“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.