Writing in her diary, writer Virginia Woolf, 40, notes that,
I open the paper and find Michael Collins dead in a ditch.”
Collins, 32, the Commander-in-Chief of Ireland’s National Army, was assassinated two days ago by a sniper while taking the risk of traveling through County Cork, which is under the control of the opposition forces in Ireland’s Civil War, led by Eamon de Valera, 39.
Woolf is about to launch her third novel, Jacob’s Room and is also working on a short story, “Mrs. Dalloway in Bond Street.” And she is still struggling to get through Ulysses by Irish writer James Joyce, 40.
Today, however, she is responding to a letter from an old friend, telling her that Katherine Mansfield, 33, is back in London, staying in Hampstead.
Woolf greatly admires Mansfield. The Hogarth Press, which Virginia operates with her husband Leonard, 41, out of their London home, published Mansfield’s short story Prelude when they first started their company four years ago; it has sold over 200 copies.
Prelude by Katherine Mansfield
But Virginia also looks at Katherine as one of her main rivals. Her current collection, The Garden Party and Other Stories, which Hogarth lost to a more mainstream publisher, “soars in the newspapers & runs up sales skyhigh” as Virginia wrote in her diary.
Katherine has been mostly away from London for the past two years, undergoing experimental treatments in France and Switzerland to treat her tuberculosis. Before returning to London a few weeks ago she wrote another short story and her will.
Staying in Hampstead with painter Dorothy Brett, 38, an old acquaintance of her husband, Katherine has kept to her room, hanging a sign on the door telling visitors to stay away as she is working. She ventures out to attend lectures about the effect on your body of having a “diseased spirit,” and to have experimental radiation treatments.
Dorothy has invited Virginia to join them at one of the regular salons she holds on Thursday evenings in the posh Hampstead house her parents have bought for her. She feels Virginia and Katherine would appreciate the opportunity to see each other again.
As Virginia writes to her Dorothy, she “agonized” over the invitation. It would be great to see people again, back in the city. But would the trip to London just distract her from what she is working on?
Virginia decides she will pass on the salon and make a point to see Katherine next summer when she’s back in town.
“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.com and Amazon.co.uk. For more information, email me at email@example.com.
Later in the year I will be talking about the centenary of the publication of T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes at Carnegie-Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh.
If you want to walk with me through Bloomsbury, you can download my audio walking tour, “Such Friends”: Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group.
Manager as Muse, about Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ relationships with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, is also available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk in both print and e-book versions.