Archive for the ‘Writers’ houses’ Category

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.

An intellectual’s scrap screen

November 26, 2010

The scrap screen created by Jane Carlyle in 1849, in the drawing room at 24 Cheyne Row. ©NTPL/John Hammond

Alan Carroll’s recent mention of print rooms reminded me of the scrap screen created by Jane Carlyle at Carlyle’s House in Cheyne Row, London. Jane was the wife of the Victorian critic and historian Thomas Carlyle, but she was also a lively intellectual in her own right.

©NTPL/John Hammond

The prints on the screen seem to be mainly of famous places, famous works of art and famous people – perhaps an echo of Thomas’s interest in ‘great men’ as expressed in his later book  On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History.

The front door of 24 Cheyne Row. ©NTPL/Nadia Mackenzie

Thomas and Jane Carlyle moved to London in 1834 and settled in then unfashionable Chelsea, where they would remain for the rest of their lives.

The back dining room in a watercolour by Helen Allingham, 1881. ©NTPL/John Hammond

The Carlyles received many of the leading lights of the day at their house, including Dickens, Tennyson, Browning, Thackeray, Ruskin and Darwin.

Intellectual flowers? Detail of the wallpaper in the parlour. ©NTPL/John Hammond

The Carlyles’ marriage was often difficult, although they retained an affection for one another.

Jane Carlyle. ©NTPL/John Hammond

Thomas Carlyle was an important nineteenth-century thinker who criticised the then commonplace worship of progress, although his nihilism made him an isolated figure. Jane is regarded as one of the most witty and observant letter writers in the English language.

The house and its contents, including the Carlyles’  furniture, books, portraits and personal relics were given to the National Trust by the Carlyle’s House Memorial Trust in 1936.


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