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Posts Tagged ‘Vita Sackville-West’

“Vita and Virginia,” the much-anticipated Chanya Button film about the love affair between Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West is playing in London, and I saw it yesterday.

It has opened to mixed reviews. But if you are a fan of Virginia Woolf — as I obviously am — it is a must-see.

Scenery, sets, and superb fashion

As Sarah Hall put it in a message to VWoolf ListServ, “In films or plays about real people you get used to the departures from reality, so I made a determined effort to ignore these and enjoyed the scenery and the costumes and, frankly, the well-recreated sets (all except Knole, which is gloriously real).”

I agree. The sets look wonderfully authentic. The scenes that take place at Charleston look like Charleston, down to the painted doorways and decorated mantelpieces. The room where the Hogarth Press was housed looks just as I imagined it — although Stuart Clarke of the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain said a press such as the Woolfs owned would not have sounded like the one in the film. But film needs sound, so the producers added the clanking of machinery as the pages of Jacob’s Room (1922) are shown coming off the press.

The costumes are fabulous — although I did wonder if Vita’s actual wardrobe was as glamorous as the film portrayed. But movies are expected to be a treat for the eyes, and this one succeeded at that, with the sets, the scenery, and the costumes.

The words don’t fail but the pacing plods

Since it was based on the eponymous play by Eileen Atkins, which was based on the letters that Vita and Virginia wrote each other, I also appreciated hearing the words of those two writers as much of the film’s dialogue.

But where the words succeed, the pacing plods. Even for a Woolf lover, the film is slow.

And there are a number of scenes — from the party scene where one first encounters Virginia to the love scenes in Vita’s bed — where I shook my head in disbelief. No, Virginia would not have danced around like a Grateful Dead groupie at any party, I thought. And no, I thought, Virginia never experienced sexual fulfillment via Vita. Did she?

Sarah Hall also had this criticism, “What didn’t make dramatic sense is to have Vita’s mother in residence at Knole instead of her father (who doesn’t appear and isn’t even mentioned). If Lionel is meant to be prematurely deceased, why hasn’t Knole been bestowed on a male heir?”

The casting is questionable

However, the casting may be my main complaint. After two casting changes for the role of Virginia, the film stars Gemma Arterton as Vita and Elizabeth Debicki as Virginia. Neither really works. In my opinion, Arterton is too cute and feminine to play the outdoorsy Vita. Debicki is absolutely too tall; she towers over the petite Arterton in too many scenes, which put me off.

Peter Ferdinando works well as Leonard and portrays him as a sympathetic character, which suits me. But Adam Gilles is wrong on every count as Duncan Grant. I had to wonder why they didn’t cast the beautiful James Norton, who made the perfect Duncan in Life in Squares.

Despite complaints, I recommend the film to anyone who cares about Virginia Woolf, Vita, and the Bloomsbury group. Apparently, many agree. On its opening weekend, July 4-7, the film made £49,223 showing in 63 cinemas.

The film opens in the U.S. in October.

 

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Virginia and Vita. Virginia and Leonard. Vanessa and Roger. Vanessa and Duncan. All four of those Bloomsbury couples are included in the exhibit “Modern Couples: Art, Intimacy and the Avant-garde” at The Barbican Art Gallery in London through Jan. 27, 2019.

According to promoters:

Modern Couples explores creative relationships, across painting, literature, sculpture, photography and design. Meet the artist couples that forged new ways of making art and of living and loving, from Frida Kahlo & Diego Rivera, Emilie Flöge & Gustav Klimt to Virginia Woolf & Vita Sackville-West.

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From the release of details about the film in 2015 to cast selection in the winter of 2017 to additional preparations made later that year, Blogging Woolf has kept readers informed about Vita and Virginia, the new film telling the love story of Vita Sackville-West and Virginia Woolf.

Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West

Now that Chanya Button’s UK-Ireland feature film is about to premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival tomorrow, we have an update that includes the brief official trailer and a review link.

I imagine that most readers of Woolf are eager to see the film, which stars Elizabeth Debicki as Woolf and Gemma Arterton as Sackville-West. Arterton also served as the movie’s executive producer. And although I don’t know when it will be available in theaters, I am already enjoying this quote from the trailer:

Independence has no sex.

The Toronto Review wrote a negative review, stating that the film “attempts to manufacture chemistry by regurgitating chunks of the letters that Vita and Virginia wrote to each other.”

I guess we’ll have to wait until we see it ourselves before we can decide whether the film does more than that. I, for one, am hopeful that it does justice to both women.

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Vita and Virginia. That was the focus of pre-conference events on #DallowayDay, the day before the start of the 28th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf.

About 58 Woolf fans boarded a bus at the University of Kent and headed toward two former homes of Vita Sackville-West, where Woolf visited her friend and lover.

We spent the day touring Knole, the ancestral home of the Sackvilles and Sissinghurst Castle Gardens, where Vita and Harold Nicolson created a vast world-renowned garden. The National Trust owns and manages both.

Here are some photos from the beautiful, warm, sun-filled day.

Conference attendees arrive at Knole, originally built as an archbishop’s palace but given to the Sackville family in 1603.

Looking through the Knole gate

View from the rooftop of Knole.

Another rooftop view

The orangerie where the Sackvilles once grew oranges and lemons and later stored their cast-offs. It is being refurbished.

On the Knole tour

View of Sissinghurst from the tower after climbing its 78 steps.

Looking back through the archway as we enter Sissinghurst.

The tower where Vita’s personal study is located. It is filled with the room’s original books and furnishings. A portrait of Virgina sits on the desk.

The white garden, a spot where Vita and Harold liked to sit at night over dinner, with the brightness of the flowers helping to illuminate the night.

Closeup in the white garden

Rooftop view of Sissinghurst Gardens

An unusual black flower in the garden

Pink roses climbing up a sun-washed wall

This unusual flower near the archway prompted visitors to stop to take a photo.

Flowers growing up and around a wall structure.

 

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Due to the high level of interest in the inaugural issue of Feminist Modernist Studies (1:1-2), Routledge has provided free access to the entire first issue for the month of January, according to Editor Cassandra Laity of the University of Tennessee.

Short essays in the volume examine the state of and future of feminist modernist studies in global women writers, “intermodernism,” African-American and queer studies.

Longer essays explore transgender and Vita Sackville West; refugees in Olive Moore; feminist modernism in the worlds of fashion, WWII union organizing, psychoanalysis, sculpture, dance, Afro-Caribbean crossings, and much more.

Get full free access.

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Here’s a new take on Vita and Virginia. Vita Sackville West’s miniature book, written as an accessory for a famous doll house in 1922, is said to have been the inspiration for Virginia Woolf’s 1928 novel Orlando.

The story, encapsulated in a volume about the size of a matchbox with just 20 words per tiny page, is titled “A Note of Explanation.” It was one of 200 volumes produced for the library of Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House, a replica of an Edwardian residence made as a gift for the consort of George V, according to The Telegraph.

Vita was among the greats

Some of the greatest authors of the day were commissioned to write works for the doll habitat, now on display at Windsor Castle. Besides Vita, they included Thomas Hardy, Rudyard Kipling and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

The theme of Vita’s story will sound familiar to anyone who has read Woolf’s pseudo-biography. It tells the tale of an ageless figure who is present for major moments in history. However, in Vita’s version, the ageless figure is a sprite and the history the sprite lives through is fairytale history — from Cinderella’s ball to Sleeping Beauty’s kiss.

Woolf always acknowledged that Orlando had been inspired by Vita and her family, but apparently did not acknowledge that Vita had written a tiny book with a similar theme.

Get the book

A hardback cloth-bound publication of the book, sized 9.8 inches x 6.8 inches, went on sale Oct. 16 by the Royal Collection Trust, according to the BBC. It includes illustrations by Kate Baylay and an afterword by Sackville-West’s biographer, Matthew Dennison, The Guardian reported.

You can order it through the RCT shop. You can also find it on Amazon.

 

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Collecting books was the topic of the “Book Collectors and the Book Trade” panel at the 27th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf Conference in Reading, England, in June. So it’s no wonder my mind clicked into gear when I received an email full of Woolf treats from fellow Woolf hunter, book collector, and seller Jon S. Richardson.

June conference panelists included Leslie Arthur of the William Reese Company in Connecticut on “Bibliographers, Booksellers, and Collectors of the Hogarth Press,” Catherine Hollis of U.C. Berkeley on “The Common Reader and the Book Collector,” and Stephen Barkway of the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain on “Hogarth Press Books,” the story of his personal collection.

Attached to Richardson’s email was the September 2017 list of volumes he has for sale, which include some by or about Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West, other Bloomsbury writers, and the extended Stephen clan.

What’s on the list

There are 70 items offered on the current list. Here are just a few:

  • Woolf, Virginia. MRS. DALLOWAY, New York, Harcourt, [1931], 296 pp., 6th impression of the first American edition in deep orange cloth with spine label, VG+ with a pristine spine label, Kirkpatrick A9b, this copy with the exceedingly rare Bell jacket in yellow/black/ cream design, being the 1931 issue of the jacket (with a blurb on To The Lighthouse on rear inner flap), jacket is VG+ with trivial loss to spine ends and two tiny areas of abrasion on spine, price of $2.50 on flap, but no sunning, front inner flap has blurb on Mrs. Dalloway with N.Y. Times review quotation, prior owners’ signatures on flysheet, a most handsome copy of this Bell artwork which is identical to the first edition. $785
  • Quentin Bell & Virginia Nicholson. CHARLESTON-A BLOOMSBURY HOUSE AND GARDEN, New York, Holt, 1997, first American edition, oblong quarto, fine with near fine dust jacket,152 pp., profusely illustrated in color, a room-by-room excursion through this home so central to Bloomsbury outside London. $55
  • Sackville-West, V. CHALLENGE, New York, George H. Doran, [1923], the third impression in RED CLOTH, lettered in black on spine and on upper board, see notes to Cross A9b, VG, 297 pp., dedicated to Violet Trefusis in the Romany dialect they shared, a scarce appearance of this book suppressed in England by Lady Sackville who feared the disclosure of VS-W’s relationship with Violet Trefusis, number of copies unknown. $95
  • [Bell, Grant, Woolf & Bloomsbury] A complete run of THE CHARLESTON NEWSLETTER, Issues Nos. 1-24 (1982-89) + index (all published); published by the Charleston Trust, Richmond, Surrey, edited by Hugh Lee, wrappers, VG, s contained in two volume custom green bindings supplied by Charleston at the time – these bindings are unusual in using a string technique which allows removal but also allows volumes to open nearly flat for ease of copying; an amazing work of scholarship starting with the formation of the Trust to save Charleston, many contributions by Quentin Bell and other Bloomsbury people then alive, many issues have color plates of Bloomsbury art by Bell & Grant especially Charleston and other rooms decorated by them; great sequence of articles on Bloomsbury bookplates with copies, the breadth of the topics is vast, ultimately succeeded by The Charleston Magazine in 1990; scarce in the complete set and an essential Bloomsbury reference source as much of this material (from original Bloomsbury members then still alive) exists only here. $485

Background on the Woolf hunters

According to “Woolf Hunters,” a 2010 article in the Harvard Magazine, Richardson founders Jon and harbor books screenshotMargaret Richardson have made hunting down the works of Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group their mission since opening York Harbor Books in Maine more than 20 years ago.

To receive your own list, contact Jon S. Richardson Rare Books at yorkharborbooks@aol.com.

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