Donnelly said in a recent email: “If you are planning to be in London, you can download the app onto your mobile phone. The tour starts at the entrance to Gordon Square, and once you are there, the GPS will take over. You will hear me guide you through Bloomsbury and the early lives of Virginia Woolf and her ‘such friends.’ You can see how they compare to the current BBC Two three-part drama series, Life in Squares.

“But even if you are nowhere near London, you can still download the tour from the VoiceMap site, along with any of the other interesting tours they have there. You will be able to both read it and hear it on your computer. Of course, if you come to London, I’d be happy to personally lead you on the tour as well!”

Donnelly is planning to work with VoiceMap on similar tours of where the Americans ‘hung out’ in Paris, and where William Butler Yeats, Lady Augusta Gregory, and their ‘such friends’ got together in Dublin when they were starting the Abbey Theatre.

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Once again, we have a Woolf sighting that connects Virginia Woolf to the 2012 Summer Olympics. This time, we learn that Nike’s Olympic headquarters is located in the British Medical Association House, located in Tavistock Square, where Woolf lived.
  1. London Olympics postcard: Nike’s Olympic headquarters are in an area rich with OregonLive.com
    So did the writer Virginia Woolf. She and her husband lived and worked in a home on Tavistock Square in the 1920s and 30s. There is a bust of her in a corner of the garden inside the square. The home was destroyed in the London Blitz during World War II.
  2. The one thing missing from the Olympic opening spectacle – this country’s Catholic Herald Online (blog)
    This Society, which has been patronised in the past by humanist luminaries such as A J Ayer, Julian Huxley, Bertrand Russell, George Bernard Shaw, Leslie Stephen (father of Virginia Woolf) and Sidney Webb, is an educational charity “whose aims are the 
  3. OrlandoThe Arts Desk
    The first time I saw Orlando, on general release in 1992, I was blown away by the beauty of Sally Potter’s homage to Virginia Woolf. Beginning in 1600 when Orlando (the suitably androgenous Tilda Swinton) is a young man, the film skips and hops through to 
  4. Where Virginia Woolf meets the White SoxChicago Reader
    To take or not to take? Asher Klein; To take or not to take? The office is in shambles. Half-filled crates block the hallways and 
  5. Skirting the issueHindustan Times
    It is apparent that we have traveled quite a bit in time, space and ideas from the time Virginia Woolf’s female narrator in A Room of One’s Own was ordered off the lawns of an Oxford college where she had accidentally strolled, as it was strictly off-limits for 
  6. The 10 best… closing lines of booksThe Guardian
    And she has. Lily’s closing words complete the circle of consciousness. Virginia Woolf was good at last lines and was always a decisive closer. Mrs Dalloway, whose first line famously has Woolf’s protagonist buying the flowers herself, ends with: “It is Clarissa, 
  7. Mother, do you love me?The Asian Age
    So we have excerpts from Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse side by side with the location of her residence in London which is close to the residence of British psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott whose books on object-relations theory — an influential strand of 
  8. A Domain of One’s Own, Wired News
    Virginia Woolf, who wrote A Room of One’s Own. A domain of your own is the root of your personal cloud. Image: Roger Fry/Wikimedia Commons. In the mid-2000s I made some friends in the world of higher education who were starting to think like the web 
  9. Lynne Truss: rereading Four Lectures on Shakespeare by Ellen TerryThe Guardian
    In 1941, the year of her suicide, Virginia Woolf finished two essays. One was on Dr Johnson’s friend Mrs Thrale. The other was on the actor Ellen Terry (1847-1928). According to her diary, she found the Terry essay hard going: on 8 December 1940 she notes 
  10. Travel 101 … RavelloTODAYonline
    Villa Cimbrone is famed as where the authors of the Bloomsbury group – Virginia Woolf, Leonard Woolf, E M Forster and John Maynard Keynes – used to hang out. Villa Rufolo, on the other hand, inspired composer Richard Wagner’s opera Parsifal. Entry costs 

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Kathleen Dixon Donnelly posted a comment on Blogging Woolf that led me to look at her SuchFriends Blog. I am glad I did.

SuchFriends is a lovely looking blog that posts daily updates of what particular writers were doing, saying or writing on that day in their history. In fact, Donnelly promises that on May 1, she will use her blog to discuss how Virginia Woolf felt when her half brother George Duckworth died in 1934.

The blog also includes other interesting information, including some about Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group. 

Here is a sampling of brief posts on SuchFriends that connect to Woolf:

  • A listing of Bloomsbury Group members.
  • Details about her presentation on Bloomsbury painters.
  • A post on Bloomsbury, London in October 2006 and 1907 in which Donnelly talks about her experiences at a travel writing workshop where she walks around Bloomsbury for inspiration before writing a somewhat fictional account of a Bloomsbury Group’s evening.
  • A post on her trip to St. Ives, Cornwall, while simultaneously rereading To the Lighthouse.
  • A post about literary travel that includes a trip to Sussex, England, and Monk’s House, the Woolfs’ summer home.
  • Reading, video and travel tips for the Bloomsbury Group.

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