Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Annual Round: December 31, 2015

Nevertheless, life is pleasant, life is tolerable.  Tuesday follows Monday; then comes Wednesday.  The mind grows rings; the identity becomes robust; pain is absorbed in growth.  Opening and shutting, shutting and opening, with increasing hum and sturdiness, the haste and fever of youth are drawn into service until the whole being seems to expand in and out like the mainspring of a clock. How fast the stream flows from January to December!  We are swept on by the torrent of things grown so familiar that they cast no shadow.  We float, we float . . .
The Waves 

Fredshwater: December 30, 2015

TENNYSON: There is something highly pleasing about the death of a young woman in the prime of life.  Rolled round in earth’s diural course with stocks and stones and trees.  That’s Wordsworth.  I’ve said it too. ‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.  Wearing the white flower of a blameless life.
Freshwater (40)
December 30, 1934  Woolf visits Charleston to rehearse Freshwater 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Inside the Door: December 29, 2015

Original front door of 22 Hyde Park Gate from the inside
Private houses in London are apt to be much of a muchness, The door opens on a dark hall; from the dark hall rises a narrow staircase; off the landing opens a double drawing-room, and in this double drawing-room are two sofas on either side of a blazing fire, six armchairs, and three long windows giving upon the street. 

“Portrait of a Londoner” (75-6)  

 Published in Good Housekeeping, December 1932

Monday, December 28, 2015

Woolf as History: December 28, 2015

Now it was winter.  In the winter 'they studied history and literature and music, and tried to draw and paint.  If they did not produce anything remarkable they learnt much in the process.' And so with some visiting the sick and teaching the poor, the years passed.  And what was the great end and aim of these years, of that education?  Marriage, of course.  '. . . it was not a question of WHETHER we should marry, but simply of whom we should marry,' says one of them.  It was with a view to marriage that her mind was taught.  It was with a view to marriage that she tinkled on the piano, but was not allowed to join an orchestra; sketched innocent domestic scenes, but was not allowed to study from the nude; read this book, but was not allowed to read that, charmed, and talked. It was with a view to marriage that her body was educated; a maid was provided for her; that the streets were shut to her; that the fields were shut to her; that solitude was denied her--all this was enforced upon her in order that she might preserve her body intact for her husband.  In short, the thought of marriage influenced what she said, what she thought, what she did.  How could it be otherwise?  Marriage was the only profession open to her.
Three Guineas (32)

Late December 1932, Boris Anrep finishes mosaic in National Gallery, including Woolf as Clio

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Post Christmas: December 26, 2015

New Forest: Christmas 1906 

Photo by Craig Sargent
For why does the forest always disappoint me? & why does Christmas disappoint me too? Is it not that they both promise something glittering & ruddy & cheerful, & when you have it you find it not quite as good as you expected? The forest is too benign & complaisant; it gives you all that you can ask; but it hints at no more. There are the long green drives, & the tracery of the branches against the sky; there are wild open spaces when you are tired of symmetry, with their single elm & thorn trees, & their brambles & their bogs. "So wild — so free — so stately — so mediaeval:" Such is the praise that you must give, & give willingly, but there is no residue that remains unexpressed for lack of the fitting word. (PA 363)    

Friday, December 25, 2015

Black Lace Trees: December 25, 2015

Christmas Day  in New Forest, 1904

The sunset makes all the air as though of melted amethyst; yellow flakes dissolve from the solid body of amethyst which is the west.  Against this, standing as though in an ocean of fine air, the bare trees are deep black lines, as though drawn in Indian ink which has dried dull & indelible.  The small branches & twigs make a fringe of infinitely delicate lines, each one distinctly cut against the sky.  (PA 215)

Little Talland House: December 24, 2015

It is a very ugly  villa; but underneath the downs, in a charming village (L1 447).
December 24, 1911, Virginia finds and  rents Little Talland House in Firle.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Light Returns: December 22, 2015

Photo by Craig Sargent
How then does light return to the world after the eclipse of the sun?  Miraculously.  Frailly. In thin stripes.  It hangs like a glass cage.  It is a hoop to be fractured by a tiny jar.  There is a spark there.  Next moment a flush of dun.  Then a vapour as if earth were breathing in and out, once, twice, for the first time. Then under the dullness someone walks with a green light.  Then off twists a white wraith.  The woods throb blue and green, and gradually the fields drink in red, gold, brown.  Suddenly a river snatches a blue light.  The earth absorbs colour like a sponge slowly drinking water.  It puts on weight; rounds itself; hangs pendent; settles and swings beneath our feet.
The Waves

Monday, December 21, 2015

Visible Novel: December 21, 2016

I believe that the main thing in beginning a novel is to feel, not that you can write it, but that it exists on the far side of a gulf, which words can’t cross: that its to be pulled through only in a breathless anguish.  Now when I sit down to an article, I have a net of words which will come down on the idea certainly in an hour or so.  But a novel, as I say, to be good should seem, before one writes it, something unwriteable: but only visible; so that for nine months one lives in despair, and only when one has forgotten what one meant, does the book seem tolerable” (D3 529)

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Gift of Conception: December 20, 2015

Whatever the accomplishment, we must always treat with tenderness the efforts of those who strive honestly to express the music that is within them; for the gift of conception is certainly superior to the gift of expression, and it is not unreasonable to suppose that the men and women who scrape for the harmonies that never come while the traffic goes thundering by have as great a possession, though fated never to impart it, as the masters whose facile eloquences enchants thousands to listen.
“Street Music” (E1 28)

December 20, 1905 “Street Music” was published in the National Review

Saturday, December 19, 2015

A Flower Dress: December 19, 2015

[B]ut for winter I should like a thin dress shot with red threads that would gleam in the firelight.  Then when the lamps were lit, I should put on my red dress and it would be thin as a veil, and would wind about my body, and billow out as I came into the room, pirouetting.  It would make a flower shape as I sank down, in the middle of the room, on a gilt chair.  

The Waves 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Leaves of the Past: December 18, 2015

Each has his past shut in him like the leaves of a book known to him by heart and his friends can only read the title. 
Jacob's Room  (65)
Photo by Craig Sargent

Long Barn: December 17, 2015

Photo by Sarah Salway
But Vita for 3 days at Long Barn, from which L & I returned yesterday.  These Sapphists love women; friendship is never untinged with amorosity. . . . I like her & being with her & the splendour – she shines in the grocers shop in Sevenoaks with a candlelit radiance, stalking on legs like beech trees, pink glowing, grape clustered, pearl hung.

December 17, 1925, Woolf spends the weekend at Long Barn with Vita.  Beginning of their love affair.

For more on Long Barn, see Sarah Salway:

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

No entry: December 16, 2015

I thought how unpleasant it is to be locked out; and I thought how it is worse perhaps to be locked in.

A Room of One's Own (24)

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Colour Spirals: December 15, 2015

Photo courtesy of Bernadette Longo
When I first went into Sickert's show, said one of the diners, I became completely and solely an insect—all eye. I flew from colour to colour, from red to blue, from yellow to green. Colours went spirally through my body lighting a flare as if a rocket fell through the night and lit up greens and browns, grass and trees, and there in the grass a white bird. Colour warmed, thrilled, chafed, burnt, soothed, fed and finally exhausted me. For though the life of colour is a glorious life it is a short one. Soon the eye can hold no more; it shuts itself in sleep.

“Walter Sickert” E6 (38)

December 15, 1933,  Woolf dines withClive Bell  to meet Walter Sickert and wife

Meeting Vita: December 14, 2015

Sissinghurst Roses
I am too muzzy headed to make out anything. This is partly the result of dining to meet the lovely, gifted, aristocratic Sackville West last night at Clive’s.  Not much to my severer taste – florid, moustached, parakeet coloured, with all the supple ease of the aristocratic, but not the wit of the artist. . . . But could I ever know her?
(L 2 216)

December 14, 1922, Woolf meets Vita Sackville-West

Monday, December 14, 2015

Sickle Moon: December 13, 2015

Photo by Sue Watts

He saw the beech trees turn golden and the young ferns unfurl; he saw the moon sickle and then circular; he saw--but probably the reader can imagine the passage which should follow and how every tree and plant in the neighbourhood is described first green, then golden; how moons rise and suns set; how spring follows winter and autumn summer; how night succeeds day and day night; how there is first a storm and then fine weather; how things remain much as they are for two or three hundred years or so, except for a little dust and a few cobwebs which one old woman can sweep up in half an hour; a conclusion which, one cannot help feeling, might have been reached more quickly by the simple statement that 'Time passed' (here the exact amount could be indicated in brackets) and nothing whatever happened.

Orlando  (72)

Little Language: December 12, 2015

My book, stuffed with phrases, has dropped to the floor.  It lies under the table, to be swept up by the charwoman when she comes wearily at dawn looking for scraps of paper, old tram tickets, and here and there a note screwed into a ball and left with the litter to be swept up.  What is the phrase for the moon?  And the phrase for love?  By what name are we to call death?  I do not know.  I need a little language such as lovers use, words of one syllable such as children speak when they come into the room and find their mother sewing and pick up some scrap of bright wool, a feather, or a shred of chintz.  I need a howl; a cry.  When the storm crosses the marsh and sweeps over me where I lie in the ditch unregarded I need no words.  Nothing neat.  Nothing that comes down with all its feet on the floor.  None of those resonances and lovely echoes that break and chime from nerve to nerve in our breasts, making wild music, false phrases.  I have done with phrases. 

The Waves

Exaltation of Swallows: December 11, 2015

Photo by Craig Sargent
To watch a leaf quivering in the rush of air was an exquisite joy. Up in the sky swallows swooping, swerving, flinging themselves in and out, round and round, yet always with perfect control as if elastics held them; and the flies rising and falling; and the sun spotting now this leaf, now that, in mockery, dazzling it with soft gold in pure good temper; and now again some chime (it might be a motor horn) tinkling divinely on the grass stalks—all of this, calm and reasonable as it was, made out of ordinary things as it was, was the truth now; beauty, that was the truth now. Beauty was everywhere.
Mrs. Dalloway

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Moonshine: December 10, 2015

For two or three hours longer the moon poured its light through the empty air.  Unbroken by clouds it fell straightly, and lay almost like a chill white frost over the sea and the earth.
During these hours the silence was not broken, and the only movement was caused by the movement of trees and branches which stirred slightly, and then the shadows that lay across the white spaces of the land moved too.  In this profound silence one sound only was audible, the sound of a slight but continuous breathing which never ceased, although it never rose and never fell.  It continued after the birds had begun to flutter from branch to branch, and could be heard behind the first thin notes of their voices.  It continued all through the hours when the east whitened, and grew red, and a faint blue tinged the sky, but when the sun rose it ceased, and gave place to other sounds.
The Voyage Out (Chapter 26)

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Gordon and His Boys: December 9, 2015

They don't know the troubles of the flesh yet, he thought, as the marching boys disappeared in the direction of the Strand--all that I've been through, he thought, crossing the road, and standing under Gordon's statue, Gordon whom as a boy he had worshipped; Gordon standing lonely with one leg raised and his arms crossed,--poor Gordon, he thought.
Mrs. Dalloway (50-1)

The neighbourhood was a poverty-stricken one, and the kind Colonel, with his tripping step and simple manner, was soon a familiar figure in it, chatting with the seamen, taking provisions to starving families, or visiting some bedridden old woman to light her fire. He was particularly fond of boys. Ragged street arabs and rough sailor-lads crowded about him. They were made free of his house and garden; they visited him in the evenings for lessons and advice; he helped them, found them employment, corresponded with them when they went out into the world. They were, he said, his Wangs.
Lytton Strachey, Eminent Victorians (194)

On December 9, 1917, Woolf records in her Diary that Lytton Strachey dropped off his chapter on General Gordon for her to read. (D1, 90)

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Winter Nights: December 8, 2015

December Moon by Craig Sargent
But what after all is one night? A short space, especially when the darkness dims so soon, and so soon a bird sings, a cock crows, or a faint green quickens, like a turning leaf, in the hollow of the wave. Night, however, succeeds to night. The winter holds a pack of them in store and deals them equally, they darken. Some of them hold aloft clear planets, plates of brightness.

To the Lighthouse (131)

Monday, December 7, 2015

Tin Soldiers like Corn: December 7, 2015

The battleships ray out over the North Sea, keeping their stations accurately apart. At a given signal all the guns are trained on a target which (the master gunner counts the seconds, watch in hand--at the sixth he looks up) flames into splinters. With equal nonchalance a dozen young men in the prime of life descend with composed faces into the depths of the sea; and there impassively (though with perfect mastery of machinery) suffocate uncomplainingly together. Like blocks of tin soldiers the army covers the cornfield, moves up the hillside, stops, reels slightly this way and that, and falls flat, save that, through field glasses, it can be seen that one or two pieces still agitate up and down like fragments of broken match-stick.

Jacob’s Room (164)

Sunday, December 6, 2015

A Green Brush: December 6, 2015

"Birth of Venus" by Laken Bridges
The seasons
The Skull
 The gradual dissolution of everything
this is to be contrasted wi the permanence of – what?
Sun, moon & stars.
Hopeless gulfs of misery.
The War.
Change. Oblivion. Human vitality.  Old woman
Cleaning up. The bobbed up, valorous, as of a principle
Of human life projected
We are handed on by our children?
Shawls and shooting caps. A green handled brush.
The devouringness of nature
But all the time, this passes, accumulates
The welter of winds & waves
What then is the medium through wh. We regard human beings?
To the Lighthouse,  Holograph Draft, Appendix B