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Virginia Woolf in Richmond by Peter Fullagar launches today. The book is a companion piece for the heritage project that will create the first-ever life-sized, full-figure bronze statue of Virginia. Installation is planned for the terraces at Richmond upon Thames Riverside.

The book, the film, and the launch

Published by Aurora Metro Books, the book provides an overview of the 10 years that Virginia and Leonard spent in Richmond, just a 15-minute train trip from central London. In it, Fullagar explores Virginia’s diaries and letters, along with Leonard’s autobiography, to reveal how Richmond influenced Virginia’s personal life, as well as her writing life from 1914-1924.

The book and film are set to launch today, from 7-9 p.m. at the Richmond Literary Festival — and tickets for the event sold out a week ago.

The statue and its location

The statue features Virginia on a park bench. She is turned to face the empty space to her right that can be filled by any visitor who happens to take a seat there. The project, organized by the arts and education charity Aurora Metro Arts & Media, will be backed by a £50,000 public fund-raising campaign.

While the sculpture design by Laury Dizengremel has generated mixed reviews based on its likeness to Virginia and its placement in Richmond, after reading Fullagar’s manuscript in preparation for writing the foreward to Virginia Woolf in Richmond, I think the suburb deserves a fitting tribute to Virginia. In his book, Fullagar makes a good case for Richmond’s importance in the personal and professional lives of the Woolfs.

Read on for a Q&A with the author, which includes Fullagar’s explanation of how Richmond came to be seen as a place Virginia disliked, rather than one she appreciated, valued, and enjoyed, as born out by her personal writing.

Q&A with author Peter Fullagar

Why were Virginia Woolf’s years in Richmond important?

Virginia Woolf lived in Richmond from 1914 to 1924 and in my opinion, I think they were crucial to her development as a writer and also for her health. In the previous years and in early 1915, Virginia had some of her severest health issues, and the area of Richmond was quiet with fewer distractions than central London to aid in her recovery. Richmond was also close to Burley House in Twickenham, the ‘rest home’ run by Miss Jean Thomas, where Virginia stayed when her illness was at its worst.

It was Leonard’s idea to give Virginia a hobby to keep her occupied while in Richmond, and this was the founding of the Hogarth Press. The Hogarth Press gave Virginia control over her publications as she became anxious when sending her work to publishers for them to critique. The Press also allowed Virginia the freedom to experiment with her writing, and this is apparent with Jacob’s Room, published in 1922.

However, I don’t think it was just the Press which gave Virginia stability; it was Hogarth House as well, due to its solid and safe walls, which I believe gave Virginia protection. In Leonard’s autobiography, he called the years in Richmond essential for her growth as a writer. Even when leaving Richmond and Hogarth House in 1924, Virginia writes a very eloquent and emotional diary entry which demonstrates her affection for the town and house. It is a shame that her time in Richmond is often overlooked.

What type of research did you do to carry out this writing project?

We knew from the start that the book was going to be heavily based on Virginia’s diaries and letters, and it is unfortunate that the originals are not held in the UK. Therefore, I bought every volume of her diaries and letters and meticulously went through each volume to find references to Richmond and the surrounding area as well as looking at her feelings while she was in the town. It was important for me to look at her own words while researching as this gave me her true feelings. As anyone who has read her diaries, she did not hold back with her emotions and opinions and they are a great treasure trove that has yet to be fully explored.

It was vital to also look at what Leonard had to say about the time in Richmond as he can often be overlooked as well, and I found that his multi-volume autobiography often went into much more detail than Virginia did. I wanted to get Leonard’s opinion of Richmond and Hogarth House, as it was essentially his decision to make about where the couple should live. It was also interesting to see his reluctance to move away from Richmond as he thought staying there would be more beneficial for Virginia.

What new insights about Woolf did your work on this project give you?

Looking through Virginia’s diaries and letters, I feel I’ve got to know more about the woman herself. Previously, I’d mainly read her fiction, but her personal writing reveals many different sides to her. I found that she had a wicked wit and was rather humorous, but in a deadpan way; an example here is when she is explaining about a walk in Richmond Park with her dog Max, and unfortunately, her suspenders fell down.

She was a great observer of people and things, and it was fascinating to see how she viewed the people in her life; her disparaging comments of Katherine Mansfield, followed by her lamenting Katherine’s death was intriguing to read and really showed me the duality that seems to permeate Virginia’s life and writing.

It was, of course, disheartening to read about her struggles with mental health, but what was encouraging was that she was attempting to understand it and recognise the symptoms. However, it is merely the fact that she wrote it down and recorded it at a time when mental health was still rather taboo and misunderstood which impressed me the most.

What draws you to Woolf?

I first read Woolf while at school and then focused on her diaries for my Masters’ dissertation, so for a long time she has been part of my life. I’m very much a fan of the stream of consciousness writing style, and I find that I am intensely drawn to her works of fiction, especially The Waves, which is probably my favourite. She seems to be able to capture so many facets of a person through her writing, and I am sure that her life experiences have enabled her to do this.

Through my Masters and research for this book, I have become even more interested in her personal writing, as well as those of other writers such as George Orwell. It’s fascinating to read and analyse feelings and emotions through the medium of diaries, and I am sure that I will continue to be intrigued.

How and why did you get involved with the Virginia Woolf statue project?

This was certainly a stroke of luck and good fortune. After I had decided to leave the teaching profession, I looked for volunteer roles to help me learn about editing and proofreading, as this was something I had always wanted to do. I came across Aurora Metro, and it was because they run a literature prize named after Virginia (The Virginia Prize for Fiction) and their campaign for a statue that I got in contact.

I met with Cheryl Robson, the publisher, and we discussed how I could become involved with volunteering and helping out with editorial matters, but it was my interest in Virginia Woolf which led me to write articles on the statue project and eventually be asked to write the book.

How do these two projects — the book and the statue — support each other as well as our understanding of Woolf’s life and work?

I think that both projects complement each other very well. The statue project wants to erect a statue of Virginia Woolf in Richmond because she has not adequately been recognised as being associated with the town. The statue now has planning permission, which is a great step forward, and now we can continue raising funds to make it become a reality.

The book, which as you know, focuses on Richmond, and tries to refute the idea that Virginia disliked living there. This has mainly been fueled by the fictional quote from the film The Hours, which has, unfortunately, been taken as truth by some people. The book aims to show how she felt about Richmond as it is often forgotten. I hope that after reading the book, people will understand why Richmond deserves to be recognised as a critical part of Virginia’s life and work and why the statue of Virginia needs to be put in its right place.

What can you tell us about the film made regarding the statue project?

The film for the statue project is a short ten-minute film, quoting some of Virginia’s diaries and letters to demonstrate her true feelings about Richmond. There are interviews with writers such as Anne Sebba, broadcasters such as Bamber Gasgoyne and Henrietta Garnett, Virginia’s niece. I appear in the film as well, talking about some of my research for the book.

However, what I think is most important in the film is that we get to see the sculptor, Laury Dizengremel, talking about her inspiration for the statue – seeing her enthusiasm for the project is a joy. I think it is a wonderful way to show people visually how and why Richmond was important to Virginia.

Do you have another Woolf project on your agenda? And if so, what can you tell us about it?

This is an interesting question. The process of writing the book has been thoroughly enjoyable and I’ve loved doing the research for it, and to see the book come to life is magical. I am considering what to do next. There are many different avenues to explore, especially concerning Leonard Woolf, as I feel that he is sometimes left in Virginia’s shadow, but he was equally important in his own right. There were also many notable people who visited Leonard and Virginia, so there may be something that piques my interest there. Watch this space!

Author Peter Fullagar with his new book Virginia Woolf in Richmond, which launches today.

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Wednesday 9 January [1924]

At this very moment, or fifteen minutes ago to be precise, I bought the ten years lease of 52 Tavistock Sqre London W.C. 1—I like writing Tavistock. Subject of course to the lease, & to Providence, & to the unforeseen vagaries on the part of old Mrs Simons, the house is ours: & the basement, & the billard room, with the rock garden on top, & the view of the square in front & the desolated buildings behind, & Southampton Row, & the whole of London – London thou art a jewel of jewels, & jasper of jocunditie – music, talk, friendship, city views, books, publishing, something central & inexplicable, all this is now within my reach. – Virginia Woolf, Diary 2, 282-3.

The Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain held a one-day conference in London last Saturday that doubled as a general meeting for the organization, as well as a celebration of its 20th anniversary. It was coupled with the unveiling of a blue plaque in honor of Virginia and Leonard Woolf.

“Virginia Woolf and her Relatives” was the theme of the conference, and Marion Dell, Philip Carter and Maggie Humm presented papers.

After the conference, the group walked to Tavistock Square for the unveiling of a blue plaque on the exterior wall of the Tavistock Hotel to mark number 52, where Virginia and Leonard Woolf lived from 1924 to 1939. The house was destroyed in World War Two and later replaced with the hotel.

It was at 52 Tavistock Square that Woolf wrote many of her books, including Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, A Room of One’s Own, Orlando, The Waves, The Years, and Three Guineas. Her diary entries talk about her walks around the square as she thought about the novel she was working on. And her nephew, Cecil Woolf, recalls Leonard and Virginia sitting at a table in the garden and sharing a bottle of wine.

Dame Eileen Atkins, honorary president of the VWSGB, unveiled the plaque, which was funded by the society and the Tavistock Hotel. Afterwards, society members attended a reception at which Atkins read extracts from Woolf’s diaries and letters that reflected upon her life in Tavistock Square and her love of London.

Cecil sent Blogging Woolf these photos that commemorate the day.

Cecil Woolf and Jean Moorcroft Wilson at the plaque unveiling.

Dame Eileen Atkins and Maggie Humm outside the Tavistock Hotel at the plaque unveiling.

The blue plaque on the side of the Tavistock Hotel commemorating Virginia and Leonard Woolf’s tenure at 52 Tavistock Square.

 

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Clemson University Press is offering two books at a substantial discount until May 1. Download the flyer as a PDF.

An Annotated Guide to the Writings and Papers of Leonard Woolf

The revised edition of An Annotated Guide to the Writings and Papers of Leonard Woolf, by Janet M. Manson and Wayne K. Chapman (2018), 292 pp. (paperback). Normal retail: $34.95. 50% off: $17.50 plus s&h Order the book.

The Annotated Guide is a finding aid to collections of Leonard Woolf papers, which substantially augments previous research tools.

Virginia Woolf and the World of Books

Virginia Woolf and the World of Books, edited by Nicola Wilson and Claire Battershill (forthcoming, 2018), 310 pp. + (hardcover). Normal retail: $120. 70% off: $34.95 plus s&h Order the book.

Although it is not identified as such, this book contains the selected papers from the 27th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf, held last June at the University of Reading in Reading, England.

Just over 100 years ago, in 1917, Leonard and Virginia Woolf began a publishing house from their dining-room table. This volume marks the centenary of that auspicious beginning.

Inspired by the Woolfs’ radical innovations as independent publishers, the book celebrates the Hogarth Press as a key intervention in modernist and women’s writing and demonstrates its importance to independent publishing and book-selling in the long twentieth century.

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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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In a Nov. 21 letter to The Guardian, Richard Shone wrote that Jeremy Hutchinson was the last surviving person to have known Virginia Woolf. He was wrong, as Blogging Woolf noted on Facebook. And Cecil Woolf has set him straight.

In his Nov. 26 letter to that same publication Cecil, nephew of Leonard and Virginia, wrote:

Richard Shone’s opening statement in his letter (Obituaries, 21 November) that “Jeremy Hutchinson … was the last surviving person to have known Virginia Woolf”, is not quite correct. I was a schoolboy when I visited my aunt Virginia and my uncle Leonard (one of my father’s elder brothers) at both Monk’s House and at Tavistock Square, or they visited my family in Buckinghamshire.

Cecil shared his memories of Leonard and Virginia in his monograph The Other Boy at the Hogarth Press, published in June by his own London publishing house, after celebrating his 90th birthday on Feb. 20.

Cecil Woolf at 46 Gordon Square, London

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Photography was forbidden at the Hogarth Press at 100 exhibit and archives tour that was part of the 27th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf. Nevertheless, Nell Toemen of the Netherlands persisted, as did Clara Farmer from Chatto Wyndham. And that means I have two photos to share.

The first, from Nell, is a photo of the Hogarth Press archives stacks at Special Collections at the University of Reading, which includes a collection of documents related to the Hogarth Press founded by Leonard and Virginia Woolf in 1917. When I was on the tour, we were not permitted to take photos, but when Nell asked at a later tour, she was given the go-ahead. Afterward, she graciously shared her photo with Blogging Woolf.

Stacks showing a portion of the Hogarth Press archives at University of Reading Special Collections. Photo: Nell Toemen

The second photo is a screenshot from Clara Farmer’s Chattobooks Instagram account, which shows Virginia and Leonard Woolf’s worn travel satchels. Virginia’s has an Air France tag attached. As some have commented, it’s difficult — and interesting — to think of Virginia on an airplane.

Screenshot of Clara Farmer’s photo posted on Instagram of Leonard and Virginia’s leather travel satchels.

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The Hogarth Press is 100 years old this year, and the 27th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf marked the centennial with a birthday party that turned out to be a family affair.

Cressida Bell, granddaughter of Vanessa Bell, designed the cake, which was loaded with chocolate chunks and fruit. Cecil Woolf, nephew of Leonard and Virginia Woolf, shared his memories of working at the Hogarth Press starting in 1931, as well as the history of the business.

The Woolfs’ printing business began with their purchase of a small hand printing press in March of 1917. The couple spotted the press in a printer shop’s window, Cecil said, and purchased it for 19£, five shillings and five pence. It came with a 16-page instruction book, type, cases, and other equipment.

Book and art treats, too

Conference participants who attended the party at the Reading, England Museum of English Rural Life were treated to more than cake and Cecil’s charming talk. They were also able to purchase specially printed keepsake editions of  Virginia’s 1924 article “The Patron and the Crocus.” Included in the slim volume is a facsimile reproduction of a reader’s report from the Hogarth Press archives at the University of Reading.

Party-goers were also able to print their own woodcut of the Roger Fry design “The London Garden.”

The publication of “Cecil Woolf: The Other Boy at the Hogarth Press, Virginia and Leonard Woolf as I Remember Them” by Cecil Woolf Publishers also marks the centennial, as does a new Hogarth Chatto & Windus version of the first book published by the Hogarth Press, the Woolfs’ Two Stories.

Cecil Woolf, accompanied by his wife Jean Moorcroft Wilson, talks about being “A Boy at the Hogarth Press” at its 100th birthday party

The Hogarth Press 100th birthday cake, designed by Cressida Bell.

Clara Farmer, publishing director of Hogarth Chatto & Windus, and Cecil Woolf slice the cake.

The Hogarth Press centenary keepsake of “The Patron and the Crocus” offers two different colored letterpress covers.

Martin Andrews of Typography and Graphic Communication at the University of Reading patiently helped guests print their own woodcut copies of Roger Fry’s design, “The London Garden.”

Woodcuts hanging to dry at the Hogarth Press 100th birthday party.

Party guests enjoying Cecil Woolf’s reminiscences.

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