Virginia in 1936


Virginia – 1936 wasn’t a great year really … agitation, headaches, writing and worrying. See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Virginia began 1936 with headaches and her head bursting with ideas. She was in the country, having spent a miserable Christmas at Monk’s House in Sussex. She was looking forward to returning to London.

In her diary entry for January 3rd Virginia mentions that she had to find £70 (about £4k) ‘out of her hoard’ to pay for her share of the house. This meant that her hoard was reduced to £700 (about £44k). Virginia’s efforts at this time were in finishing The Years. She was still unwell and wrote that her ‘head is still all nerves’. She ends the entry for this day by saying that she ‘ordered a sirloin and we shall go for a drive’.

On the 5th January Virginia reports that her’ head is quiet today’ Her health sounds like it was paramount in her mind and she was wary as one false move ‘means racing despair, exaltation, and all the rest of that familiar misery’.

On the 16th January Virginia reports that ‘seldom have I been more completely miserable’. This was because she was dissatisfied with The Years. In to February and Virginia is still reporting headaches and having to lay still to vanquish them.

March sees Virginia walking round Kensington Gardens discussing politics. She writes briefly about Europe and Labour Party meetings and about Hitler. She mentions how near the guns are and how she can see them and hear a roar. She refers to answering the ‘incessant telephones’ and having done nothing but walk and work during this ‘laborious Spring’.

In June she notes that the previous two months had seen her battle a dismal and almost catastrophic illness but that she is finally recovered. She refers to ‘the divine joy of being mistress of my mind again’.

In November, Virginia writes again of the headaches and of the suffering she endured while writing The Years, describing it as being ‘like a long childbirth’. She forced herself into her room, in her nightgown, with a headache and had to lay down after writing a page.

Virginia seems to go from the depths of despair, convinced of the failure of her novels, to being ‘exalted’ when Leonard reads her work and comments on it favourably. Her moods are up and then down.

So, we get a hint of Virginia’s life in 1936. Walking, writing, troubled by political events, battling mental health problems, worrying over the quality of her writing, not believing in her abilities, taking to her bed, keeping her diary and trying to stay calm for the sake of her sanity.

Overall, a difficult year. I get the impression of a troubled agitated lady, in turmoil over her writing, struggling day to day and never quite finding peace.


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