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Posts Tagged ‘Julian Bell’

A CNBC story reports on a collection of Virginia Woolf’s letters and other items that is for sale en bloc for $4 million. The letters are beingCNBC letter sold by Glenn Horowitz Bookseller in Manhattan.

They include letters from Woolf to her nephew Julian Bell, as well as letters from Leonard Woolf, Vanessa Bell and Vita Sackville-West.

The most poignant, said Horowitz during the CNBC interview, is one written by Vita Sackville-West, describing Woolf’s suicide and the days leading up to the discovery of her body. “It’s really one of the most touching collections of letters I’ve had the privilege of handling,” Horowitz said.

The private collection was built over a period of 40 years by William B. Beekman, who started collecting Woolf items as a Harvard undergraduate before Quentin Bell’s 1972 biography brought her renewed interest from the academy, according to Horowitz’s site. Included in the collection are items that span Woolf’ life, such as photographs, letters, inscribed books and dust jackets.

Although the CNBC story put the value of the collection at $4 million, the Horowitz website prices it at $4.5 million. The collection was put on the market and exhibited in East Hampton last July.

In 2011, Horowitz published a digital catalog of Bloomsbury materials to its website. Virginia Woolf, The Hogarth Press, and The Bloomsbury Group contains more than 150 first editions, association copies, letters and more.

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Having worked my way through Vanessa Bell’s letters to Maynard Keynes yesterday, I spent today with two of the Morgan’s rare books on the topic of the Bloomsbury pacifists.

The Morgan Library & Museum actually has five pertinent rare books on the topic in its catalogue, and originally I thought I would get through all of them today. But once I got a look at the content of the first, We Did Not Fight: 1914-1918 Experiences of War Resisters, a collection of essays edited by Julian Bell and published in 1935, I knew I would have to schedule another work day at the Morgan.

The volume includes an introduction by Julian Bell in which he answers a question that had puzzled me: Why would Julian, an advocate of pacifism, end up volunteering for the Spanish Civil War? I found the answer to that at the end of his introduction when he says that his generation will succeed in ending war–and will use force to do so, if force is necessary (xix). It’s true that Julian was an ambulance driver, not a soldier, in the Spanish Civil War. But some pacifists, absolutists, would argue that any work that supports war should be rejected.

We Did Not Fight contains other essays that illuminate the circumstances surrounding conscientious objectors during World War I. Some recount the political and social climate at the beginning of the war. Others detail the particular hardships of working class COs. And still others describe the support and comraderie provided by the No-Conscription Fellowship, organized by the Quakers and Independent Labour Party supporters, which met from 1914 through 1919.

The final essay, “The Tribunals” by Adrian Stephen, brother of Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf, details the ways the tribunals functioned. After the passage of the first Military Services Act in January 1916 instituted conscription of unmarried men age 19-40, local tribunals were set up to administer it. Their role was to make life and death decisions about who would be exempted from military service.

The second book I looked at was a pamphlet published by The Peace Pledge Union. Titled WarMongers, it was written by Clive Bell and published in September of 1938. My time had run so short by the time I got to it, that I resorted to taking photos of most of its pages so I could read it later. Thankfully, that is a practice the Morgan allows.

Read more about my time at the Berg for my NYPL Short-Term Research Fellowship:

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Anne Fernald posted a message to the VWoolf Listserv directing us to Sarah Funke Butler’s post on The Paris Review website that discusses a letter Woolf wrote to her nephew Julian Bell in 1929.

Patricia Laurence, author of Julian Bell, The Violent Pacifist, a monograph in Cecil Woolf Publishers Bloomsbury Heritage Series, added her insights to the listserv discussion:

“The poem that Woolf refers to in her letter is probably “Chaffinches” published in the Songs for Sixpence Series, 1929, Cambridge. Julian’s early poetry was not marked by `modernist’ or `currency’ in subject, diction, rhythms or metres. His promise in `Chaffinches’ is marked rather by his Hopkinesque description of birds:

Startled, flock after springing flock they rise
With rustle of beating wings as as each flies
The sudden coverts flicker white,
In drooping, jerked finch flight
Of rise and fall: Stray chinking call.

“Nature description and the pastoral came naturally to him in poetry and letters, and when in Paris in 1930, `his first experience of a large town’, made him not a modernist but `fiercely naturalist….sending…[him] to watch all the gulls and sparrows of Paris.” Romanticism (what he viewed as “emotionalism”) and modernism (currency) were anathema to him, and the consciousness of “the chasm in the road’ after the Great War is absent from most of his poetry–though he is of the Auden generation.

“Nevertheless, though he may not have been as talented as others in Bloomsbury, he was not given much encouragement by his family.”

The letter is part of a Virginia Woolf collection currently held by Glenn Horowitz Bookseller, Inc., which features a photo titled Virginia Woolf Goes to the Beach on its home page.

Woolf items are featured in two of Horowitz’s catalogues: The Robert Reedman Collection of Virginia Woolf and Bloomsbury and Virginia & Leonard Woolf. The company also offers Vita Sackville-West and T.S. Eliot catalogues.

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