“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, August 7 and 8, 1921, Charleston Farmhouse, East Sussex, England; and Monk’s House, Rodmell, England

Art critic Clive Bell, 39, is at Charleston Farmhouse which he shares with his estranged wife, painter Vanessa Bell, 42, their two sons, Julian, 13, Quentin, about to turn 11, and assorted other family members and lovers.

Clive is writing to his current mistress, Mary Hutchinson, 32, back in London:

Nothing could exceed the monotony of life at Charleston except the pleasantness of that monotony…One comes down to breakfast as much before 10 as possible, hopes for letters, kills a wasp, smokes a pipe, contemplates nature, writes til lunch, reads the Times, goes for a walk, drinks tea, reads Proust, shaves, writes [a letter]…dines, lights a fire, smokes a cheroot, reads the Grenville memoirs, smokes a pipe, reads Proust, goes to bed. Sometimes it rains.”

Mrs. St. John Hutchinson by Vanessa Bell, 1915

*****

About 10 miles away, at Monk’s House in Rodmell, Vanessa’s sister, novelist Virginia Woolf, 39, is quite unwell and has been losing weight. The sales of her latest book, Monday or Tuesday, are good, and she has started sleeping a bit better, without medication. But her current doctors have her on horrible “milk cures,” which she can’t abide.

Virginia has been unable to do any writing or see any guests for about two months, and confides to her diary,

What a gap! Two whole months rubbed out—These, this morning, the first words I have written—to call writing—for 60 days.”

Virginia Woolf by Vanessa Bell, 1912

“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 format 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, 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, 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.

“Such Friends”: 100 Years Ago, September, 1920, Monk’s House, East Sussex, England

Tom is coming this weekend.

At their East Sussex home, Monk’s House, Virginia, 38, and Leonard Woolf, 39, often welcome weekend guests.

This weekend, one of their star authors at their own Hogarth Press, American ex-patriate Thomas Stearns Eliot, about to turn 32, is coming for the first time.

T. S. Eliot

A few years ago, they were very impressed with Eliot’s poem published by The Egoist Press. “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” and wrote asking if they could bring out a collection of his poetry. They published 200 copies of Tom’s Poems last year, selling for 2 shillings, 6 pence each. When Leonard closed out the account last month, they had paid Tom 4 pounds, 17 shillings, 4 pence, and made a nice profit for themselves of 9 pounds, 6 shillings, 10 ½ pence. The Woolfs feel that this is an indication, after five years in business, that the Hogarth Press is making good progress toward becoming a “real” publisher.

Ovid Press, also based in London, has published a private edition of Eliot’s Ara Vus Prec—vellum paper, Moroccan leather binding, gold lettering—which has almost all the same poems in it.

From the beginning, Virginia and Leonard have been clear that they are most interested in what the author has to say. The Hogarth Press books definitely look good, and sometimes experiment with typography, but they are meant to be read more than just looked at.

Ara Vus Prec published by the Ovid Press

The risk the Woolfs took on publishing the unknown Eliot has paid off for him as well—the major American publisher Alfred A. Knopf brought out a US version of his Poems earlier this year.

Tom still has a day job at a bank, but some of his friends and fans are talking about putting together a fund to support him and his work.

Virginia is mostly looking forward to talking to Tom about his writing over tea. She feels that sometimes his words need just a bit more explanation.

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the book, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s, to be published by K. Donnelly Communications. 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 fall I am talking about writers’ salons in Ireland, England, France and America before and after the Great War in the Osher Lifelong Learning programs at the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie-Mellon University.

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 Kindle versions.

My “Such Friends” presentations, Dorothy Parker and the Algonquin Round Table, and The Founding of the Abbey Theatre, are available to view for free on the website of PICT Classic Theatre.

“Such Friends”: 100 Years Ago, Summer, 1920, London, Bishopsbourne, and East Sussex, England

At 74 Gloucester Place in Marylebone, London, publisher and editor Harriet Shaw Weaver, 43, is thrilled to have received a letter from the American owner of the Paris bookshop, Shakespeare & Co., Sylvia Beach, 33.

H Weaver

Harriet Shaw Weaver

Having just met Irish writer James Joyce, 38, Beach wants to buy as many books as she can from Weaver’s Egoist Press, which supports Joyce. Weaver is writing back to offer Shakespeare & Co. a 33% discount and free shipping. She knows this is going to be a good deal.

Later in the summer, Weaver uses an inheritance from her aunt to set up a trust to fund Joyce. She had submitted his latest work in progress, Ulysses, to many publishers, including London’s Hogarth Press, run by Virginia Woolf, 38, and her husband Leonard, 39, but no one wants to touch it.

A few stops east on the Metropolitan Railway, and a short walk from Euston Station, a luncheon is being held at 46 Gordon Square in Bloomsbury to honor art critic and painter Roger Fry, 53, on the occasion of his private showing of 81 paintings at London’s Independent Gallery. His Bloomsbury friend, fellow painter Duncan Grant, 35, had returned from his two-month trip to France and Italy with two cases of paintings that Fry had done while he was there.

Roger Fry c. 1910

Roger Fry

Fry appreciates his friends’ attempt to cheer him up because, despite fairly low prices for all his works, neither the reviews nor the sales are going well. Earlier in the summer he had written to a friend,

It’s almost impossible for an artist to live in England:  I feel so isolated.”

After an easy Underground ride from nearby Russell Square station, south on the Piccadilly Line to Leicester Square station, it’s a short walk to the New Theater. The first play by actor Noel Coward, 20, I’ll Leave It to You, is getting good reviews. Coward stars in his own play, which has just transferred to the West End from a successful run up north in Manchester.

noel_coward_young

Noel Coward

The London Times is excited:

It is a remarkable piece of work from so young a head–spontaneous, light, and always ‘brainy.’”

And the Observer predicts:

Mr Coward…has a sense of comedy, and if he can overcome a tendency to smartness, he will probably produce a good play one of these days.”

But this one closes after only 37 performances.

London tube map 1921

London Underground map

From Leicester Square station, heading south down the Hampstead Line, changing to go east on the District Line, the Cannon Street station is in the heart of the City, the financial capital of the country. At the Cannon Street Hotel, a group of radical socialists have gathered for the first Congress of their newly formed Communist Party of Great Britain.

The publisher and editor of the socialist Worker’s Dreadnought newspaper, Sylvia Pankhurst, 38, and one of her reporters, Jamaican Claude McKay, 30, both attend. But Sylvia decides the Communists are way too right wing for her taste, and votes against affiliating with the Labour Party.

Communist Unity Convention 1920

Communist Unity Convention, Summer 1920

Farther south down the District Line, near the West Kensington station, poet Ezra Pound, 34, is back in London after spending time in Europe specifically to introduce his new find, James Joyce, to the literary society of Paris. Pound gives a brown paper package with old clothing and shoes to his friends, poet T. S. Eliot, 31, and painter and writer Wyndham Lewis, 37, to pass on to Joyce on their upcoming trip to Paris.

Farther south, the District line terminates in Richmond. A few blocks from the station in Hogarth House on Paradise Road, the Woolfs are feeling overwhelmed by the success of their Hogarth Press.

The sales flooding in up until now have been primarily from word of mouth among their Bloomsbury friends. Who also send along their manuscripts for the Woolfs to publish.

They’ve recently taken their first ads in national papers such as the Times and the Manchester Guardian and magazines such as the Nation and the New Statesman. Leonard is closing out the account for Eliot’s Poems, and finds they have made a small profit of £9.

This summer they are planning to bring out Reminiscences of Count Leo Tolstoi, by Maxim Gorky, 52, translated by their friend S. S. Koteliansky, 40.

hogarth-house

Hogarth House, Richmond

This is quite a landmark for the Woolfs and their five-year-old company. Not only is it the first Russian translation they have published, with an initial run of 1,250 it is also the first time they have used an outside commercial printer from beginning to end. Up until now they have been setting type, printing and binding, all on their own in their home. Now they have become a true publishing house, not just a small press.

Virginia writes to a friend,

The Hogarth Press is growing like a beanstalk and [Leonard and I] think we must set up a shop and keep a clerk.”

Later in the summer she confides to her diary that Leonard is

on the verge of destruction. As a hobby, the Hogarth Press is clearly too lively & lusty to be carried on in this private way any longer. Moreover, the business part of it can’t be shared, owing to my incompetence. The future, therefore, needs consideration.”

****

About a two-hour drive southeast of Richmond is Bishopsbourne, Kent. At his house, Oswalds, Polish-born novelist Joseph Conrad, 62, is writing to his American benefactor, Irish-American lawyer, John Quinn, 50, in New York.

Oswalds Kent

Oswalds, Bishopsbourne, Kent

Quinn was not happy that Conrad went back on his promise to sell the manuscript of his latest novel to Quinn. But Conrad explained that he had hurriedly sold it to another collector to get cash quickly, and Quinn was understanding. Conrad writes, “

I am glad you take my arrangement as to the MSS. so well…I had many claims on me, and I have some still…—not to speak of my wife’s prolonged disablement.”

Conrad is comforted by the fact that after his death his copyrights will help support his wife Jessie, 46, and their two sons. One of whom is named for Quinn.

Quinn writes back to re-assure him,

You are far from the end of your time…You are one of the leading writers living in the world today and still producing work that is worthy of your best…There is no falling off there [in Conrad’s latest novel The Rescue]! It is a fine thing, one of your best things.”

*****

Seventy miles farther south, in Rodmell, East Sussex, the Woolfs are spending the last half of the summer at their country home, Monk’s House, still worried about overworking at Hogarth.

monk's house from road

Monk’s House, Rodmell, Sussex

Their young friends, painter Dora Carrington, 27, and her lover Ralph Partridge, 26, have  come to stay for a weekend, and the Woolfs talk to Partridge about working for them. Virginia writes to Fry, back in Bloomsbury, that she and Leonard

now think of setting up a proper printing plant and doing all production ourselves—that is with a manager…[Or else close it] as we can’t go on with it as we’ve been doing.”

By the end of August the Hogarth Press has hired Partridge as a part-time assistant for £100 per year and 50% of their net profit.

A twenty-minute drive away, at Charleston Farmhouse, Virginia’s sister, painter Vanessa Bell, is hosting the usual summer assemblage of Bloomsbury creatives.

Charleston farmhouse_exterior_photo_credit_grace_towner better

Charleston Farmhouse, Firle, Sussex

Julian, 12, her son with her estranged husband, art critic Clive Bell, 38, has set off his airgun by mistake and a bullet has gotten stuck in a chair.

According to one of their friends, up in his room Clive is

pretending to read Stendhal.”

Down the hall, economist John Maynard Keynes, just turned 37, is working on his latest book, A Treatise on Probability while continuing to edit the Economic Journal.

Vanessa and her partner, Duncan Grant, are working on a huge project. Keynes has commissioned them to create new murals for his rooms at King’s College, Cambridge. They have decided to produce eight allegorical figures, alternating male and female, to fill almost a whole wall, representing Science, Political Economics, Music, Classics, Law, Mathematics, Philosophy and History. They are advising Maynard on every detail of the interior decoration of the sitting room, right down to the color of the curtains.

Duncan has just returned from a visit to his aging parents up in Kent, and is a bit concerned about his father’s welfare. He tells Vanessa that in the nursing home the Major, 63, is

spending most of his time alone and hardly ever speaking at meals.”

Duncan hopes Virginia and Leonard could make use of his father on some Hogarth Press project.

Overall, Duncan writes to a friend back in Bloomsbury,

Life here is very quiet.”

Studies for murals in Keynes rooms

Drawings for Vanessa and Duncan’s murals for Keynes’ Cambridge sitting room

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the book, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s, to be published by K. Donnelly Communications. For more information, email me at kaydee@gpysyteacher.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.

In 2020 I will be talking about writers’ salons before and after the Great War in Ireland, England, France and America in the University of Pittsburgh’s Osher Lifelong Learning program.

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

 

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago, April 10, 1920, Monk’s House, Rodmell, East Sussex, England

Novelist Virginia Woolf, 38, and her husband, Leonard, 39, are getting accustomed to life in their new country home, the 18th century cottage they bought at auction just last year.

Today she confides to her diary,

We only slept by snatches last night, and at 4 am turned a mouse out of Leonard’s bed. Mice crept and rattled all night through. Then the wind got up. Hasp of the window broke. Poor Leonard out of bed for the fifth time to wedge it with a toothbrush. So I say nothing about our projects at Monks, though the view across the meadows to Caburn is before me now; and the hyancinths blooming, and the orchard walk. Then being alone there—breakfast in the sun—posts—no servants—how nice it all is!”

Virginia is working on her third novel and is thinking that she and Leonard could publish this one themselves through their own five-year-old Hogarth Press. That would be better than having to submit her work again to her half-brother’s publishing company, Gerald Duckworth & Co.

monk's house from road

Monk’s House today

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the book, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s, to be published by K. Donnelly Communications. For more information, email me at kaydee@gpysyteacher.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.

In 2020 I will be talking about writers’ salons before and after the Great War in Ireland, England, France and America in the University of Pittsburgh Osher Lifelong Learning program.

Manager as Muse, Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins and his relationships with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and Thomas Wolfe is available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions.

“Such Friends” 100 years ago, January 1, 1920…

 

America was going on the greatest, gaudiest spree in history and there was going to be plenty to tell about it. –F. Scott Fitzgerald

fitzgerald

F. Scott Fitzgerald

That was 100 years ago. So here we are again. At the beginning of the Twenties. Will this be a similar decade?!

There’s one way to tell:  To look back at certain points and document what was happening a century before, with the artists and writers who were “Such Friends”:

William Butler Yeats and the Irish Literary Renaissance,

Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group,

Gertrude Stein and the Americans in Paris, and

Dorothy Parker and the Algonquin Round Table,

in Ireland, England, France and America.

As the new decade begins…

Irish poet W B Yeats, 54, is getting ready to go back to the United States on his third American lecture tour, this time with his wife, Georgie Hyde-Lees, 28. They are leaving the baby Anne, just 11 months old, back in Ireland with his sisters.

Yeats and Geo 1923

Georgie and William Butler Yeats

Hogarth Press owners, novelist Virginia Woolf, about to turn 38, and her husband Leonard, 39, have been celebrating the holidays at Monk’s House in Sussex, which they bought last year at auction. This coming year, they want to spend more time outside of too-busy London.

Va and Leon

Virginia and Leonard Woolf

In Paris, American writer Gertrude Stein, 45, and her partner, Alice B. Toklas, 42, are still getting back to normal after the Armistice. Their apartment, on the Left Bank near the Luxembourg Gardens, had hosted salons for all the local painters before the Great War. Who will come now?

Gert and Alice with the paintings

Alice B. Toklas and her partner Gertrude Stein with Picassos

Vanity Fair writers Dorothy Parker, 26, Robert Benchley, 30, and their “such friends” are lunching regularly at the Algonquin Hotel in midtown Manhattan. And trying to drink up in the last few weeks before the Volstead Act—Prohibition—goes into effect. It won’t slow them down.

parkerbenchley cartoon

Dorothy Parker and Robert Benchley

Join me on a journey through the “Literary 1920s,” tracking these characters in their place and time, 100 years ago. Happy New Year!

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the book, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s, to be published by K. Donnelly Communications. For more information, email me at kaydee@gpysyteacher.com.

In 2020 I will be talking about Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins and his relationships with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and others in both the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie-Mellon University’s Osher Lifelong Learning programs.

Manager as Muse, about Perkins and his writers, is available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions.

If you want to walk with me through Bloomsbury, you can download my audio walking tour, “Such Friends”: Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group.

 

‘Such Friends’ Bloomsbury Walk, Part 1: Tavistock Square

Recently, I was thrilled to be asked by the Charleston Farmhouse to lead my walk through Bloomsbury for a group attending their Bloomsbury Revisited event in London. You can download a shorter version from the Voicemap.me website. But, if you’re not able to walk around London listening to me on headphones, I have posted the text of the walk here with photos, so you can follow along from anywhere. There are three parts, Tavistock Square, Gordon Square and Fitzroy Square. Here is Part 1:

  1. Morton Hotel, Russell Square

Welcome to Bloomsbury! I’m Dr. Kathleen Dixon Donnelly and I am your guide for this walk.

My research was about writers and artists who ‘hung out’ together in salons in the early part of the last century, on either side of World War I. The four groups are Irish poet William Butler Yeats and his friends who founded the Abbey Theatre; Virginia Woolf and Bloomsbury, of course; Gertrude Stein and the American writers in Paris, and Dorothy Parker and the Algonquin Round Table.

Yeats ended his poem, The Municipal Gallery Revisited, with the lines:

Think where man’s glory most begins and ends,

and say my glory was I had such friends.’

so I have used ‘Such Friends’ as the title for all my work about ‘my’ writers and artists.

Today’s walk is about Virginia Woolf and her ‘such friends’ in the Bloomsbury group and their time through the 1920s, 30s and 40s in Tavistock Square.

The Morton Hotel, where we’re starting, has a Bloomsbury theme, and serves a lovely high tea. Virginia Woolf fans who have stayed here assure me that it is a great experience.

Morton Hotel

The Morton Hotel, Russell Square

We’re going to cross over Upper Woburn Place here, turn right, and walk up to the top corner of Tavistock Square.

  1. Upper Woburn Place near Woburn Walk

Many late 19th century Irishmen lived in this area as well. If you look up the street you’ll see a little alley off to the right, Woburn Walk.

Woburn Walk

Woburn Walk

Yeats rented rooms here from the late 1890s to around 1919, overlapping the Bloomsberries down the road in Gordon Square. It’s reported that this is where Yeats lost his virginity [not to Maud Gonne!]. When in London, go midway down Woburn Walk and look up to your left, where there is a plaque. It’s one of those quaint English streets with lots of cafes and shops.

We’ve got lots of plaques around here.

Now we’ll walk through Tavistock Square Gardens, near where the Woolfs lived, and take a look at the bust of Virginia that was put here in 2004.

  1. Tavistock Square Gardens

Va bust Tavistock Sq Gardens

Virginia Woolf bust, Tavistock Square Gardens

This bust is a copy of the one done in 1931 by Stephen Tomlin, which you can see in the National Portrait Gallery.

From 1924 until 1939, Virginia and Leonard Woolf lived on the top two floors of Number 52, which is now the site of the Tavistock Hotel. She lived here longer than in any other of the Bloomsbury homes, and wrote most of her novels here.

Tavistock Hotel

Tavistock Hotel

The Virginia Woolf Society and the hotel chipped in for the blue plaque on the hotel, which was just unveiled earlier this year by the Society’s honorary president Dame Eileen Atkins and Leonard’s nephew, Cecil Woolf. He just turned 91 and is present at many of the Society’s events.

In 1939 Virginia and Leonard moved over to Mecklinburgh Square, farther east. The following year, 1940, their home there was bombed. The Hogarth printing press was inside but they were out at Monk’s House in Sussex at the time, watching German aircraft fly over.

One month later, Tavistock Square was bombed, and the next day the Woolfs drove up to London to see the damage. Here’s what Virginia wrote in her diary:

So to Tavistock Square. With a sigh of relief saw a heap of ruins. Three houses, I should say gone. Basement all rubble. Only relics an old basket chair (bought in Fitzroy Square days) and Penmans board [saying] “To Let.”  Otherwise bricks and wood splinters…I could see a piece of my studio wall standing: otherwise rubble where I wrote so many books. Open air where we sat so many nights, gave so many parties. The hotel not touched.’

They never lived in London again; five months later, Virginia committed suicide out in Sussex. Leonard tried to live in Mecklenburgh Square afterwards, but found it too depressing. He lived the rest of his life—until 1969!—at Monk’s House near Rodmell.

More recently Tavistock Square was the site of a bus bombing during the July 2005 terrorist attack on the Tube. The upper level of the Number 30 bus. from Marble Arch to Hackney Wick, was blown up at 77 Tavistock Square, which is the site of the British Medical Association, so doctors came running out into the street to help the victims.

Tavistock square bus bombing

Tavistock Square, July 2005

We’ll come out of Tavistock Square Gardens and turn right towards Gordon Square, where the Bloomsberries began in happier times.

You can pick up the walk in the next blog, ‘Such Friends’ Bloomsbury Walk, Part 2:  Gordon Square, or jump ahead to Part 3, Fitzroy Square.

To read about American writers, Manager as Muse explores Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ work with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe and is available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions.