Monday, February 29, 2016

The Crocus will Burn: February 29, 2016

Photo by Sue Watts
Even so, when the whole earth is sheeted and slippery, some undulation, some irregularity of surface will mark the boundary of an ancient garden, and there, thrusting its head up undaunted in the starlight, the rose will flower, the crocus will burn. 

“On Being Ill”  
 (E5 200)

Meeting Henry James in Rye: February 28, 2016

"My Poppies" -- Multiple Block Color-Reduction Woodcut
Well then, we went and had tea with Henry James today, and Mr and Mrs Prothero at the golf club; and Henry James fixed me with his staring blank eye—it is like a childs marble —and said ‘My dear Virginia, they tell me—they tell me — they tell me—that you —as indeed being your fathers daughter nay your grandfathers grandchild—the descendant I may say of a century—of a century—of quill pens and ink—ink—ink pots, yes, yes, yes, they tell me—ahm m m —that you, that you, that you write in short.’ This went on in the public street, while we all waited, as farmers wait for the hen to lay an egg—do they?—nervous, polite, and now on this foot now on that. I felt like a condemned person, who sees the knife drop and stick and drop again. 
 (L1 306)

Death of Henry James, February 28, 1916.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Radiant Pearls: February 27, 2016

White Wisteria at Sissinghurst. Photo by Syd Cross.
[S]he shines in the grocers shop in Sevenoaks with a candle lit radiance, stalking on legs like beech trees, pink glowing, grape clustered, pearl hung.
(D3 52)   

February 27, 1931  Woolf spends the night at Sissinghurst with Vita

A Fine Skyblue Day: February 26, 2016

Dew Pond at Monk's House
26 February 1935
     A very fine skyblue day, my windows completely filled with blue for a wonder.  Mr. Riley has just mended them.  And I have been writing & writing & re-writing the scene by the Round Pond.  What I want to do is reduce it all so that each sentence though perfectly natural dialogue has a great pressure of meaning behind it.  And the most careful harmony & contrast of scene – the boats colliding &c – has also to be arranged.
(D4 282)
Dappled Walk in Kensington Gardens

A lady, fashionably dressed with a purple feather dipping down on one side of her hat, sat there sipping an ice. The sun dappled the table and gave her a curious look of transparency, as if she were caught in a net of light; as if she were composed of lozenges of floating colours. Martin half thought that he knew her; he half raised his hat. But she sat there looking in front of her; sipping her ice. No, he thought; he did not know her, and he stopped for a moment to light his pipe. What would the world be, he said to himself--he was still thinking of the fat man brandishing his arm--without "I" in it? He lit the match. He looked at the flame that had become almost invisible in the sun. He stood for a second drawing at his pipe. Sara had walked on. She too was netted with floating lights from between the leaves. A primal innocence seemed to brood over the scene. The birds made a fitful sweet chirping in the branches; the roar of London encircled the open space in a ring of distant but complete sound. The pink and white chestnut blossoms rode up and down as the branches moved in the breeze. The sun dappling the leaves gave everything a curious look of insubstantiality as if it were broken into separate points of light. He too, himself, seemed dispersed.
The Years ( 229)

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Write What You Wish: February 25, 2016

So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say. But to sacrifice a hair of the head of your vision, a shade of its colour, in deference to some Headmaster with a silver pot in his hand or to some professor with a measuring-rod up his sleeve, is the most abject treachery.
A Room of One's Own

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Out of the Chrysalis: February 24, 2016

Luna Moth by Craig Sargent
. . . being a woman.  Perhaps that was the thing that came out , that remained, it was partly the dress, but all the little chivalries and respects of the drawing-room – all made her feel that she had come out of her chrysalis and was being proclaimed what in the comfortable darkness of childhood she had never been – this frail and beautiful creature, before whom men bowed, this limited and circumscribed creature who could not do what she liked, this butterfly with a thousand facets to its eyes and delicate fine plumage, and difficulties and sensibilities and sadnesses innumerable; a woman.
“The Introduction”  (CSF 185)

Wreckage of Winter: February 23, 2016

Photo courtesy of Craig Sargent
In the country fields all the wreckage of winter was being dispersed; the dead leaves, the withered bracken, the dry and discolored grass, but no bud would be broken, nor would the new stalks that showed above the earth take any harm, and perhaps to–morrow a line of blue or yellow would show through a slit in their green.  Night and Day (393)

Monday, February 22, 2016

Clouds: February 22, 2016

Photo by Craig Sargent
LAZY and indifferent, shaking space easily from his wings, knowing his way, the heron passes over the church beneath the sky. White and distant, absorbed in itself, endlessly the sky covers and uncovers, moves and remains. A lake? Blot the shores of it out! A mountain? Oh, perfect—the sun gold on its slopes. Down that falls. Ferns then, or white feathers, for ever and ever. 

“Monday or Tuesday” (CSF 137)  

February 22, 1904: death of Leslie Stephens

The Whole Flower: February 21, 2016

I was looking at the flower bed by the front door. “That is the whole”, I said. I was looking at a plant with a spread of leaves; and it seemed suddenly plain that the flower itself was part of the earth; that a ring enclosed what was the flower; and that was the real flower; part earth; part flower.  It was a thought I put away as being likely to be very useful to me later.   

“A Sketch of the Past” (MOB 71)

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Bulb Envy: Febrary 20, 2016

Squill in Monk's House Garden
February 20 1897
Went and sat in the gardens to recover ourselves – The crocuses there coming out—Mrs. MacKenzie [a neighbor] possesses
 a snowdrop, and my box a squill—Nessa’s box has a few green sprouts;  she was so jealous of my flower that she routed the cocoanut fibre off her bulbs, and uncovered one poor little creature, which has not yet been coloured, and will most assuredly perish before its time.

A Passionate Apprentice (39)

Sappho and Cacti: February 19, 2016

I remember," she broke off, "an Aunt of mine who lived at Dulwich and kept cactuses. You reached the conservatory through the double drawing-room, and there, on the hot pipes, were dozens of them, ugly, squat, bristly little plants each in a separate pot. Once in a hundred years the Aloe flowered, so my Aunt said. But she died before that happened--" We told her to keep to the point. "Well," she resumed, "when Professor Hobkin was out, I examined his life work, an edition of Sappho. It's a queer looking book, six or seven inches thick, not all by Sappho. Oh, no. Most of it is a defence of Sappho's chastity, which some German had denied, add I can assure you the passion with which these two gentlemen argued, the learning they displayed, the prodigious ingenuity with which they disputed the use of some implement which looked to me for all the world like a hairpin astounded me; especially when the door opened and Professor Hobkin himself appeared. A very nice, mild, old gentleman, but what could he know about chastity?" We misunderstood her.

"No, no," she protested, "he's the soul of honour I'm sure. . . . I was thinking rather of my Aunt's cactuses. What could they know about chastity?"
“A Society”  (CSF 128)

Rapture of Creation: February 18, 2016

Emily DIckinson Woodcut
Mrs. Ramsey seemed to fold herself together, one petal closed in another, and the whole fabric fell in exhaustion upon itself, so that she only had strength to move her finger, in exquisite abandonment to exhaustion, across the page of Grimm’s fairy story, while there throbbed through her, like a pulse in a spring which has expanded to its full width and now gently ceases to beat, the rapture of successful creation. 

(TTL 42)

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

A Redacted Proposal: February 17, 2016

February 19th, 1909
Lytton Strachey to Leonard Woolf

The day before yesterday I proposed to Virginia.  As I did it, I saw that it would be death if she accepted me, and I managed, of course, to get out of it before the end of the conversation. . . . I think there’s no doubt whatever that you ought to marry her.  You would be great enough and you’ll have the immense advantage of physical desire. . .. If you came and proposed she’ld accept.  She really would.  (Spotts 147)

Marriage, the art of choosing the human being with whom to live life successfully (Three Guineas)

On February 17th 1909, Lytton Strachey proposed to Virginia Stephen. And immediately retracted his proposal.

Snow in Literature: February 16, 2016

Photo by Louise Aucott
Our brilliant young men might do worse, when in search of a subject, than devote a year or two to cows in literature, snow in literature, the daisy in Chaucer and in Coventry Patmore.  At any rate, the snow falls heavily.  The Portsmouth mail-coach has already lost its way; several ships have foundered, and Margate pier has been totally destroyed.  At Hatfield Peveral twenty sheep have been buried, and though one supports itself by gnawing wurzels which it has found near it, there is grave reason to fear that the French king's coach has been blocked on the road to Colchester.  It is now the 16th of February 1808.

"Miss Mitford" (CR 185; E3 219)

Monday, February 15, 2016

The Fairy Found: February 15, 2016

Lost Boat, Round Pond, Kensington Gardens
Oh astounding event !!! “The Fairy” has been restored to terra firma and to the joy of her youthful owner.  It happened thus.  Miss Virginia Stephen accompanied by the paterfamilias and her brother and sister visited the little pond last Wednesday having the intention to sail their miniature crafts. As it happened that day 2 men were weeding the pond and consequently the boats often stuck in the many weeds which were drawn to the surface.  While the owners stood watching Miss Virginia Stephen observed in the punt or boat in which were the men her own favorite “The Fairy” lying in the punt. She quickly told the parkkeeper who called in the punt and “The Fairy” was quickly restored to her rightful owner.

Hyde Park Gate News
Monday, February 15, 1892 (34)

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Was It Marriage? February 14, 2016

She was married, true; but if one's husband was always sailing round Cape Horn, was it marriage? If one liked him, was it marriage? If one liked other people, was it marriage? And finally, if one still wished, more than anything in the whole world, to write poetry, was it marriage? She had her doubts.  

 Orlando (195)

First Signs of Spring: February 13, 2016

Forget-me-nots at Talland House
The first signs of spring, even such as make themselves felt towards the middle of February, not only produce little white and violet flowers in the more sheltered corners of woods and gardens, but bring to birth thoughts and desires comparable to those faintly colored and sweetly scented petals in the minds of men and women”  

Night and Day (304)

Shadow of the Future: February 12, 2016

The future shadowed their present, like the sun coming through the many-veined transparent vine leaf; a criss-cross of lines making no pattern.

Between the Acts (79)

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Open Sky: February 11, 2016

Walk through the Admiralty Arch (I had reached that monument), or any other avenue given up to trophies and cannon, and reflect upon the kind of glory celebrated there. Or watch in the spring sunshine the stockbroker and the great barrister going indoors to make money and more money and more money when it is a fact that five hundred pounds a year will keep one alive in the sunshine. These are unpleasant instincts to harbour, I reflected. They are bred of the conditions of life; of the lack of civilization, I thought, looking at the statue of the Duke of Cambridge, and in particular at the feathers in his cocked hat, with a fixity that they have scarcely ever received before. And, as I realized these drawbacks, by degrees fear and bitterness modified themselves into pity and toleration; and then in a year or two, pity and toleration went, and the greatest release of all came, which is freedom to think of things in themselves. That building, for example, do I like it or not? Is that picture beautiful or not? Is that in my opinion a good book or a bad? Indeed my aunt's legacy unveiled the sky to me, and substituted for the large and imposing figure of a gentleman, which Milton recommended for my perpetual adoration, a view of the open sky.

A Room of One’s Own (38-9)

Asking Questions: February 10, 2016

Woodcut and Monoprint
Clorinda was the first to come to her senses. "It's all our fault," she said. "Every one of us knows how to read. But no one, save Poll, has ever taken the trouble to do it. I, for one, have taken it for granted that it was a woman's duty to spend her youth in bearing children. I venerated my mother for bearing ten; still more my grandmother for bearing fifteen; it was, I confess, my own ambition to bear twenty. We have gone on all these ages supposing that men were equally industrious, and that their works were of equal merit. While we have borne the children, they, we supposed, have borne the books and the pictures. We have populated the world. They have civilized it. But now that we can read, what prevents us from judging the results? Before we bring another child into the world we must swear that we will find out what the world is like."

So we made ourselves into a society for asking questions. One of us was to visit a man-of-war; another was to hide herself in a scholar's study; another was to attend a meeting of business men; while all were to read books, look at pictures, go to concerts, keep our eyes open in the streets, and ask questions perpetually. We were very young. You can judge of our simplicity when I tell you that before parting that night we agreed that the objects of life were to produce good people and good books. Our questions were to be directed to finding out how far these objects were now attained by men. We vowed solemnly that we would not bear a single child until we were satisfied.

“A Society”  (CSF125-6)

On February 7, 1910, Virginia Stephen was one of those who pulled off the Dreadnought Hoax, impersonating Abyssinian princes to board a British warship.
Cartoon from The Daily Mirror, February 1910

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Shorn for Comfort: February 9, 2016

February 9, 1927: Virginia bobs her hair

. . . the most important event in my life since marriage: Bobo shingled me.  Mr. Cizec has bingled me.  I am short haired for life.  Having no longer, I think, any claims to beauty, the convenience of this alone makes it desirable.  Every morning I go to take the brush & twist that old coil round my finger & fix it with hairpins & then with a start of joy, no I needn’t.  In front there is no change; behind I’m like the rump of a partridge.

 (D4 12)

Monday, February 8, 2016

Only Suggest: February 8, 2016

Photo by Craig Sargent

What interests me in the last stage was the freedom & boldness with which my imagination picked up and used & tossed aside all the images & symbols which I had prepared. I am sure that this is the right way of using them – not in set pieces, as I had tried at first, coherently, but simply as images; never making them work out; only suggest.  Thus I hope to have kept the sound of the sea & the birds, dawn, & garden subconsciously present, doing their work underground. (D4 10-11)

Running Voices: February 7, 2016

7 February, 1931
Here in the few minutes that remain, I must record, heaven be praised, the end of the Waves.  I wrote the words O Death fifteen minutes ago, having reeled across the last ten pages with some moments of such intensity & intoxication that I seemed only to stumble after my own voice, or almost after some speaker (as when I was mad).  I was almost afraid, remembering the voices that used to run ahead.
(D4 10)

A Little License: February 6, 2016

Photo by Susan Watts
So she would still find herself arguing in St. James's Park, still making out that she had been right--and she had too--not to marry him.  For in marriage a little license, a little independence there must be between people living together day in day out in the same house; which Richard gave her, and she him.

February 7, 1907: Vanessa marries Clive

Friday, February 5, 2016

Pressure of Rapture: February 5, 2016

Clocks -- Color Reduction Woodcut
It was a sudden revelation, a tinge like a blush which one tried to check and then, as it spread, one yielded to its expansion, and rushed to the farthest verge and there quivered and felt the world come closer, swollen with some astonishing significance, some pressure of rapture, which split its thin skin and gushed and poured with an extraordinary alleviation over the cracks and sores!  Then, for that moment, she had seen an illumination; a match burning in a crocus; an inner meaning almost expressed.  

Mrs. Dalloway  (31)

Thursday, February 4, 2016

A Compact of Petals: February 4, 2016

Photo courtesy of Craig Sargent
As Stuart Elton stooped and flicked off his trousers a white thread, the trivial act accompanied as it was by a slide and avalance of sensation, seemed like a petal falling from a rose, and Stuart Elton straightening himself  to resume his conservation with Mrs Sutton felt that he was compact of many petals laid firmy and closely on top of each other all reddened, all warmed through, all tinged with this inexplicable glow.  So that when he stooped, a petal fell.   
“Happiness” (CSF 178)

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Rising Sun: February 3, 2016

Photo by Craig Sargent
Meanwhile, the sun was rising.  A cloud glowed as a white shade glows when the light is slowly turned up behind it. Golden wedge-shaped streamers fell down from it and marked the trees is the valley green and the villages blue-brown.  In the sky behind us there swam white islands in pale blue lakes.  . . .The gold momentarily increased, melting the whiteness to a fiery gauze, and this grew frailer and frailer till, for one instant, we saw the sun in full splendor.

February 3, 1928 “The Sun and the Fish” published