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Posts Tagged ‘To the Lighthouse’

Editor’s Note: Maggie Humm provided Blogging Woolf with the story and images of her experience working with France Culture radio and the French TV channel ARTE’s series Invitation Au Voyage on programs about Virginia Woolf.

By Maggie Humm

A cold, windy day in April 2019 saw me walking and talking in Kensington for France Culture radio about Virginia Woolf’s London childhood and her own daily walks with her father. Thankfully, my talk didn’t have to be in French or delivered sideways as in The West Wing.

Maggie Humm with the French TV channel ARTE’s series Invitation Au Voyage in St. Ives

France Culture has over 3,000 podcasts and items about Virginia Woolf. Director Simonetta Greggio simply said, “I love Woolf.”

Woolf and France past

As Blogging Woolf readers know, Charles Mauron translated “Time Passes” from To the Lighthouse in Commerce as early as Winter 1926, and Woolf’s works were translated into French more quickly than into other languages.

Woolf knew several leading French intellectuals including Mauron – Jacques Raverat and Jacques-Émile Blanche – and the translation of Mrs Dalloway had a preface by André Maurois. Simone de Beauvoir discusses Woolf in The Second Sex.

To the lighthouse

Top of my bucket list however was visiting Godrevy Lighthouse thanks to Lolita Rivé of Elephant Productions who invited me to present “Cornwall Through the Eyes of Virginia Woolf” as part of the French TV channel ARTE’s series Invitation au Voyage.

It’s not possible to convey my excitement and delight reading To the Lighthouse at Godrevy Lighthouse, as well as reading The Waves on St. Ives beach.

Maggie Humm heads to Godrevy Lighthouse with the French TV channel ARTE’s series Invitation Au Voyage. As Woolf said about St. Ives Regatta Day – it made her ‘think of a French picture’ (MOB: 132). Vive la France!

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Botanic Garden gates

Today at the Literature Cambridge course on Virginia Woolf’s Gardens, we went To the Lighthouse.

Not literally. But that was the focus of both the lecture by Trudi Tate and our small group tutorials this morning, before we veered off across the land to the Cambridge University Botanic Garden. There, garden historian Caroline Holmes led us on an afternoon tour of plants from all over the world.

We didn’t make it through the entire 40 acres of the garden that opened in 1846. Nevertheless, we saw, felt, and sniffed a wide variety of the more than 8,000 species growing there.

Discussing the garden in To the Lighthouse

Predictably enough, our morning discussions about To the Lighthouse focused on Woolf’s use of the garden in her 1927 novel. In her lecture, Tate touched on ways the garden connects to mother and memory, as well as the Victorian past.

Later this morning, in our four-person tutorial group led by Karina Jakubowicz, two things stand out to me from our discussion. One was the way the urns full of red trailing geraniums fail to attract Mr. Ramsay’s full attention but cause him to go off on intellectual tangents. The other was the meaning of Mrs. Ramsay’s green cashmere shawl in the “Time Passes” section. We all thought there was more to explore there.

Walking the gardens

Now for photos from the day, starting at Wolfson College, home of this year’s Literature Cambridge course, and ending with a walk through the Cambridge University Botanic Garden.

The Wolfson College garden where two of the four tutorial groups at this year’s Literature Cambridge class discussed Woolf’s “To the Lighthouse” this morning.

Entrance to the Cambridge University Botanic Garden on Trumpington Street

The knowledgeable Caroline Holmes provided the history of the trees and other plants at the Botanic Garden during our tour, adding a touch of humor throughout.

The iconic fountain designed by David Mellor, a focal point at the eastern end of the Botanic Garden’s Main Walk

Path through the Winter Garden

Floral close-up

One of the many trees on the Main Walk of the Botanic Garden

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From the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain comes news of these events:

  • What: All-day reading of Woolf’s 1927 masterpiece, To the Lighthouse
    When: Sunday 14 October 2018, 9.30 a.m. to (approx.) 8.30 p.m.
    Where: Lucy Cavendish College
    Details: Free and open to all, both town and gown. Come for an hour or so, or come for the day.
    Lunch will be available to buy in the Lucy Cavendish dining hall, 12:30-1:30 p.m. RSVP for lunch by emailing tt206@cam.ac.uk
    Get more details.
  • What: Talk on two previously unpublished sketches “The ‘Cook Sketch‘ and ‘The Villa Jones‘: Virginia Woolf’s Lost 1931 Sketches”
    When: Tuesday 30 October 2018, 1 p.m.
    Where: Clara Jones, King’s College, London.
    Details: This talk will introduce two previously unpublished sketches discovered in the pages of a little-known notebook held in New York’s Morgan Library. The two sketches differ formally but collectively suggest an alternative starting point for the much-discussed political turn in Woolf’s writing during the 1930s. Hosted by Literature Cambridge and Lucy Cavendish College. Get more details.
  • What: VWSGB members are invited to the Leslie Stephen Lecture
    When: Monday 15 October: Lecture at 5:30 p.m. with drinks reception following at 6:45 p.m.
    Where: Lecture in the Senate House, Cambridge; drinks reception in The Combination Room, The Old Schools.
    Details: Lecture by Sir Simon Schama on “Liberalism, populism and the fate of the world”
    Details: Free. Get more details.

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As we reported earlier, the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain is asking Woolf readers to vote for their favorite quote via their Facebook page.

Here’s the VWSGB’s Facebook query:

Thanks to all those who emailed or Facebooked their favourite Virginia Woolf quotations. We received a great variety, but have shortlisted the following five. Just vote for your favourite using the number next to it. If you voted earlier, you can choose the same one or another, and you can make your message public or reply privately. But please vote! #vwquotevote

1) Mrs Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself. (Mrs Dalloway)

2) In the bellow and the uproar; the carriages, motor cars, omnibuses, vans, sandwich men shuffling and swinging; brass bands; barrel organs; in the triumph and the jingle and the strange high singing of some aeroplane overhead was what she loved; life; London; this moment of June.
(Mrs Dalloway)

3) Why, if one wants to compare life to anything, one must liken it to being blown through the Tube at fifty miles an hour – landing at the other end without a single hairpin in one’s hair! Shot out at the feet of God entirely naked! Tumbling head over heels in the asphodel meadows like brown paper parcels pitched down a shoot in the post office! With one’s hair flying back like the tail of a race-horse. Yes, that seems to express the rapidity of life, the perpetual waste and repair; all so casual, all so haphazard …
(‘The Mark on the Wall’)

4) Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind. (A Room of One’s Own)

5) Nothing is simply one thing. (To the Lighthouse)

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Woolfians who can travel to Cornwall in September may be interested in these two events with Sarah Latham Phillips, author of Virginia Woolf as a ‘Cubist’ Writer, available from Cecil Woolf Publishers.

Cornwall

St. Ives September Festival, Virginia Woolf & Vanessa Bell

When: Friday 15 September 2017, 10:30 a.m.
Where: Porthmeor Studio, Back Road West, St Ives, Cornwall, TR26 1NG

What: Two artistic sisters: Virginia Woolf & Vanessa Bell, who spent part of their childhood in St Ives. Sarah will discuss its influence on their art and writing and their own relationship and ambitions.

Cost: Tickets £5.50
Reservations: at http://www.crbo.co.uk/events.php?evGrp=195

Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse

Godrevy Lighthouse, St. Ives, Cornwall

When: Monday 18 September 2017, 10:30 a.m. – 4:15 p.m.
Where: Red Store, Riverside, Lerryn, Nr Lostwithiel, Cornwall,
PL22 OPZ

What: Study day on To the Lighthouse
Cost: Tickets are £25 for the day and include coffee, tea and biscuits. Bring your
own lunch.
Reservations: Please contact Sarah at phillipsfamily1234@yahoo.co.uk for further details.

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Cape Ann, Massachusetts, 1928. Bea is on the porch reading the book her cousin Rose has handed her, The President’s Daughter, which Bea describes as the trashiest book she’s ever read, though she can’t resist it. Rose, in turn, has picked up To the Lighthouse, and admits that she doesn’t understand it.

Bea had finished the book last week and had not stopped thinking about it but she did not think that understanding—the way Rose meant it—was its point. She understood that Mrs. Ramsay was her mother and that she, Bea, was “the sudden silent trout” pinned against the glass (if she read again she would see they were not pinned but “hanging,” but that was the difference between this kind of understanding and Rose’s), and Bea understood that the book as a whole was about her own life and that other people probably understood it to be about theirs. But her understanding in this way was vague—the book had stayed with her through the week like a glowing, invisible pet she could not risk touching. “I think it’s about memory,” she said. “And about how the present is always becoming the past, both in our consciousness of it and in reality. And about the confusion, or maybe the elision, between the two, and also between reality and a person’s vision of reality. Very little happens but a lot is happening. A character can stand with a foot on a threshold and her whole world shifts.”  Bea had not known how good it would feel to talk about the book. The only educated women she spoke with on a regular basis—club women she courted at benefits or after her speeches—talked about Virginia Woolf like Lillian and her friends fawned over Parisian silk. “Also, it’s about women and men,” Bea concluded, starting to worry that she was making little sense. “And whether or not the children will get to the lighthouse.”

Another sign of Anna Solomon’s homage to Woolf in Leaving Lucy Pear is the occasional appearance of references to a Nurse Lugton, who tended Bea when she experienced a mental breakdown. Oh yes, there’s a ceramic lighthouse too….

In an interview on NPR’s “Here and Now,” Anna Solomon said that Woolf was an important influence on her consciousness both as a writer and as a human being, that Woolf helped her find her own voice. She added that it gave her pleasure to have her character reading the work that she herself loved.

Woolf aside, I found this an interesting and well-written novel, an unusual and compelling slice of life.

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The two Lilys have been on my mind for a while, and after rereading To the Lighthouse and House of Mirth, I’ve begun a trail of comparisons and contrasts to which I plan to add some personal reflections and who knows what else for a future essay.

Virginia Woolf reviewed House of Mirth and regarded Lily Bart with sympathy, as having “many of the faults of her surroundings” but also “a capacity for better things which is never to be exercised.” I also found a paper by a Wharton scholar that compares Lily Bart and Clarissa Dalloway, but I don’t think the Lilys have been broached together.

Just to be sure, I googled and found just one reference, to a passage that unites them in a 1990 novel by Roberta Silman, Beginning the World Again: A Novel of Los Alamos. I got the book right away, of course, and soon found myself embroiled in a well-researched account, based on actual events and real as well as fictional characters, of the secret mission to build the atomic bomb in the New Mexico hills during World War II.                

The protagonist is Lily Failka, the wife of a nuclear physicist on the team. This is her story about her time there, her marriage, the families, the project, the secrecy. Before accompanying her new husband to Los Alamos, Lily had been a graduate student in literature and was writing a thesis on Melville. Classic novels come up frequently in her thinking and in analogies she makes. When she has an affair with one of the other scientists, she introduces him to literature. Years later, looking back:

There were often months, then years when I scarcely thought about Jacob, and when I did, I was so detached that I was another person, another Lily—“Lily Bart, Lily Briscoe, Joyce’s Lily in ‘The Dead,’ Lily of the Field?” I could hear Jacob’s low voice asking me. All those Lilys I had told him about. No, none of those, but someone still within me whom I scarcely knew anymore.

I sought out and had an email exchange with Roberta Silman, who proudly claims Grace Paley as her mentor and friend. Her context for the reference was Lily Failka’s introducing her physicist lover to her favorite literature, but Roberta noted characteristics that perhaps all the Lilys share, providing food for thought for my own project. Roberta also took pleasure in casting her Lily in the company of the memorable Lily Bart and Lily Briscoe.

 

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