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Posts Tagged ‘Monk’s House’

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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The 2014 Independent Bath Literature Festival runs Feb. 28 to March 9 and includes 200 authors and vw gardenperformers talking to an audience of over 20,000, along with interactive events. Among them is an unusual take on Virginia Woolf that marks the 85th anniversary of A Room of One’s Own.

It’s a spoken-word tour of the garden at Monk’s House in Sussex. It will be guided by Caroline Zoob, one-time custodian of Woolf’s garden at Monk’s House in Sussex, and author of Virginia Woolf’s Garden (2013).

Viv Groskop, organizer of the event, calls the Woolf tour her “hidden gem.” The Woolf event will take place Monday, March 3, 1-2 p.m. in the Guildhall. Cost for the event is £7.50.

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With the exception of Virginia and Leonard Woolf themselves, Caroline Zoob and her husband Jonathan are thevw garden only two people who have had access to the garden at Monk’s House year in and year out. But we can all get a glimpse of the year-round beauty of that special place through Virginia Woolf’s Garden: The Story of the Garden at Monk’s House

As Zoob puts it in her Introduction, the couple “opened the curtains each day to see the garden spread out below, still shaped according to Leonard’s inspiration” during their decade-long tenancy of Monk’s House, from 2000-2011.

And in his Foreward to the volume, Cecil Woolf, Leonard’s nephew, offers recollections that go back even farther. He writes about his visits, beginning in 1936, to “that charming house and garden” where he pushed open “the creaking wooden gate” to what he remembers as a “little Eden.” The book, he writes, “brings back memories of long-ago visits before and after the war.”

Story of a home and garden’s evolution

Zoob’s 192-page book is divided into seven chapters that tell the story of the home and the garden’s evolution since 1919, when the Woolfs discovered the home in Rodmell, Sussex and were immediately enamored of the garden. The hefty book gives us a tour of that garden and fills in the background as well. And at the end of each chapter, a different garden “room” is described in detail.

Featured throughout are full-color photographs by Caroline Arber, who was a frequent visitor to Monk’s House during the Zoob’s tenure at the home. The photos include wide views of garden elements such as The Flower Walk — the borders running from the lawn steps to the Orchard — and crisp close-ups of individual flowers, such as Leonard’s beloved roses. They show Monk’s House and its garden transformed by the seasons — with the bursting bulbs of spring, the vibrantly colorful blooms of summer and the snow-capped garden sculptures of winter.

Old alongside the new

Archival photos of the Woolfs and their friends at Monk’s House are juxtaposed alongside photos of Monk’s House in the present day. An old photo that I had never before seen pictures Virginia standing outside her first writing lodge, which was converted from a toolshed. Zoob found the photo at Sissinghurst, and although a cropped version was printed in Volume 3 of Woolf’s Letters, the untrimmed new version includes the loft ladder.

Leonard's desk, as pictured on Pages 122-123.

Leonard’s desk, as pictured on Pages 122-123.

Interior close-ups of such things as both Virginia’s and Leonard’s writing desks are a special treat. Others show intimate views of details not available to visitors to the house. One includes an oak step leading toward the kitchen that is visibly work with use. Another is a 1970 photo showing the kitchen before the National Trust remodeled it for tenants.

Charming garden layouts in textiles

Another charming element of the book are the garden layouts. At first glance, they all look like watercolor sketches — and some of them are — but upon closer inspection it is clear others are textile art — a combination of embroidery and appliqué with inserted text.

Treasure available Oct. 14

The Italian Garden, picture in fabric art at left and in a photograph at right.

The Italian Garden, pictured in fabric art at left and in a photograph at right.

The book, an indispensable treasure for any Woolf fan, Anglophile, or gardener, will be available in hardback from from Jacqui Small Publishing Oct. 14.

Zoob, an embroiderer and textile artist, is the author of The Hand-Stitched Home and Childhood Treasures.

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