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Posts Tagged ‘Monk’s House’

Virginia Woolf’s 136th birthday was a big one. Google Doodle led the way by using its daily doodle to pay homage to her on her special day. The drawing lit a Woolfian wildfire of birthday candles that spread across the globe, with media big and small sharing the news, along with social media users.

Google Doodle in commemoration of Woolf’s 136th birthday

Links to media coverage of the Google Doodle birthday tribute to Woolf

Other birthday tributes

  • At The Guardian, author Kait Welsh suggested that we celebrate Woolf rather than Burns on Burns Day, as they share the same birthday.

    Virginia Woolf taking tea, photograph by Lady Ottoline Morrell, June 1923

  • At The Weekly Standard, Chris Deaton admired Woolf’s extraordinary writing in To the Lighthouse.
  • At The Independent, Joe Sommerlad discussed what makes Woolf famous.
  • At Quartz, Thu-Huong-Ha extolled the lessons Woolf teaches about how to be a thinking woman.
  • Marie Clare shared nine important feminist Woolf quotes from A Room of One’s Own.
  • Mental Floss shared some, too.
  • At the Deccan Herald, readers were challenged with a Woolf quiz.
  • On Facebook, the Great British Tea Party posted an image of Woolf taking tea with Ottoline Morrell.
  • Goodreads shared the Google Doodle on its Facebook page.
  • Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls Facebook page posted a tribute, along with many others.

Google Doodle artist tweeted her thoughts

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And Twitter blew up with birthday greetings, including a special one from National Trust Books that featured Monk’s House and another from the National Museum of Women in the Arts that showed Judy Chicago’s preparatory drawings for her Woolf plate in The Dinner Party.

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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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Virginia Woolf’s diary entries from around Christmas bring into sharp relief the feelings that the festive season stirs. Her pieces are coloured by the unpredictable shifts of British winter weather, express the pull between social event and solitude, and are self-reflective in their review of the past.

The following entries span the twenty-year period from 1920-40 and express the layered and complex connotations that our annual traditions hold.

woolf-xmas

“A Virginia Woolf Christmas – Monks House Welcome Home” design by Amanda White

19 December 1920, Hogarth House

In 1920, Woolf’s entry anticipates her New Year’s return to Rodmell and the comfort and routine this will bring. She imagines the “soft, grey walk” she will take in the dappled cool winter light on the greyed heather and chalky mud of the Sussex Downs. Woolf weaves this expectation for the New Year with the immediacy of Christmas at the end of the entry where we join her in delighting in an early Christmas gift from Leonard:

So we reach the end of the year; which is for us cheerful, I think. For one thing we want to get to Rodmell; to see what has happened to the garden. I shall like a soft grey walk. Then the post. Then reading. Then sitting in the chimney corner […] (I use my new blotter, just given me by L., for the first time).

26 December 1929, Monks House

In 1929 Monks House delivers the atmospheric weather that Woolf had imagined at the beginning of the century. She writes, moreover, of its changeability and its effect on her – producing a “violent Christmas” which gives way to a “serene Boxing day”. Here we also see her desire for solitude in the face of incessant society and the hope that, for once, this will truly be possible:

And I am sitting in my new room, with curtains, fire, table; and two great views; sometimes sun over the brooks and storm over the church. A violent Christmas; a brilliant serene Boxing day. I find it almost incredibly soothing – a fortnight alone – almost impossible to let oneself have it. Relentlessly we have crushed visitors: we will be alone this once, we say; and really, it seems possible.

21 December 1933, 52 Tavistock Square

Christmas’s habit of repeating itself is hinted at in 1929 where the impossibility of retreat seems to be routine. In 1933, Woolf is particularly reflexive on the patterns of Christmas, calling the morning of preparing to go down to Rodmell a “relic”, seemingly aged and outdated:

This is the relic of a morning when I should tidy, pack, write letters and so on. We lunch at quarter to one, and then go, this yellow cold morning. No longer the great tradition that it used to be.

24 December 1940, Monks House

Woolf’s seasonal self-reflection is also present in our final entry from 1940, which begins by fantasising about living at Alciston Farm House but ends on a note of quiet contentment with home at Monks House:

“We lunched with Helen [Anrep at Alciston]; and again ‘I could have fancied living there’. An incredible loveliness. The downs breaking their wave, yet one pale quarry; and all the barns and stacks either a broken pink, or a verdurous green; and then the walk by the wall; and the church; deep hollows, where the past stands almost stagnant. And the little spire across the fields… L. is now cutting logs, and after my rush of love and envy for Alciston farm house, we concluded this [Monks House] is the perfect place.”

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When I visited Monk’s House back in 2004, I was not permitted to take interior photographs. So of course I bought the National Trust book.

Today I came across a few photos of the house that were shared on Twitter by @CasaLettori, with text in Italian. The photos remind me of the home’s loveliness. I’m sharing them here, with the thought that camera phones have changed everything.

 

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Photo collages posted on Twitter of the gardens at Monk’s House and Charleston Farmhouse introduced me to The Dahlia Papers blog. So I could not resist taking a closer look at Nan Morris’s garden photos.

Now, though, I am wondering how Morris, a garden designer based in South London and Suffolk, got permission to snap photos inside Monk’s House. When I visited years ago, it was strictly forbidden. I want her secret!

Morris provides lots of details about the gardens at both Sussex locations and gives a well-deserved shout-out to Carolyn Zoob’s gorgeous book, Virginia Woolf’s Garden.

For more tweets about lovely gardens, follow Morris at @nonmorris. To read her posts about Monk’s House and Charleston, click on the links below.

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I saw the item below on Twitter today. It identified the shot as being “Virginia Woolf’s front porch in full bloom.”

It’s not, of course. The photo really depicts the attached greenhouse at the rear of Monk’s House in Rodmell, Sussex. But it’s a pretty shot nonetheless, so I’m adding it here, with thanks to @maisie_rs for loving Virginia Woolf enough to post it.

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Amanda Ann White creates collages, using paper clipped from old magazines. And sometimes the subject of her collages is Monk’s House.

Night and Day, Monk's House

Night and Day, Monk’s Househer collages is Monk’s House.

White emailed Blogging Woolf to share her collages of Virginia Woolf’s Sussex home, which are sold in the home’s new shop.

“The images of Monk’s House were the first things that went into the new shop incorporated into Monk’s House. In fact they were on sale before it was installed. They sell as cards and small prints there. Visitors to Monks House do seem to like them,” White wrote.

She also sells the collages at her Etsy shop. Larger high quality art prints are available on her website in the Giclee section.

White says she will offer new cards based on details from a long picture of the house and garden, which is a design for a bookmark, later in the year.

Collage is a not a new topic for Woolfians. The subject came up on the VWoolf Listserv in 2012.

Monk's House 1931

Monk’s House 1931

After the Waves: Virginia Woolf's Writing Lodge

After the Waves Virginia Woolf’s Writing Lodge

 

Monk's House Welcome Home

Monk’s House Welcome Home

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