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After decades of publishing other people’s books, Cecil Woolf has written a monograph of his own. “Cecil Woolf: The Other Boy at the Hogarth Press, Virginia and Leonard Woolf as I Remember Them” is being launched at the 27th Annual International Conference on Virgina Woolf in Reading, England this week.

To order this monograph and others in the Bloomsbury Heritage and War Poets series, visit Cecil Woolf Publishers.

Sometimes things last longer than one would like. Other times, they fly by and seem much too short. My tour of the archives at the University of Reading Special Collections, part of the 27th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf: Virginia Woolf and the World of Books, fell into the latter category.

Hogarth Press archives

The tour of the archives focused on the collection of documents related to the Hogarth Press founded by Leonard and Virginia Woolf in 1917. We weren’t permitted to take photos, so I’ll describe what I saw.

The Hogarth Press documents nearly filled two stacks.  Most of the 18 shelves contained boxes of documents — from letters to notebooks detailing the book income of the authors they published. Nearly three of the long shelves were filled with large leather-bound ledger books from the press. I wanted to linger and explore by hand but we had to move on.

Hogarth Press Centennial

Our next stop was an exhibition housed at the same location, which is also the Museum of English Rural Life. The Hogarth Press at 100 marks the importance of Leonard and Virginia Woolf’s venture into independent publishing and book selling. It will be on display through Aug. 31.

The exhibition features contemporary artwork responding to a conference call for printed works. It includes original artwork, woodblocks, archival objects and documents from the archives of the Hogarth Press, held in the University of Reading’s Special Collections.

Virginia and Leonard’s travel cases

On the bottom shelf in one glass display case were two special items: nearly matching leather satchels, worn and creased with cracks, that belonged to the Woolfs. Virginia and Leonard carried them during their travels. And attached to Virginia’s was a faded blue tag leftover from a trip to France.

Because of copyright issues, we were not permitted to take photos, so I am longing for a website or a print catalogue that will share the items and art displayed.

Walking to the Museum of Rural English Life, which houses the Hogarth Press archive, as well as the Hogarth Press at 100 exhibition.

Museum of English Rural Life

Virginia Woolf and the Hogarth Press at 100

Whoops! I snapped this photo at the beginning of the exhibition before I saw the sign instructing us not to take photos.

When I arrived in Reading, England by train for the 27th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf at the University of Reading yesterday, I was too tired to notice The Three Guineas pub right across from the train station. But others did and they clued me in.

So when I went out to explore a bit last evening, that’s where I landed, thanks to conference keynoter Ted Bishop and Elizabeth Willson Gordon, who graciously invited me to tag along with them. Bishop, of the University of Alberta, Canada, will talk about Virginia Woolf’s inks, and Willson Gordon, of The King’s University of Edmonton, Canada, is part of a roundtable on the Modernist Archives Publishing Project. Her colleagues on the project are Claire Battershill, Simon Fraser University; Alice Staveley, Stanford University; Helen Southworth, University of Oregon; Michael Widner, Stanford University; Nicola Wilson, University of Reading.

As it turns out, the Reading pub’s name is not connected to Virginia but to a railway prize. Oh, well. I enjoyed the food, my London Pride brew, the cozy setting on a chill, rainy night, and the company anyway.

Andrea Barrett is one of my favorite contemporary writers. Her science-infused stories are extraordinary, but until recently I hadn’t read her early work from before the 1996 National Book Award winning Ship Fever.

Recently I came across Barrett’s 2015 essay in the literary journal Agni, “The Years and The Years.” Barrett starts by noting that while The Years isn’t considered one of Woolf’s finest novels, for her it “made possible the first I would publish.” I was thrilled to find this connection between Woolf and Barrett.

Crafting her first novel in the mid-eighties Barrett had her themes, her time and place. To fill them she had characters and relationships spanning three decades. But after writing hundreds of pages and discarding most of it, she couldn’t find a satisfactory way to shape the material. Then she read The Years. She describes the opening scene as an overture—“technically brilliant, profoundly moving”— in the way it introduced the characters and their lives with “ripples that reinforce each other as they intersect  …. Everything, it turns out, changes everything. Everything repeats and reverberates.”

Barrett went to Woolf’s diary, to where she sets out her ideas for The Years: “I want to give the whole of the present society …. with the most powerful and agile leaps, like a chamois, across precipices from 1880 to here and now.”

The structural elements of The Years became a framework from which Barrett was able to give shape to her story. She discovered that, like Woolf, she could skip over portions of time, “shining a beam on one moment and then, years later, on another, suggesting swiftly by thought and conversation what had happened in the space between.”

The result was Lucid Stars, published in 1988. Each of four sections is broken down into dated chapters, and each part’s block of years has a different central character with her own voice. Each section stands apart from the whole while at the same time knitting it together. Like The Years.

Woolf continued to influence Barrett. She tells how Orlando, Jacob’s Room, Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, and The Waves all showed her the intricacies of writing about biography, history, politics, and war in fiction. Barrett did all of this, in her own voice and style, in the stories and novels that followed Lucid Stars.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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. 

Gemma at Flower Show

Gemma Arterton at the Chelsea Flower Show (image via IrishNews.com).

Preparations for the upcoming film Vita and Virginia are well underway. British actress Gemma Arterton, will play Vita Sackville-West in the film about the friendship between Vita and Virginia Woolf. Sackville-West was a celebrated gardener whose work continues to inspire gardeners today, so Arterton has been has been preparing for her role by gardening and spending time around flowers.

Arterton visited the RHS Chelsea Flower Show last month where she talked about her experience gardening and her work preparing to play such a respected gardener. The Irish News writes that Arterton became a “devoted gardener” while researching for the role in the film:

 

“I would like to be a big gardener and I am constantly trying to find new ways to bring it to life. I am moving house soon just so that I can have a garden.

“The role came before the passion. Vita was one of the world’s most famous gardeners, so I have been trying to get into the zone for that.”

andrea as woolf

Andrea Riseborough will play Virginia Woolf.

 

We learn from the article that filming will take place this summer at Sissinghurst Castle in Kent. The article also states that the role of Virginia Woolf will be played by Andrea Riseborough, which is different from the original cast that was announced, which had Eva Green lined up to play Woolf.

Riseborough has been featured in such films as Brighton Rock, Oblivion, and the Oscar winning film Birdman.

The director of the film, Chanya Button, has been preparing in other ways. In May she tweeted about attending lectures on the Hogarth Press at the Charleston Literary Festival:

 

Earlier this week, Blogging Woolf shared Elaine Showalter’s recommendation that June 13 is Dalloway Day, the day in June when Clarissa walked out to the buy the flowers herself in preparation for her party.

Read more about Mrs. Dalloway’s party paper dolls.

June 20 as Dalloway Day

Now an alternate date — and justification for it — has been shared as a comment on our original post and via the VWoolf Listserv. It comes from Murray Beja.

I might as well cite here some of my evidence for the date of June 20, which seems to me pretty clear cut. As I express it in my edition of Mrs. Dalloway, we explicitly learn that the day of the novel is a Wednesday, and that it is 1923; ?moreover, Clarissa wonders if the ?crush? of traffic is due to Ascot . . . which in 1923 ran from Tuesday, 19 June, to Friday, 22 June . . . . Gold Cup Day, on which the most coveted trophy is contested, falls on the Thursday. The results of cricket matches noted by both Septimus and Peter are those they would have seen in a newspaper for 20 June 1923 . . . .? (I go on to cite the London Times.) See Morris Beja, ed., Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway (Shakespeare Head Press Edition of Virginia Woolf). Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1996.

Dalloway Day celebration is June 17 in London

The Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain, in collaboration with Waterstones, (oh, why not Hatchard’s?) is holding a Dallowday celebration on Saturday, June 17.

 Virginia Woolf Life and London: Bloomsbury and Beyond by Jean Moorcroft Wilson

The event starts at 2:30 p.m. with a guided walk led by Jean Moorcroft Wilson, author of Virginia Woolf’s Life and London: A Guide to Bloomsbury and Beyond. The walk will visit sites relevant to Clarissa Dalloway and Virginia Woolf. It will be followed by a 4 p.m. discussion of Mrs. Dalloway (1925), led by Maggie Humm.

An early evening party with a 1920s theme will top off the day, beginning at 6 p.m. Organizers are hoping that partygoers will turn up in appropriate party wear.

The walk and talk are sold out but party tickets are still available at a cost of £10.

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