The final chapters in Square Haunting: Five Women, Freedom and London Between the War by Francesca Wade are devoted to Virginia Woolf.
Her time in Mecklenburgh Square was right at the end of her life. 37 Mecklenburgh Square was Virginia and Leonard’s last London home before they retired completely to their country home, Rodmell, after the square was bombed late in 1940.
During her time in Mecklenburgh Square, Virginia wrote her biography on Roger Fry as well as her last fiction, Between the Acts.
John Lehmann, their Mecklenburgh neighbour and partner in Hogarth Press, described her final work as,
an unparalleled imaginative work…a poetry more disturbing than anything she had written before, reaching at times the extreme limits of the communicable.
The very things that I struggled with when I tried to read To the Lighthouse and Orlando in my early twenties!
My poetry appreciation has come slowly and with effort. The trick, I have found, is to find poems and/or poets that speak to you. So many poems can wash over me like a tsunami of words. When one sticks, it is a special moment.
Curiously my early failed attempts to read Virginia did not put me off the idea of ever reading her fiction. It was clear to me that I was not yet ready as a reader to do justice to her stories. A plan developed – to read her work in chronological order, whilst reading as many bio’s about her as I can. She was the main reason why I was drawn to Square Haunting in the first place.
In the meantime I will share two quotes, from two of her novels, that read like poems. Having just emerged from a migraine, Virginia’s appeal for silence resonated strongly with me tonight.
How much better is silence; the coffee cup, the table. How much better to sit by myself like the solitary sea-bird that opens its wings on the stake. Let me sit here for ever with bare things, this coffee cup, this knife, this fork, things in themselves, myself being myself.Virginia Woolf, The Waves
Empty, empty, empty, silent, silent, silent. The room was a shell, singing of what was before time was; a vase stood in the heart of the house, alabaster, smooth, cold, holding the still, distilled essence of emptiness, silence.Virginia Woolf, Between the Acts
The Virginia Files:
This post is part of A Poem For a Thursday with Jennifer @Holds Upon Happiness.