Here at Blog Manor, pouring vintage pre-phylloxera port, only slightly crusted, down the red lane, it comes as a surprise to moi that I have hardly ever read Virginia Woolf.
I wonder what was the reason?
I sent Harrington, the only slightly lame second footman, to the bookshop to correct this fault.
I discover that Ginnie was a gal after my own heart. In Mrs Dalloway (1925) she relates that things went to hell when water closets started to be talked about; and written about in otherwise respectable magazines. Did she mean Plumbers Weekly or the Gentleman’s Quarterly Cistern?
Even more telling was the road to hell being littered by skirts short enough to expose the ankles – particular Arabs will know from whence the Woolfette was speaking. They like their gals wrapped up in cloth with only the eyes looking through.
As well as writing educated chick-lit Virginia was not as other women. Unlike the liberated rug-chewers of today she kept quiet about it.
An Old Lady enters the Blog
Old Lady: Young man, must you be so disgusting.
Me: I’m working my way out of it.
Virginia Woolf is amazing. She should have written poetry. In fact, she does. The first chapter of Night and Day (1919) is like T.S.Eliot; like, in fact, Eliot’s Portrait of a Lady (1917).
Eliot: “Among the smoke and fog of a December afternoon/ You have the scene arrange itself…”
Woolf: “It was a Sunday evening in October. . . the remaining parts of her mind leapt over the little barrier of day which interposed between Monday morning and this rather subdued moment…”
She is very popular among some, mainly intellectual, ladies who are usually professors and make a living out of her. Night and Day and her first novel, The Voyage Out (1913)
were published by her step-brother’s firm Duckworth. After that Virginia started self-publishing with her husband Leonard Woolf at the Hogarth Press at 52 Tavistock Square London WC. To The Lighthouse (1927) was perhaps her best-known and loved novel; a granddaughter of mine did it for A Level.
One of Virginia Woolf’s most talked about novels is Orlando (1928). This is because it was written for Vita Sackville-West and the morons think it might be pretty steamy lesbo fare. It isn’t. It’s fun with history, starting with a page to Queen Elizabeth I and working its way, (with gender changes) to the 20th Century. Orlando stands history on its head and rewrites literature with wit, vigour and exuberance.
Virginia’s one and only big bestseller was The Years (1937); a novel hardly known these days, even by fans.
It sold 40,000 copies and went to number one in the New York Times bestseller list. It topped the list in June, remained number one in July and only fell off the list in late October.
The Years is the story of the Pargeter from Victorian years (1880 and 1891)to the 20th Century: 1907 to 1918 to “the Present Day”.
Leonard Woolf didn’t like all this success. He said it was the worst thing she ever wrote. One wonders how good he was for Virginia’s brain. All her life she suffered nervous breakdowns. Fearing another coming on in 1941 she filled her pockets with stones and drowned herself.
What, if anything, does this have to do with Murder In A Cold Climate, that jovial stocking-filler now weighing down the library shelves at Blog Manor awaiting the Christmas rush?
Not much. But I counted them and I seem to have eight women in Murder In A Cold Climate, all playing big parts, a couple of them major roles.
A LITTLE OLD LADY re-enters
OLD LADY: Are there any little old ladies? Do they appear in chemis?
THE AUTHOR: Only young nifty numbers in their step-ins and other unmentionables.