Virginia Woolf’ Desk top – Archival Pigment Print from Hauser & Wirth
Virginia Woolf’ Desk top – Archival Pigment Print from Hauser & Wirth
“Nothing thicker than a knife’s blade separates happiness from melancholy.” Virginia Woolf
25th January 2020 – Happy Birthday
Virginia Woolf at Monk’s House
“Our address will be Monk’s House; the point of it is the garden, I shan’t tell you though, for you must come and sit there on the lawn with me, or stroll in the apple orchard, or pick – there are cherries, plums, pears, figs, together with all the vegetables. This is going to be the pride of our hearts; I warn you.”
25th November 2019
Happy Birthday, Leonard Woolf
25.11.1880 – 14.8.1969
“What a life he has led, and how well he has led it”
E M Forster
“Monks House was densely populated with our dumb friends. I had nothing against the shoals of goldfish which inhabited Leonard’s ponds. I could tolerate his large colony of miniature tortoises, his cats were inoffensive, his dogs, though tiresome, were tolerable; but I drew the line, and so I think did many others, at Mitz the marmoset.”
Quentin Bell, Nephew, Elders and Betters, 1995
Henrietta Garnet : 15 May 1945 – 4 September 2019
Approached for permission to incorporate her grandmother Vanessa Bell’s drawing of the great elm at Monk’s House into the design of the memorial plaque to Leonard Woolf’s visit to Great Elm, she sent such a lovely supportive letter we were greatly encouraged to carry on. Hearing the sad news of her death, we will now think of the tree heading the plaque as a fitting memorial to her.
Woolf Plaque Supporters.
A message from Virginia Nicholson, President of The Charleston Trust
My cousin, Henrietta Garnett, died on Wednesday 4th September 2019.
On May 15th 1945, the day Henrietta Catherine entered the world, the parties thrown to celebrate the end of the Second World War were barely over. As the daughter of Angelica and David Garnett, she inherited a complex legacy of ambivalent loves and unconventional values. David Garnett and her grandfather – Duncan Grant – had been lovers. Later, David married Duncan’s daughter (by Vanessa Bell) Angelica, who was twenty-six years his junior.
Henrietta was the second of their four daughters. She was taken to Charleston for many a childhood holiday, and was the apple of her grandmother’s eye. She described being painted there by Vanessa – sitting behind her spindly and rickety easel – “mixing the colours on her palette, glancing first at me and then at the portrait, gently stabbing the canvas, so that one could see its back quiver from the impressions she made on it. The glances she sent across the room were extraordinarily intimate and reassuring: an observant nod, an amused smile, in order to encourage me to keep still.”
Henrietta grew up privileged, radiantly beautiful and precocious. Early on she wanted to be an actress – a career that would surely have suited her. “But” – as she once wrote to me – “I never received either one ounce of formal education or of mental discipline in my life.” As a child, I was in awe of my older cousin’s breathtaking loveliness and apparent sophistication. Everything about her, from the overpowering scent of Guerlain’s L’Heure Bleue over breakfast, to the limitless Gauloises habit (contributing to the bewitching huskiness of her musically purring voice…); from her deft skill with rough-puff pastry, to her passion for the Victorian novel – exuded fascination.
Henrietta claimed that, from the age of ten, she had been always in love. Still a teenager when she married Burgo, the son of Ralph and Frances Partridge, she gave birth to their daughter Sophie in August 1963. She was only eighteen when, just four weeks later, she was widowed following Burgo’s terrifyingly sudden death caused by an aortic aneurysm. At the time, Sophie lay asleep in her crib, Henrietta was in the bath.
After this tragedy my cousin’s colourful life was to take many strange turns. There were the glamorous days, with the young widow rediscovering her joie de vivre among the peacocks, fashionistas, rock stars and artists of 1960s London. There were the vagabond days in Cumbria and Ireland with the aristocratic drop-outs (or “chequebook hippies” as she later called them), who took to the road in painted caravans. There were more love affairs, more marriages, an attempted suicide, a memorable appearance in a TV documentary about love at first sight, a relocation to the south of France, and an impressive self-reinvention as a writer. Her novel Family Skeletons was published to acclaim in 1996. This was followed by Anny: A Life of Anne Isabella Thackeray Ritchie (2004) – described by Dame Hermione Lee as ‘talkative, appealing… tender’ – and Wives and Stunners: The Pre-Raphaelites and their Muses (2012). But always, until robbed of it by advancing ill-health, it was Henrietta’s own stunning beauty that would make her the centre of attention. A friend who took her to a Cambridge May Ball in the ’70s described how crowds of party-goers clambered onto chairs and tables to get a better look at her.
Henrietta was kind, witty, mischievous, gracious and extraordinarily charismatic. But she was dealt an unlucky hand. In a troubled life, destabilised by illness, disability and excess, Charleston was a constant source of joy and fixity:
Charleston had the most powerful identity of any place that I had known. It reeked of itself: of turpentine and toast, of apples, damp walls and garden flowers. The atmosphere was one of liberty and order, and of a strength which came from its being a house in which the inhabitants were happy…
Her connection with the Trust has been one of mutual support, with Vanessa and Duncan’s oldest granddaughter always welcomed for her insights, generosity and thoroughly Bloomsbury spirit of playfulness and caprice. Many Friends of Charleston will recall her at the May Festival, stylishly adorned in gem-hued colours and beads, an intent presence among the front row audience, and sometimes on the platform too. Sometimes she tried our patience – especially after a glass or three of red wine – with her famously uninhibited interventions: a lack of reserve characteristic of her later years. Backstage in the Green Room, in the convivial familiarity of her grandparents’ house, she was usually the last to leave the party.
All of us who love Charleston will mourn her loss, and will never forget her.
It is with great sadness that we write of the death of the poet and publisher Cecil Woolf, a nephew of Leonard and Virginia Woolf and the last member of the family to have known Virginia, at his home in London on the 10th June at the age of 92.
He will be remembered with the greatest respect and affection by all those of us who attended his unveiling of the plaque to Leonard and Virginia Woolf on Frome Railway Station in 2014.
His valuable advice, unstinting and unflagging support during the two years we spent trying to get the plaque installed, together with his kindness, at the age of 87 when, accompanied by his wife Jean Moorcroft Wilson he drove for more than three hours on a cold, rainy November day from his home in London to Frome, unveiled the plaque, delivered a scintillating speech about the Leonard and Virginia Woolf he remembered, chatted easily and with great charm to the group of donors who attended the subsequent reception in the Cheese & Grain, before driving three hours home again in the dark, will remain in our memory forever.
A great man, sorely missed.
His funeral will be held on the 24th June and a memorial service will also be held in late September, early October.
Woolf Plaque Supporters
18th June 2019
Cecil Woolf’s wife, Jean Moorcroft Wilson, wrote the following obituary which appeared in the Camden News Journal.
Cecil Woolf, the nephew of Leonard and Virginia Woolf, has died aged 92, the last person alive to have known Virginia personally; he was 14 when she committed suicide. But he was equally proud of Leonard, who died when Cecil was 42 and whose London house he shared for nearly a decade. He himself observed of Leonard, ‘How does one sum up a person as many-sided as that?’, a remark equally applicable to his multi-talented nephew, who was a man of many parts. As his schooldays at Stowe revealed, Cecil had an exceptional mind, not only taking the equivalent of A-levels a year early, for example, but also gaining the top mark in the whole country in the English Literature paper. But instead of going on to a top university, as expected, he enlisted in the army at the age of sixteen. Entering as a private in the tank regiment in 1943, he was quickly promoted to the rank of captain for his undoubted ability, fighting in the tail-end of the Second World War in Italy, where he learnt to speak fluent Italian – ‘it’s so like Latin’, he would explain modestly – and Palestine. Italy, Venice in particular, became for him the ‘great good place’.
After demobilization in 1947, Cecil joined the stockbroking firm of Woolf, Christie founded by two of his childless uncles, who wanted him to carry on the family business. Though he rapidly mastered the various branches of the trade, he left after only a few years to start his own antiquarian book business, happily forfeiting the guaranteed money and security of the Stock Exchange for the challenges and independence he anticipated as a free-lance writer and bookseller. It was typical of this fiercely independent man that, although Virginia Woolf was becoming recognized as one of Britain’s greatest novelists by the nineteen-fifties and -sixties, he never traded on his relationship to her, and remained modest and unassuming almost to a fault. Likewise, though he had grown up in a house built by Cardinal Wolsey on James de Rothschild’s Waddesdon Estate and was directly related to James through James’s wife Dorothy, he never boasted of the fact or used it to his advantage. And he never tried for popular fame, though he was gifted enough to do so; he preferred a less obvious route. As a writer his bibliographies of Norman Douglas and Baron Corvo and his editions of Corvo’s novels, poems and letters are models of their kind.
Then in nineteen sixty, Cecil founded his own publishing house, inspired undoubtedly by the example of Leonard Woolf, whom he had helped at the Hogarth Press from an early age. His encouragement of young writers, like Leonard’s, became legendary. Drew Shannon was one of many grateful authors who treasured Cecil’s help, while at the same time becoming a good friend:
I think every Woolfian who met Cecil spent the first bit of time in his presence overcoming the fact that he KNEW VIRGINIA WOOLF. But happily this was really the least of it, at least for me, and I quickly began to love the man for himself: for his wit, his charm, his ceaseless energy, his tack-sharp mind, his kindness and consideration. And, underneath his charm, there was his biting wit. I will forever cherish the occasional whispered remark in my ear at many an event, remarks calculated to make me giggle and which required whatever poise I possess to keep myself straight-faced. And what might’ve seemed like name-dropping to the outsider was simply a catalog of his friendships and acquaintances. He’d say, “Jean, what year was it that we had Edward Heath over for dinner?” (Yes, that Edward Heath.) Or, “I bumped into Quentin Crisp in Regent’s Park, and he said…” Or, “T. S. Eliot once said to me…” And his priceless anecdote about Duncan Grant, looking long-haired and shaggy in the 1960s, wandering around Piccadilly; when questioned by Cecil about his appearance, Duncan spacily replied, “Well…my barber died.”
After Cecil’s first marriage ended in the late sixties, he began a relationship with Jean Moorcroft Wilson, who became his second wife and partner in the publishing business. Together over a period of fifty years they explored their shared and separate interests, Cecil’s obsession with the novelist John Cowper Powys inspiring the John Cowper Powys monographs, Jean’s fascination with the First World War poets, on whom (encouraged by Cecil) she would write a number of biographies, giving rise to their War Poets’ series and their joint admiration for Leonard and Virginia Woolf spawning their Bloomsbury heritage titles, always eagerly awaited at annual Virginia Woolf Conferences in America and England. Together they would edit two highly topical books,Authors Takes Sides on the Falklands and Authors Take Sides on the Gulf and Iraq. Cecil’s meticulous attention to detail ensured books of the highest quality in both content and appearance. He was running Cecil Woolf Publishers with Jean’s help until shortly before his death.
Moving to Camden Town in 1979, Cecil became a familiar figure walking along the High Street in his tweed jacket and corduroys. His burning sense of justice led him to fight long and hard for a number of causes, including the extradition of a local shopkeeper. (This prompted a letter from the Home Secretary but sadly failed to save the shopkeeper.) And he and Jean organized an exhausting but ultimately successful campaign to reopen Mornington Crescent tube station when it was threatened with closure.(At the reopening ceremony, hosted by Humphry Lyttelton, chair of ‘I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue’, Cecil was mistaken for Lyttelton, whom he slightly resembled.) Coming late to fatherhood at 47, Cecil was as closely involved in the care and upbringing of their five children, Kate, Philip, Emma, Alice and Trim , as any father could be, introducing them to wonderful books on his nightly readings to them and leaving them with a passionate love of literature and ideas. They were all devoted to him.
Cecil was a man who chose his words very carefully and every one of them counted. And although he thrived in the world of ideas, he was enormously practical: when he and Jean eventually found the ‘little ruin’ in France they had been searching for at the extremely modest price they could afford, it was Cecil who plumbed and wired it, Jean acting as plumber’s and electrician’s mate. Anything, he believed, was possible if you could find the right book to advise you. A man of striking contradictions, he was at the some time one of the most serious yet most humorous and witty people imaginable. Though stubborn, even at time pugnacious in a cause he believed in, he was also conspicuously kind, very gentle and always polite and considerate. An essentially private, rather shy man in his younger years, he took to public speaking in later life with surprising enjoyment. He talked with increasing pleasure of his early memories of staying with Leonard and Virginia Woolf at Monk’s House, Rodmell, or at Tavistock Square, their last house in Bloomsbury, where he helped them pack books for the Hogarth Press orders in the basement.
It is not for his memories of a literary icon only that Cecil will be remembered by his family and friends, however, or even for his wonderful books, but for his originality as a person, his creativeness, his brilliance, his generosity, his kindness and his essential humanity.
The above Obituary was published in Blogging Woolf.
26th June 2019
Obituary in The Guardian newspaper. The Guardian Obituary
Happy Birthday Virginia Woolf
25th January 2019
Born: 25th January 1882, South Kensington, London
Died: 28th March 1941, Lewes, Sussex
“I have lost friends, some by death…….. others by the shear inability to cross the street”
“….. we are very poor, my hoard is £450 but it must not be tapped again. So I must write. Yes, our old age is not going to be a sunny orchard drowse.”
24th December 1940
25th November 2018
Happy Birthday Leonard Woolf – 25th November 1880
“It is the journey, not the arrival which matters.”
“It is never right for any government to do any vast evil as a means to some hypothetical good.”
Monday 11th November 1918
At 11 in the morning the maroons were fired. From this we knew that the Armistice had been signed and that the Great War had ended. Virginia celebrated the peace by going to her dentist in Harley Street. We met in Wigmore Street and drifted to Trafalgar Square. The first hours of peace were terribly depressing. The Square, indeed all the streets, were solid with people, omnibuses, and vehicles of all kinds. A thin, fine, cold rain fell remorselessly on us all. Some of us carried sodden flags, some of us staggered in and out of pubs, we wandered aimlessly in the rain and mud with no means of celebrating peace or expressing our relief and joy.
Leonard Woolf: Beginning Again 1911-1918
Armistice Remembrance Day
11th November 1918 – 11th November 2018
………. pray you’ll never know
The hell where youth and laughter go.
Suicide in the Trenches – Siegfried Sassoon / February 1918
Siegfried Sassoon Diaries 1923–1925
I went to [Hogarth House] Paradise Road, Richmond, this evening, intending to be discreet and observantly detached. But the evening was a gossipy affair, very pleasant and unconstrained. V[irginia]. W[oolf]. drew me out adroitly, and I became garrulous. (Did I bore them once or twice?)
Leonard Woolf seemed reticent and rather weary; anyhow my presence reduced him to comparative muteness. V. W. is a very fastidious lady, and looked lovely (in a lavender silk dress). She has very slender hands and a face for a miniature painter.
Thank heaven, I avoided giving my ‘war-experiences’ turn. (Though I did touch on Craiglockhart Hospital, in connection with Wilfred Owen.) They agreed with me about the modem vulgarisation of fine literature by the commercialism of publishers; and urged me to publish a book with the Hogarth Press. I dallied with the idea of a small volume of ‘scraps of prose’, vaguely visualising selections from my journal, which I feel now to be quite impracticable. We dined in their kitchen, which was pleasant and cosy.
Ottoline [Morrell] told me that ‘Virginia is very inhuman’, but I found her charming.
Happy Birthday Virginia Woolf – 25th January 2018
Virginia asked (After a quarrel)
“Do you ever think me beautiful now?”
Leonard replied :
“The most beautiful of women.”
“In 1927 To the Lighthouse was published and was distinctly more successful than any of her previous books. That meant that at the age of 47, having written for at least 27 years and having produced five novels, Virginia succeeded in earning as much as £545 (£28,000) in a year.”
Happy Birthday Leonard Woolf – 25th November 2017
If you get even a little way below the surface, you find that no one is an ordinary person. Growing 1904-1911