Archive for the ‘Bloomsbury Group’ Category

Don’t do this at home

December 20, 2010

©National Trust

Katherine Sharp, the curator for Monk’s House (which I featured earlier), has just told me of a recent gift to the house of some books once owned by Virginia Woolf.

©National Trust

They are a set of the Arden edition of Shakespeare which Virginia covered with coloured paper in 1936. Her diary entry for 25 February 1936 reads: “… I’ve had headaches. Vanquish them by lying still and binding books …” – by ‘binding’ she meant re-covering the books with glued paper.

Virginia Woolf's bedroom at Monks House. ©NTPL/Eric Crichton

Although I wouldn’t personally recommend glueing coloured paper all over your books, it does vividly illustrate the earthy modernist taste of the Bloomsbury Group. And of course it is also poignant evidence of Virginia’s need to soothe her sometimes fragile state of mind with repetitive manual work.

Monks House, Rodmell, East Sussex. ©NTPL/Eric Crichton

The books come with a bookcase that is recorded as being in the Woolfs’ London home in the late 1930s and later came to Monk’s House. After Leonard’s death in 1969 the bookcase and the books were given to Lady Lintott, a longstanding friend of the Woolfs who lived nearby in Rodmell. Her children have now donated it to Monk’s House.

A writer’s retreat

December 6, 2010

The Sitting Room at Monk's House. The armchair was one of Virginia Woolf's favourite reading chairs. It is upholstered in a fabric designed by her sister, Vanessa Bell. ©NTPL/Eric Crichton

Courtney Barnes at Style Court has just added a post inspired by the 1992 Sally Potter film based on Virginia Woolf’s 1928 novel Orlando (and she even quoted me, which is flattering). So I thought I would show a few images of the house in Rodmell, East Sussex, that Virginia Woolf shared with her husband Leonard.

The walled garden next to Monks House. Leonard Woolf was a particularly keen gardener. ©NTPL/Eric Crichton

Virginia and Leonard bought Monk’s House in 1919 for £700. It was ‘an unpretending house’ as Virginia called it, and she liked it that way.

Virginia Woolf's bedroom. The pale green was a favourite colour. ©NTPL/Eric Crichton

Life was fairly spartan at Monk’s House. When the Woolfs’ friend E.M. Forster visited he burnt his trousers trying to get warm beside the little stove in his room.

The Dining Room. The canvas-work mirror frame was designed by Duncan Grant. He also designed the chairs, together with Vanessa Bell. The naive painting over the chimney came with the house. ©NTPL/Eric Crichton

As Virginia made more money from her books, however, various improvements and extensions were added. In 1929 the house was ‘luxurious to the point of electric fires in the bedrooms’.

The writing lodge. ©NTPL/Eric Crichton

When the Woolfs had no visitors, Virginia would write for three hours every morning in her writing lodge in the garden.

Another view of the sitting room. ©NTPL/Eric Crichton

Monks House was acquired by the National Trust in 1980 with grants from the University of Sussex, the Department of the Environment and the Royal Oak Foundation.


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