Virginia Woolf; an icon. My icon.
I first discovered Virginia Woolf at university. As a lot of literature students would discover, Mrs Dalloway is, in my opinion, a complex narrative; many students would dismiss Woolf’s writing as too complex, but for me, it was a revelation. Set on a single day, it focuses on Clarissa Dalloway arranging a party – and the novel begins with the immortal ‘Mrs Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.’ All Woolfians have their favourites, and although I admire Mrs Dalloway, I prefer The Waves. I’m not exactly too sure why I like it so much, but it might have something to do with the 6 main characters, and how they are presented; like a stream of consciousness. It has been argued that The Waves is Woolf’s masterpiece, and I agree.
While studying for my masters, I had to decide on a subject for my dissertation. The subject was easy; Virginia Woolf, but I had to look at her work from a different angle, a different viewpoint. I had come across Text World Theory during my studies, and had found it fascinating. There was my analytical tool. However, there had been numerous studies on Woolf’s fiction, so I decided to concentrate on her diary entries, choosing 4 entries to fully analyse. This enabled me to get to know more of Woolf and her intimate thoughts, even though one of my conclusions was that she was writing her diary for an audience, and not for personal reasons.
Why is this important now?
During my search for editing work, I came across a publisher who awards a ‘Virginia Prize for Fiction’ – perfect! I started doing some voluntary work for them, and also discovered they were planning on getting a full-size statue of Woolf, reclining by the river on a bench in Richmond. Woolf lived in Richmond for around ten years, between 1914 and 1924, mainly living in Hogarth House, Paradise Road. This, of course, was the birthplace of the Hogarth Press, run by Virginia and Leonard, her husband. In the hope of creating a book about Woolf’s life in Richmond, I am now scouring her diaries and letters for references to her life there. Being a Woolfian, this is fascinating.
To further my understanding of Woolf, I visited her country house, Monk’s House, in Rodmell; the place where her ashes are buried. This was an amazing experience; to walk in the very sitting room where she sat by the fire, being visited by many of her friends and family. To see her bedroom, including the volumes of Shakespeare that she personally covered in paper and labelled. But most exciting of all was her writing room.
To think that this is where she wrote many of her novels was truly astonishing to me, and also very humbling. Needless to say, my visit to Monk’s House was one I will not easily forget.
I hope the statue project keeps gathering pace (Woolf Statue Facebook page) and that we can truly honour an innovative and profound writer.