“Such Friends”:  100 years ago, late September, 1921, Monk’s House, Rodmell, East Sussex

Oh, what a damned bore!”

Virginia Woolf, 39, had written to a friend this past summer.

She had been ill—and not working—for so long.

But now that it is autumn, with lovely weather and long walks out here in the countryside, she is feeling better and writing better than before.

Monk’s House, Rodmell

Virginia and her husband, Leonard, 40, had recently bought a used platen machine for their expanding Hogarth Press, which they run out of their London home. Virginia’s short story collection, Monday or Tuesday, which they published earlier this year, is selling well. And she is now close to finishing her next novel, Jacob’s Room.

One of many interruptions this month was the visit this past weekend of their friend, poet Tom Eliot, just turning 33. Virginia hadn’t been looking forward to it. She had written to her sister, painter Vanessa Bell, 42,

I suppose you wdn’t come for the 24th? When Eliot will be here?”

But Vanessa wasn’t available.

His stay turned out to be uneventful. Lots of chat about writing and books. Virginia confides in her diary that Tom’s visit

passed off successfully…& yet I am so disappointed to find that I am no longer afraid of him—”

*****

Eliot hadn’t mentioned this to the Woolfs this past weekend, but he is looking forward to a visit to a London nerve specialist. His wife, Vivien, 33, has made the appointment for him because they have both agreed that his job at Lloyds Bank, a summer visit from his American family, and his work on a major poem, are all affecting his health. They may be moving out of hectic London soon and are hoping that an upcoming trip to Paris to visit fellow ex-pat American poet Ezra Pound, 36, might help. He and Pound are going to work together on editing the poem.

Vivien and Tom Eliot

Vivien writes to one of their friends, jokingly, that she is seeking help for Tom but hasn’t “nearly finished my own nervous breakdown yet.”

But Vivien has written a much longer letter to her brother-in-law, archaeologist Henry Ware Eliot, 41, just gone back home to St. Louis. Not joking, she confides that she knows her husband is not in love with her anymore. And Vivien adds a postscript,

Good-bye Henry…And be personal, you must be personal, or else it’s no good. Nothing’s any good.”

“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 in print and e-book formats on Amazon. For more information, email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com.

This fall I will be talking about Writers’ Salons in Dublin and London Before the Great War in the Osher Lifelong Learning program at Carnegie-Mellon University.

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 available on Amazon in both print and e-book versions.

“Such Friends”: 100 years ago, April 17, 1921, Hogarth House, Richmond, London

Novelist Virginia Woolf, 39, is concerned about the sales of her most recent book. Her first short story collection, Monday or Tuesday, was published by her and her husband Leonard’s own Hogarth Press last month.

Monday or Tuesday, cover design by Vanessa Bell

Today she writes in her diary, “

Sales & revenues flag, & I much doubt if M. & T. will sell 500, or cover expenses.”

First, the book looks horrible. Terrible printing job. The Woolfs will never use that printer again.

Then their assistant, Ralph Partridge, 27, screwed up the publicity from the start by sending a review copy to the Times that didn’t include the publication date. All she got was a tiny write-up in an obscure part of the paper.

In the meantime, the new biography, Queen Victoria by her friend Lytton Strachey, 41, is featured in the paper with three columns of unabashed praise! Virginia has also heard that Lytton’s book sold 5,000 copies in the same week hers only moved 300. No wonder.

Queen Victoria by Lytton Strachey

Lytton dedicated his book to her, and he has been complimentary about her collection, particularly the story “The String Quartet.”

But the slow sales are beginning to depress Virginia. On the other hand, when she receives reports of strong sales she worries that she is becoming too commercial.

A little over a week ago Virginia confided to her diary,

I ought to be writing Jacob’s Room; and I can’t, and instead I shall write down the reasons why I can’t…Well, you see, I’m a failure as a writer… And thus I can’t get on with Jacob…My temper sank and sank till for half an hour I was as depressed as I ever am. I mean I thought of never writing any more—save reviews…What depresses me is the thought that I have ceased to interest people…One does not want an established reputation, such as I think I was getting, as one of our leading female novelists. I have still, of course, to gather in all the private criticism, which is the real test.”

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the book, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s Volume I covering 1920 is available on Amazon in both print and e-book versions. For more information, email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.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

This summer I will be talking about The Literary 1920s in the Osher Lifelong Learning programs at Carnegie-Mellon University and University of Pittsburgh.

Manager as Muse, about Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ relationships with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, is available on Amazon in both print and e-book formats.

“Such Friends”: 100 years ago, March 8, 1921, Hogarth House, Richmond, London

She’s feeling rather pleased with herself.

Novelist Virginia Woolf, 39, has just brought out her first collection of short stories, published by her and her husband, Leonard, 40, at their own six-year-old Hogarth Press.

Monday or Tuesday is one of the more ambitious projects they have tackled, having started with individual stories. This is full book length, with some pieces that have appeared before and some new.

Her sister, painter Vanessa Bell, 41, did a woodcut for the cover, which she has done for many of Hogarth’s books. This time they also had Vanessa do a few more for the inside pages.

Monday or Tuesday with cover by Vanessa Bell

Virginia feels that both the writing and the art are up to her high standards.

However.

The printing is a mess.

The Woolfs trusted McDermott’s Prompt Press, which they have used before, and what they got is what Virginia describes to a friend as “an odious object…[which leaves] black stains wherever it touches.” And all 1,000 copies are filled with typographical errors.

That problem is no trouble to fix. They’ll correct the typos for the Harcourt Brace American edition and never use McDermott again.

The problem she is having trouble fixing is her third novel, Jacob’s Room. Virginia is trying to continue the experiments with style she used in the newer short stories in Monday or Tuesday. But working here in the Woolfs’ house in Richmond, with the business of the Hogarth Press going on all around her—it’s just not coming.  She likes to write in her head when she walks out on the Sussex countryside surrounding their country home, Monk’s House. Earlier this month she wrote in her diary,

If I were at Rodmell I should have thought it all out walking on the flats. I should be in writing trim.”

But this short story collection is giving her confidence. She writes in her diary now,

And I’m not nearly as pleased as I was depressed; & yet in a state of security; fate cannot touch me; the reviewers may snap; & sales decrease…[I have overcome my fear of being] dismissed as negligible.”

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the series, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s. Volume I, covering 1920, is available in print and e-book versions on Amazon. For more information, email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com.

This summer I will be talking about The Literary 1920s in the Osher Lifelong Learning programs 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 available on Amazon in both print and e-book formats.