Thursday, April 30, 2015

Time Passes: April 30, 2015

Yesterday I finished the first part of To the Lighthouse, and today began the second.  I cannot make it out -- here is the most difficult, abstract piece of writing -- I have to give an empty house, no people's characters, the passage of time, all eyeless and featureless with nothing to cling to: well, I rush at it and at once scatter out two pages.  Is it nonsense, is it brilliance?  (AWD 87)
Diary, April 30, 1926
Peaking at Talland House through the garden
Nothing stirred in the drawing-room or on the staircase.  Only through the rusty hinges and swollen sea-moistened woodwork certain airs, detached from the body of the wind (the house was ramshackle after all) crept round the corners and ventured indoors.  Almost one might imagine them, as they entered the drawing-room questioning and wondering, toying with the flap of hanging wall-paper, asking, would it hang much longer, when would it fall?
(TTL  130)

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Last Wave: April 29, 2015

And I have just finished with this very nib-full of ink, the last sentence of The Waves”  (WD 155)  
 Dairy, April 29, 1930 


'And in me too the wave rises.  It swells; it arches its back.  I am aware once more of a new desire, something rising beneath me like the proud horse whose rider first spurs and then pulls him back.  What enemy do we now perceive advancing against us, you whom I ride now, as we stand pawing this stretch of pavement?  It is death.  Death is the enemy.  It is death against whom I ride with my spear couched and my hair flying back like a young man's, like Percival's, when he galloped in India.  I strike spurs into my horse.  Against you I will fling myself, unvanquished and unyielding, O Death!'


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Wild Orchids: April 28, 2015

Wild Orchid in Water Meadows behind Monk's House

"That's an orchid leaf, Johnny.  Look at the little brown spots"
Jacob's Room (17)

Monday, April 27, 2015

Party Consciousness: April 27, 2015

Virginia Vogue in Wood -- Color-Reduction Woodcut 1998
I have been sitting to Vogue, the Becks that is, in their mews, which Mr. Woolner built as his studio, and perhaps it was there he thought of my mother, whom he wished to marry, I think.  But my present reflection is that people have any number of states of consciousness:  and I should like to investigate the party consciousness, the frock consciousness, etc. The fashion world at the Becks . . . is certainly one; where people secrete an envelope which prtects them from others, like myself, who am outside the envelope, foreign bodies.

Diary Entry for April 27, 1925 (AWD 73-4)

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Ott: April 26, 2015

With what imperial directness, like that of an artist intolerant of the conventional and the humdrum, she singled out the people she admired for the qualities that she was often the first to detect and champion, and brought together at Bedford Square and then at Garsington, Prime Ministers and painters, Bishops and freethinkers, the famous and the obscure!  Whether she sat at the head of her table against a background of pale yellow and poemegranate, or mused at Garsington

Garsington in 2003

with her embroidery on her lap and undergraduates at her feet, or held on her way down Tottenham Court Road like a Reniassance princess listening to inaudible music while the passers by stared, she created her own world.

From Woolf's obituary for Lady Ottoline Morrell (E6 125)

Woolf learned of Ottoline's death on April 26, 1938

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Cruelest: April 25, 2015

 Not Woolf, but you knew I had to do it...

Lilacs in the snow in Santa Fe -- Marie Landserre

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
                   T.S. Eliot  The Waste Land

June 18, 1922: Eliot dines with the Woolfs and reads The Waste Land aloud

June 24-July 8, 1923: Woolf sets type for handprinted Hogarth Press edition of The Waste Land

Friday, April 24, 2015

First Press: April 24, 2015

Hogarth Press at Sissinghurst

Our press arrived on Tuesday.  We unpacked it with enormous excitement, finally with Nelley's help, carried it into the drawing room, set it on its stand-- and discovered it was smashed in half!  It is a great weight, and they never screwed it down; but the shop has probably got a spare part.  Anyhow the arrangement of the type is such a business we shant be ready to start printing directly. One has great blocks of type, which have to be divided into their separate letters, and founts, and then put into the right partitions.  The work of ages, especially when you mix the h's with the n's as I did yesterday.  We get so absorbed we can't stop; I see that real printing will devour one's entire life.

Letter to Vanessa Bell, April 26, 1917 (L2 150)

April 24, 1917: First Press arrives at Hogarth House

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Shakespeare Unwither'd: April 23, 2015

Bookcase containing Woolf's Collected Shakespeare, 

I read Shakespeare directly I have finished writing.  When my mind is agape and red-hot.  Then it is astonishing.  I never yet knew how amazing his stretch and speed and word coining power is, until I felt it utterly outpace and outrace my own, seeming to start equal and then I see him draw ahead and do things I could not in my wildest tumult and utmost press of mind imagine.  Even the less known plays are written at a speed that is quicker than nobody else's quickest; and the words drop so fast one can't pick them up.  Look at this, "Upon a gather'd lily almost wither'd." (That is a pure accident.  I happened  to light on it.) Evidently the pliancy of his mind was so complete that he could furbish out any train of thought; and, relaxing, let fall a shower of such unregarded flowers.

Diary for April 13, 1930 (AWD 154)

Happy Shakespeare's Birthday

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Myriad Impressions of Life: April 22, 2015

Photo by Sue Watts

Look within and life, it seems, is very far from being "like this".  Examine for a moment an ordinary mind on an ordinary day. The mind receives a myriad impressions--trivial, fantastic, evanescent, or engraved with the sharpness of steel. From all sides they come, an incessant shower of innumerable atoms; and as they fall, as theyshape themselves into the life of Monday or Tuesday, the accent falls differently from of old; the moment of importance came not here but there; so that, if a writer were a free man and not a slave, if he could write what he chose, not what he must, if he could base his work upon his own feeling and not upon convention, there would be no plot, no comedy, no tragedy, no love interest or catastrophe in the accepted style, and perhaps not a single button sewn on as the Bond Street tailors would have it.  Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end.  Is it not the task of the novelist to convey this varying, this unknown and uncircumscribed spirit,whatever aberration or complexity it may display, with as little mixture of the alien and external as possible?  We are not pleading merely for courage and sincerity; we are suggesting that the proper stuff of fiction is a little other than custom would have us believe it.      "Modern Fiction" (CR1 149-50)

April 22, 1925: The Common Reader was published

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Tren Crom: April 21, 2015

Rocks at top of Tren Crom

I spend most of my time, however, alone with my God on the moors.  I sat for an hour (perhaps it was ten minutes) on a rock this afternoon, and considered how I should describe the color of the Atlantic.  It has strange shivers of purple and green, but if you call them blushes, you introduce unpleasant associations of red flesh.  I am afraid you have little feeling for nature.  I have seen innumerable things since I came here that would be worth writing down -- "yellow, gorse, and sea--" trees against the sea-- but I should no doubt use so many words wrongly that it would be necessary to write this letter over again.

Panoramic view from Tren Crom, Including Godrevy lighthouse

Letter to Lytton Strachey about her visit to Tren Crom on April 21, 1908 ( L1 327)

Monday, April 20, 2015

Capacious Diary: April 20, 2015

Woolf's writing desk in the studio, Monk's House garden

I believe that during the past year I can trace some increase of ease in my professional writing which I attribute to my casual half hours after tea.  Moreover there looms ahead of me the shadow of some kind of form which a diary might attain to.  I might in the course of time learn what form it is that one can make of this loose, drifting material of life; finding another use for it than the use I put it to, so much more consciously & scrupulously, in fiction.  What sort of diary should I like mine to be?  Something loose knit, & yet not slovenly so elastic that it will embrace any thing, solemn, slight or beautiful that comes into my mind.  I should like it to resemble some deep old desk, or capacious holdall, in which one flings a mass of odds & ends without looking them through. I should like to come back after a year of two, & find that the collection had sorted itself & refined itself & coalesced, as such deposits mysterious do, into a mould, transparent enough to reflect the light of our life, & steady tranquil composed with the aloofness of a work of art.

 Diary of Virginia Woolf
April 20, 1919 (D1 266)

Here is a link to photo of Woolf's Writing desk, painted by her nephew Quentin Bell:

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Between the Flowers: April 19, 2015

George grubbed.  The flower blazed between the angles of the roots. Membrane after membrane was torn.  It blazed a soft yellow, a lambent light under a film of velvet; it filled the caverns behind the eyes with light.  All that inner darkness became a hall, leaf smelling, earth smelling, of yellow light.  And the tree was beyond the flower; the grass, the flower, and the tree were entire.  Down on his knees grubbing he held the flower complete.
Between the Acts (8)

According to Bishop's Chronology, April 20, 1938, Woolf was writing this passage  (see D5, 135)

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Talland House Nursery: April 18, 2015

If life has a base that it stands upon, if it is a bowl that one fills and fills and fills---then my bowl without a doubt stands upon this memory. It is of hearing the waves breaking, one, two, one, two, and sending a splash of water over the beach; and then breaking, one, two, one, two, behind a yellow blind. It is of hearing the blind draw its little acrorn across the floor as the wind blew the blind out. It is of lying and hearing this splash and seeing this light, and feeling, it is almost impossible that I should be here; of feeling the purest ecstasy I can conceive." 

A Sketch of the Past" (MOB 64-5) 

April 18, 1939, Virgina Woolf begins writing her memooir,  "A Sketch of the Past"

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Sheffield Place: April 16, 2015

The great ponds at Sheffield place at the right season of the year are bordered with red, white, and purple reflections, for rhododendrons are massed upon the banks and when the wind passes over the real flowers the water flowers shake and break into each other. But there, in an opening among the trees stands a great fantastic house, and since it was there that John Holroyd, Lord Sheffield, lived, since it was there that Gibbon stayed, another reflection imposes itself upon the water trance.  Did the historian himself ever pause here to cast a phrase, and if so, what words would he have found for those same floating flowers?  Great lord of language as he was, no doubt he filled his mind from the fountain of natural beauty. (E6 102-3)

On or about April 16 1937, Woolf was making final editorial changes to her essay "Reflections at Sheffield Place" which she described as "an article on Gibbon's Aunts" (D5 80).  Sheffield Place is located about 10 miles north of Lewes.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

J---H---: April 15, 2015

A wind blew, from what quarter I know not, but it lifted the half-grown leaves so that there was a flash of silver grey in the air.  It was the time between the lights when colours undergo their intensification and purples and golds burn in window panes like the beat of an excitable heart; when for some reason the beauty of the world revealed and yet soon to perish (here I pushed into the garden, for, unwisely, the door was left open and no beadles seemed about), the beauty of the world which is so soon to perish, has to edges, one of laughter, one of anguish, cutting the heart asunder.  . . .

Somebody was in a hammock, somebody, but in this light they were phantoms, half guessed, half seen, raced across the grass. . . and then on the terrace, as if popping out to breathe the air, to glance at the garden, came a bent figure, formidable yet humble, with her great forehead and her shabby dress-- could it be the famous scholar, could it be J---- H----- herself?  All was dim, yet intense too, as if the scarf which the dusk had flung over the garden were torn asunder by star or sword -- the flash of some terrible reality leaping, as its way is, out of the heart of the spring. (AROO 16-7)

Jane Ellen Harrison d. April 15, 1928.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Growing: April 14, 2015


Many bright colours; many distinct sounds… several violent moments of being… all surrounded by a vast space -- that is a rough visual description of childhood….Nothing remained stable long… everything approaching and then disappearing, getting large, getting small … the little creature driven on as she was by the growth of her legs and arms, driven without her being able to change or stop it, driven as a plant is driven up out of the earth, up until the stalk grows, the leaf grows, buds swell.  “A Sketch of the Past” (MOB 79)

Monday, April 13, 2015

Elvedon: April 13, 2015

Monk's House Garden
Put your foot on this brick. Look over the wall.  That is Elvedon.  The lady sits between two long windows, writing.  The gardeners sweep the lawns with giant brooms.  We are the first to come here.  We are the discoverers of an unknown land.   

The Waves (10) 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Fitzroy Square: April 12, 2015

                                                                                                                        29 Fitzroy Square W.
My Violet,
     You have made a monstrosity of our address-- 29 Gordon Square.  However, your letter did come at last.  What with your Homes and your Jekylls, and your new puppies and your budding trees -- was there ever such a good gardener as Ozzy?  I am melted into an indistinguishable mass; pearl grey, and vaporous.
    Well, God knows where one should begin a letter, seeing that I have been to Paris and back, changed my house, entered a new study all in the interval.
      Now I am learning to write to the tune of twenty railway vans, which grind rough music beneath my window; but the grey houses opposite and the trees which are just beginning to grow green, are expected to heal the damage to my style.

Letter to Violet Dickinson (L1 291)

On April 12, 1907, Virginia and Adrian Stephen moved into 29 Fitzroy Square.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Uncertain Spring: April 11, 2015

Bond St. Window
It was an uncertain spring.  The weather, perpetually changing, sent clouds of blue and purple flying over the land.  In the country farmers, looking after fields, were apprehensive; in London umbrellas were opened and then shut by people looking up at the sky.  But in April such weather was to be expected.  Thousands of shop assistants made that remark as they handed neat parcels to ladies in flounced dresses standing on the other side of the counter at Whiteley's and the Army Navy Stores.  Interminable processions of shoppers in the West end, of businessmen in the East, paraded the pavements, like caravans perpetually marching,-- so it seemed to those who had any reason to pause, say, to post a letter, or at a club window in Piccadilly.
The Years  (3)

Friday, April 10, 2015

Country Churchyard: April 10, 2015

I'm planning to begin Jacob's Room next week with luck (That's the first time I've written that.) It's the spring I have in my mind to describe; just to make this note -- that one scarcely notices the leaves out on the trees this year, since they seem never entirely to have gone-- never any of that iron blackness of the chestnut trunks -- always something soft and tinted; such as I can't remember in my life before. In fact, we've skipped a winter; had a season like the midnight sun; a new return to full daylight.  So I hardly notice that chestnuts are out -- the little parasols spread on our window tree; and the churchyard grass running over the old tombstones like green water.  (AWD 24)

Churchyard at Southease, early spring
Diary of Virginia Woolf
April 10, 1920

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Magnolias: April 9, 2015

On the bank grew those trees which Helen had said it was worth the voyage out  merely to see.  April had burst their buds, and they bore large blossoms among their glossy green leaves with petals of a thick wax-like substance colored an exquisite cream or pink or deep crimson.
The Voyage Out (173)

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Honesty: April 8, 2015

Honesty a.k.a Money Plant
 In earlier years it was most often the characteristic laughable token by which we knew her; "Old Nessa's honesty" or "The Old Creature is so matter-of-fact" or "She means well".  For sometimes she clung to truth too tenaciously, too simply; and we, flippant or sometimes insolent, persecuted her with horrid titles, 'Saint', and so on; for children so soon as they have any wit to direct are apt to use it cruelly.

(MOB 31)

Vanessa Bell died April 7, 1961 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

At the Toes of Giant Flowers: April 7, 2015

Georgia O'Keeffe Series I, no. 2 (1918)

But after life.  The slow pulling down of thick green stalks so that the cup of the flower, as it turns over, deluges one with purple and red light.  Why, after all, should one not be born there as one is born here, helpless, speechless, unable to focus one's eyesight, groping at the roots of the grass, at the toes of giants. . . .  There will be nothing but spaces of light and dark, intersected by thick stalks, and rather higher up perhaps, rose-shaped blots of an indistinct colour -- dim pinks and blues -- which will, as time goes on, become more definite.

"The Mark on the Wall" (CSF 84) First published 1917
Rpt. in Monday or Tuesday

Monday or Tuesday published: April 7, 1921

Monday, April 6, 2015

Ladies like Flowers: April 6, 2015

And there were other ladies like flowers strayed from the beds, anemones, and strange fritillaries freaked with jet, and certain straight tulips, tawny as sunset clasped by stiff green spikes, all kinds of flowers indeed, whose voices chimed like petals floating and kissing in air; or creaked, as fresh tulip leaves creak when rubbed together, so that you long to crush the juice out of them.

Friendships Gallery (1907)
Rpt. in Twentieth Century Literature 25.3/4 (Autumn-Winter 1979) 

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Jack: April 5, 2015

She then asked him to inform her about flowers.  To her they were variously shaped and colored petals, poised at different seasons of the year upon very similar green stalks; but to him they were, in the first instance, bulbs or seeds, and later, living things endowed with sex, and pores, and susceptibilities which adapted themselves by all manner of ingenious devices to live and beget life, and could be fashioned squat or tapering, flame-colored or pale, pure or spotted, by processes which might reveal secrets of human existence.   

Night and Day (330)

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Venice: April 4, 2015

Fever Dream 2012

There never was such an amusing and beautiful place. . . . We have a room here right at the top just at the side of the Grand Canal: beneath all the gondolas are moored, and the gondoliers make such a noise I cannot think coherently.  It was the strangest dream to step out into our gondola after those two days of rain.

Letter to Violet Dickinson, 
Grand Hotel, Venice
April 4, 1904 (L1 137)

Friday, April 3, 2015

Petals in a Courtyard: April 3, 2015

All this, the trees, deer, and turf, she observed with the greatest satisfaction as if her mind had become a fluid that flowed round things and enclosed them completely.  Next minute she drew up in the courtyard, where, for so many hundred years she had come, on horseback or in couch and six, with men riding before or coming after; where plumes had tossed, torches flashed, and the same flowering trees that let their leaves drop now had shaken their blossoms.  Orlando (230)

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Tulips: April 2, 2015

They had reached the site of the old Exhibition. They looked at the tulips. Stiff and curled, the little rods of waxy smoothness rose from the earth, nourished yet contained, suffused with scarlet and coral pink. Each had its shadow; each grew trimly in the diamond-shaped wedge as the gardener had planned it.  Jacob's Room (176)