Virginia Woolf is about to turn 40. And she’s not taking it well.
She is pleased to find out that her friend and fellow novelist, E. M. Forster, 43, is on his way back to England after spending almost a year in India. She writes to him,
I was stricken with the influenza, and here I am, a fortnight later, still in bed, though privileged to take a stroll in the sun for half an hour—after lunch…
Writing is still like heaving bricks over a wall;…I should like to growl to you about all this damned lying in bed and doing nothing, and getting up and writing half a page and going to bed again. I’ve wasted five whole years (I count) doing it; so you must call me 35—not 40—and expect rather less from me.”
Leading up to the big day, in her diary she writes,
[Life] consists of how many months? That’s what I begin to say to myself, as I near my 40th birthday…
The machinery for seeing friends is too primitive: 1 should be able to see them by telephone—ring up, & be in the same room…[But too many visitors leave her] in tatters…my mind vibrates uncomfortably…
Virginia Woolf’s diary
I have made up my mind that I’m not going to be popular, & so genuinely that I look upon disregard or abuse as part of my bargain…I’m to write what I like; & they’re to say what they like. My only interest as a writer lies, I begin to see, in some queer individuality; not in strength, or passion, or anything startling; but then I say to myself, is not ‘some queer individuality’ precisely the quality I respect?…
I feel time racing like a film at the Cinema. I try to stop it. I prod it with my pen. I try to pin it down.”
“Such Friends”: 100 Years Ago… is the basis for the series, “Such Friends”: The Literary 1920s. Volumes I and II covering 1920 and 1921 are available as signed copies at Riverstone Books in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, PA, and also in print and e-book formats on Amazon. For more information, email me at email@example.com.
If you want to walk with me through Bloomsbury, you can download my audio walking tour, “Such Friends”: Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group.
On February 3, 2022, we will be celebrating the 148th birthday of my fellow Pittsburgher Gertrude Stein, at Riverstone Books in Squirrel Hill. You can register for this free event, or sign up to watch it via Zoom, here.
In late February I will be talking about the 100th Anniversary of the Publication of Ulysses in the Osher Lifelong Learning program at Carnegie-Mellon University.
Manager as Muse, about Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ relationships with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and Thomas Wolfe, is also available on Amazon in both print and e-book versions.