Monday, December 31, 2012

My Woolf year has begun

2013 is underway and I am currently reading: Jacob's Room, Mrs Dalloway, The Voyage Out and The Waves.

I am reading these all in eBook format, which allows me to search, annotate and get definitions from the text. Now I have the 9 novels in electronic format I plan to do some word comparisons which are very tedious in the ordinary book format. I will share the results here.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Reading of The Waves at Yahoo Groups

I am the moderator of the Virginia Woolf group at Yahoo. We are starting a read of The Waves in the New Year. Feel free to join us. Go to and search for Virginia Woolf.

Virginia Woolf eBooks for iPad

I have just found a cheap place to get eBooks of Virginia Woolf's works for the iPad/iPhone. Go to the iBooks app on your iPad and search for Virginia Woolf. Most of the novels are available for 99 cents but you can buy a book with all 9 novels for $4.99. This represents great value.

I find it useful to have eBooks as you can cut and paste relevant sections into blogs and discussion groups.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Tuesday 26th of September 1922

"We agreed (VW and T S Eliot) that people are now afraid of the English language. He said it came of being bookish, but not reading books enough. One should read all styles thoroughly."

Two great points here: (which merely means that I agree with them!!)

1. There is a tendency in some academic circles to read books about a book instead of reading the book itself. The book should always be the primary source.

2. Reading eclectically through literary genres exposes us to a wide swathe of the English language. It also allows us to consider why we like some works and not others. The analysis of the question, "Why don't I like this book? (painting, film etc) can be very fruitful.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Virginia Woolf Diary: 13 September, 1922

"Having written this, L. put into my hands a very intelligent review of Ulysses, in the American Nation; which, for the first time, analyses the meaning; & certainly makes it very much more impressive than I judged. Still I think there is virtue & some lasting truth in first impressions; so I don't cancell (sic) mine. I must read some of the chapters again. Probably the final beauty of writing is never felt by contemporaries; but they ought, I think, to be bowled over; & this I was not".

I agree with Woolf here about first impressions, but have always found it useful with any work of art to analyse why I like or dislike a certain work.

Virginia Woolf Diary September 8, 1922

"Nature obligingly supplies me with the illusion that I am about to write something good: something rich, & deep, & fluent, & hard as nails, while bright as diamonds".

"I finished Ulysses, & think it is a mis-fire. Genius it has I think; nut of the inferior water. The book is diffuse. It is brackish. It is pretentious. It is underbred, not only in the obvious sense, but in the literary sense. A first rate writer, I mean, respects writing too much to be tricky; stratling; doing stunts...

I feel that myriads of tiny bullets pepper one & spatter one; but one does not get one deadly wound straight in the face - as from Tolstoy, for instance; but it is entirely absurd to compare him with Tolstoy".

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Virginia Woolf Diary: Tues 22 August 1922

"The day was like a perfect piece of cabinet making - Beautifully fitted with beautiful compartments".

I have to admit this is the first time I have seen a day being described as being like a piece of furniture. She never ceases to amaze me with her writing.

Have a great day

Virginia Woolf Diary: Wednesday 19 July, 1922

Just a short extracted quote in this post:
"But, at my age, I tend to believe in the moment, more than in posthumous reflections".

Living in the moment is a great philosophy whatever your age.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Virginia Woolf's comments on The Waste Land

Re T S Eliot
"He has written a poem of 40 pages which we are to print in the autumn. This is his best work, he says. He is pleased with it; takes heart, I think, From the thought of that safe in his desk".

The poem mentioned is Eliot's seminal work, "The Waste Land".


Sunday 11 June 1922

"The Waste Land, it is called; & Mary Hutch, who has heard it more quietly, interprets it to be Tom's autobiography- a melancholy one".

Diary Sat 18 Feb, 1922

"But reading classics is generally hard going".

"But after 6 weeks influenza my mind throws up no matutinal fountains. My note book lies by my bed unopened. At first I could hardly read for the swarm of ideas that rose involuntarily. I had to write them out at once. And this is great fun. A little air, seeing the buses go by, lounging by the river, will, please God, send the sparks flying again. I am suspended between life & death in an unfamiliar way. Where is my paper knife? I must cut Lord Byron".
What is speaking here a fever, her creative spirit or a touch of hypomania?

VW Diary Friday 27 February 1922

Today I get to share with you one of my all time favourite VW quotes:
"I meant to write about death, only life came breaking in as usual".
What more can I say. I rest my case Grant (eternal optimist)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Woolf on intellectuality

"I wanted mystery, romance, psychology I suppose. And now more than anything I want beautiful prose. I relish it more & more exquisitely. And I enjoy satire more. I like the skepticism of his mind more (referring to George Meredith). I enjoy intellectuality. Moreover, fantasticality does a great deal better than sham psychology".

Psychology was such a new field at this stage, and of course the Hogarth Press were the first publishing house to print the works of Freud.

This is another facet of her radicalism.

VW Diary Tuesday 14 Feb, 1922

"But this is all dissipated & invalidish. I only hope that like dead leaves they may fertilise my brain (she is talking of the books: Moby Dick, Princess de Cleves, Lord Salisbury, Old Mortality, Small Talk at Wreyland, with a bite or two of Tennyson). Otherwise what a 12 months it has been for writing!-& I at the prime of life, with little creatures in my head which won't exist if I don't let them out".

As an interesting aside I was listening to a Stanford U Book Salon podcast about Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath, where Plath was quoted as saying that she would be able to surpass Woolf as a writer because she had the womanly experience of having children...

VW Diary 20 Sept 1920

In this entry VW gives a comment or 2 about T S Eliot. Eliot, the modernist poet, had had his poem The Waste Land published by the Hogarth Press, the press owned jointly by the Woolfes.

"The odd thing about Eliot is that his eyes are lively & youthful when the cast of his face & the shape of his sentences is formal & even heavy."

20 Sept 1920

"To go on with Eliot, as if one were making out a scientific observation - he left last night directly after dinner. He improved as the day went on; laughed more openly; became nicer. L. whose opinion on this matter I respect, ffound him disappointing in brain - less powerful than he expected, & with little play of mind..."Unfortunately the living writers he admires are Wyndham Lewis & Pound - Joyce too, but ther's more to be said on this head."

This is a fascinating eye witness account of a well known poet by a contemporary writer. It is interesting that VW is aware of his use of words, whilst Leonard is occupied with the strength (or otherwise of Eliot's brainpower).


I have finally finished VW's novel Flush and I loved it. Very whimsical and light but so accurate in capturing the mannerisms of the Spaniel breed. The breadth of VW's writings is huge from The Waves through to Flush.

Has anyone seen an edition or transcript where the Waves is broken down by person and you can read one strand through in its entirety? I was thinking that reading it in such a way may shed some light. I'm reading it for the second time in "ordinary" mode but felt that a new view is always interesting.

Journal Weds 27 January 1897

A great example of Virginias early descriptive skills. Journal Wednesday 27 January 1897
"Father and I went for a walk after breakfast. Round the Pond, on which men were sliding and one or two skating, though notices were up to forbid them - Afterwards I went out with Stella to Wimpole St; where we heard that Jack had had a very good night, and then went to Grosvenor St. to see the house which was burnt on Monday night. The windows were all broken, and we saw into black, empty rooms; the roof was off, and everything was burnt and blackened. Icicles hung down where the water had been thrown - the house next door was black too, though not actually burnt. there was a crowd standing around, and looking at the house. We went on to Curzon St. to see Flora Baker, and tell her about Jack, and then bussed to High St. to buy S a hat, and home again in time for lunch. N lunched with the Milmans with Marie who was full of the fire; through which however she had slept. A came home about 3, there being no football, and we went to Gloucester Rd. station about an umbrella which he had left in the train. We were told to go to the Lost Property Office at Moorgate Station. We went up to the Pond, which we found guarded by six or seven park-keepers, to prevent the people going on the ice. One park keeper said that there would be skating tomorrow. It was not freezing when we came away. Father began the Antiquary top us. Wrote to Marthe who sent me a card. Finished 1st volume of C[arlyle]s R[eminiscences]"

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Virginia Woolf - a modern lens view

If one reads Woolf today, she still has a punchy style but she doesn't appear to be at the leading edge of radicalism. She is a feminist, educated, opinionated but no more than any educated, young woman in 2012. What does this show? I think this shows us is that Woolf was seventy years ahead of her time. The fact that she had such advanced views in the 1910-1930 period is prescient and remarkable.

It is hard for us today to comprehend how radical she appeared to others in her own time.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Diaries - the inner life of Woolf

The diaries in 5 volumes are very illuminating re the times and works of Woolf. I intend to publish snippets that I have found to be useful to me in my research. Woolf's stream of consciousness is found in her diaries as in her novels and we get a view of what constitutes her inner life. This inner life is convoluted, enlightening and a pastiche from many sources.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Virginia Woolf Diary 26 January 1897

Stella went to Jack in the morning and Nessa and I sat over the fire and lounged. We went out into the gardens and met Mr Stapleton and his daughter (or grand daughter?) who said they were going up to the Pond, and so we went with them. Mr Stapleton a chatty old gentleman, talked to Nessa of St Ives, and Haslemere and cricket - The pond is fozen over, but not yet ready for skating - it was only just freezing in the morning, with a strong wind blowing - from the West - but as cold as any East. After lunch Stella went again to Jack, and father, Nessa and I went for a walk in the gardens - Started by the pond, and then round to the Serpentine and right down to the other end; across the road, and home by the barracks. The Duke of Devonshire passed us father said. Finished my birthdat cake for tea, so it had a very short life, poor thing. Wrote to Thoby and Cousin Mia after tea - Father finished Esmond to us this evening - His present for me came - Ls Life of Scott - in a great brown paper parcel - I expected one huge closely printed book, but instead behold 10 beautiful little blue and brown gilt leathered backs, big print, and altogether luxurious. the nicest present I have had yet.
I love the sensuous description of the Scott volumes.

Virginia Woolf Monday 25 Jan 1897 (Diary)

My Birthday. No presents at breakfast and none til Mr Gibbs came, bearing a great parcel under his arms, which turned out to be a gorgeous Queen Elizabeth - by Dr Creighton. I went out for a walk round the pond after breakfast with father, it being Nessas drawing day. Went out with Stealla to Hatchards about some book for Jack, and then to Regent St. for flowers and fruit for him; then to Wimpole St. to see how he had slept, and then to Miss Hill in Marylebone Road. Jo [Fisher] was there discussing the plans for Stellas new cottages with Miss Hill. All three learnedly argued over them for half an hour, I sitting on a stool by the fire and surveying Miss Hills legs-

Nessa went back to her drawing after lunch , and Stella and I went to buy me an armchair, which is to be Ss present to me - We got a very nice one, and I came straight home, while Stella went on to Wimplole St. Gerald gave me one pound, and Adrian a holder for my stlograph - Father is going to give me Lockharts Life of Scott - Cousin mia gave me a diary and another pocketbook. Thoby writes to say that he has ordered films forme. Got Carlyles Reminiscences, which I have read before. Reading four books at once - The Newcomes, Carlyle, Old Curiosity Shop , and Queen Elizabeth - "

Virginia was a great reader and I find it fascinating to see what she is reading at any one time of her life journey.

Virginia Woolf Diary 24 Jan1897

" Stella and us three walked up to Lisa Stillmans in the morning, to say that Jack could not sit to her. Saw her and Effie, and Peggy's new dog called Bruno. Very cold, but not blowing - Eustace Hills came to lunch. Afterwards he and Stella went to see Jack - Sylvia and Maud [Milman] came in the afternoon with a present for Stella from Mr Milman - Nessa and I resolved to light a fire in the night nursery - We had to make it three times before anything more than the paper would catch - At last a feeble piece of wood began to burn, and by judicious bits of paper and coal every now and then, a most respectable fire was made. This was triumphant, as Pauline had offered to do it for us, and we had refused to allow her to touch it - this being accomplished Nessa sat down at the davenport to write to Thoby, and I read on the table behind her. I finished the last volume of Carlyles Life in London before the tea bell rang - After tea Nessa did her lessons, and I wrote, the fire having warmed the hands sufficiently - After dinner father read Tennyson. A hot bath for the first time these three weeks. Adrian came up at night".

Virginia Woolf Journal 1897 (1)

Sunday 17 January 1897
Snow over everything. Stayed in all the morning and read most of it - Nessa and Thoby had wonderful games of chasing each other around the table - Gerald went to Oxford for the day. In the afternoon I persuaded the others to take a walk - which was most horrid - round the Serpentine; the wind ferocious and icy; everything slushy and cold and damp - It was not thawing, I think, but the roads managed to become a mass of dirty melting snow. very glad to get back home and have tea, which was at half past four. Afterwards we sat in the drawing room, and heard general Beadle discourse - till the Vaughans (Emma and Marny) came. Eustace Hills came to supper, and afterwards Father read poetry - The bath water lukewarm which was most disappointing. Found an old knife, which I have polihed and sharpened, and which for the future shall be my knife. the organ again under Ts and As hands. Just as the handle was got well on, and they were going to turn it, everything smashed, and it is hoped that they will give it up.
I just loved that phrase, "and which for the future shall be my knife". I can't for the life of me see why VW needed or wanted a knife... drkelp

Virginia Woolf - a potted summary

Extract from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary

Virginia Woolf (nee Stephens)(1882–1941)

An English writer of novels. She is well known for the experimental style of many of her books. She was one of the first writers to use the ‘stream of consciousness’, a way of describing a person’s thoughts and feelings as a flow of ideas as the person would have experienced them, without using the usual methods of description. She was a member of the Bloomsbury Group and is considered an important early writer about feminism (= the idea that women should have the same rights and opportunities as men). Her best-known novels include Mrs Dalloway (1925), To the Lighthouse (1927) and Orlando (1928).

A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction. Virginia Woolf