Leonard’s Proposal

Frome Railway Station

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We have just been to visit friends in Somerset for a few days and on the way home, back to Yorkshire, we decided to call at Frome Railway Station (pronounced like ‘broom’, not like ‘chrome’).

I wanted to see where Leonard had set off from to propose marriage to Virginia. Leonard was staying with a friend, the Rector of the Church of St Mary Magdalene, at the nearby Great Elm Rectory (about three miles from Frome Station) when he decided to get the train to London in order to ask Virginia to marry him. It was the eleventh of January 1912.

In his autobiography, Leonard says:

The change from the incessant whirl of London to the quiet somnolence of a Somerset rectory was the passing straight from a tornado into a calm, or from a saturnalia into a monastery. At last I had time to think. It took me 48 hours to come to a decision and on Wednesday I wired to Virginia asking whether I could see her next day. Next day I went up to London and asked her to marry me.

To commemorate this (albeit tenuous) link to Bloomsbury history, Frome Station installed a plaque which was unveiled by Cecil Woolf (Leonard’s nephew) in November 2014.

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And to think that this very famous marriage began in a quiet railway station like this.

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You can just see the plaque in the middle photograph.

The rest, they say, is history.

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S is for …

 

Stream of Consciousness

Well, I had to cover this at some point didn’t I?

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I  understand the ‘Stream of Consciousness’ technique to be the written version of what is going on in a character’s mind.

The modernist writers were the pioneers of this technique. James Joyce takes the credit for inventing this new type of writing in his first novel,  A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man in 1916. and Virginia developed it in Jacob’s Room in 1922.

Have you ever thought about thoughts? They occur so randomly and often fleetingly in your mind, jumping about from one thing to another, that they are hard to pinpoint. Actually capturing them in the first place and then writing them down seems near impossible.

I find the whole idea of thought fascinating. Do we all think partly in words and partly in pictures? Do we have to understand language to be able to think in words?  I suppose we must; I couldn’t think in German for instance. Do we have to be able to see to think in pictures? Thoughts are incredibly difficult to stop as well, as my attempts to ‘think of nothing’ during yoga practice have testified.

Stream of consciousness is a narrative technique that describes in words what is going on in the minds of characters; and from this we learn much about them and their personality and history etc. The story can be told through the characters’ thoughts and feelings and not through a structured plot so this written equivalent of mind chatter is not necessarily logical. How many times have you been thinking about one thing and suddenly the thought has gone and you’re thinking about something else completely different?

Written down, on the page, this technique may lack punctuation and appear random and unstructured and be very difficult to read and understand. At first attempt it may appear as nonsense even. It is compelling though; we are inside a character’s mind seeing it at work.

When we come across this technique in fiction, the odds are that we find it difficult. I certainly do. But it is engrossing and challenging and awesomely clever.

Difficult but worth it.

A Cultural Afternoon at the University of Leeds (part 2)

The Stanley and Audrey Burton Art Gallery, University of Leeds.

My husband and I had a day off work and went to Leeds for the afternoon. As we live less than ten miles away this is a regular occurrence in our lives but today we were going to the University of Leeds to look at Quentin Bell’s The Dreamer and to visit the University’s art gallery.

If you want to know a bit about the first half of our afternoon please see my previous post about The Dreamer.

After we had seen The Dreamer in the Clothworkers Courtyard we went to the University’s art gallery. We were glad to go inside as it was a very cold day. I didn’t know what to expect at the gallery but hoped there may be a Duncan Grant painting on display. I knew that one of his paintings of Charleston Farmhouse was in the gallery’s collection but the chances of it being on display weren’t too high. Anyway, I was happy just to have seen The Dreamer and anything else was just a bonus.

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Leeds University Main Entrance

As soon as I walked in, there it was.

Farm Buildings at Charleston, Leeds University Art Gallery

 I immediately loved the colours and the tone and the image. I didn’t know what size I expected it to be but it struck me as small so I must have sub-consciously expected it to be bigger. It is roughly square, about 65cm in its frame (about 25″).  Close up it was abstract and the further back I walked the more it came in to view.  More than anything the colours appealed to me. I have visited Charleston and though I don’t recognise the exact view in the painting I definitely recognise it as Charleston. I have a thing about tone and the proportions of light, medium and dark in this painting and frame immediately made me like it.

I was happy. I had seen a Duncan Grant painting. So I thought I would now explore the rest of the gallery. I turned the corner and …. there was a Vanessa Bell painting and then … a Roger Fry! I couldn’t believe it. I found my husband and dragged him over to take a look.

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Above, are postcards that I bought at the gallery. The left hand side shows Vanessa Bell’s Still Life (Triple Alliance)  and the right hand side, Roger Fry’s Portrait of Nina Hamnett. They were both on display. I loved the portrait. In real life there is much more detail than is visible in my photograph. Apparently the dress and fabric were designed by Vanessa.

I didn’t like Vanessa’s Still Life that much I’m afraid. I found it too pale and tonally bland. I am interested in it though and I understand that the three domestic objects on the table (an oil lamp and two glass bottles) allude to either the threesome of the relationship between Vanessa, Duncan and Bunny or perhaps refer to World War 1 and the mutual support of the alliance between Germany, Austria and Italy. Certainly The Times newspaper of September 1914 forms part of the collage. Leaned against the right hand side bottle is a cheque and I believe that this has Vanessa’s signature on it.

We had a good day and I feel that I have learned something and seen art that, if it wasn’t for researching my blog, I would never have seen.

A Cultural Afternoon at the University of Leeds (part 1)

The Dreamer

While I was researching my ‘Q… is for Quentin Bell’ post, I learned that a piece of his artwork, The Dreamer, was displayed at the University of Leeds. I live less than ten miles from said university so I was VERY excited. Last Wednesday my husband and I both had the day off work and we went on a cultural afternoon. He was as excited as I was (almost) and I do believe he is (almost) as interested in the Bloomsbury Group and its ‘interesting tangents’ as I am.

Quentin Bell held the position of  Head of Fine Art at the University in 1959, and was later as Professor of Fine Art until 1967.  In 1978 it was suggested that the University should acquire a piece of Bell’s artwork for display and Bell suggested  Levitating Woman (or The Dreamer) as it came to be known as, and with the help of the Department of Civil Engineering which designed and constructed the internal framework, the work was installed in 1982.

Bell’s work was inspired by  a conjuror’s trick he saw as a child and is one of the most popular works on display.

Well, we drove to the University and after finding it impossible to park nearby we walked quite a way to the main building and soon found our way to the Clothworkers Court by consulting the campus maps. As soon as I saw it I  couldn’t take my eyes off it. I absolutely loved it.

‘The Dreamer’ at the University of Leeds

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I actually liked the back more than the front

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Close up and long shot

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Beautiful buildings nearby.

The photographs hide the fact that the square was crowded with students moving from one building to another. I had to wait ages for a lull in the human traffic before I could take my photographs! I am so glad that we went to see this and to think that I have lived within ten miles of it for the past twenty five years and I never knew it was there.

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R is for …

Ralph Partridge (1894 to 1960)

The Bloomsberries certainly had some complicated relationships and Ralph Partridge was no exception. Ralph was born in 1894 so he was twelve years younger than Virginia. He was educated at Oxford and by the age of twenty three was a major in the Army during the First World War.

Ralph  visited Dora Carrington and Lytton Strachey at Tidmarsh Mill in Berkshire.  He soon moved in with them both and became the third member of the household. Both Dora and Lytton were in love with Ralph.  Ralph was heterosexual, Lytton was not. Dora and Ralph had an affair but her heart was always with Lytton.

Ralph went to work at the Hogarth Press where he earned enough money to marry Dora in 1921. She married him to stop him going abroad as Lytton had come to rely on his friendship. Always thinking of Lytton first.  All three of them went on Honeymoon to Venice.

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Ham Spray House

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By Charles Richard Sanders [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

In 1924 Lytton bought Ham Spray House and invited the married Dora and Ralph to live with him. The living arrangements started as Ralph moving in with Dora and Lytton at Tidmarsh and ended up with Dora and Ralph moving in with Lytton at Ham Spray. Confused?

Ralph left Dora in 1926 when he fell in love with Francis Marshall. Dora never really loved him as she was in love with Lytton. When Lytton died in 1932 Dora shot herself rather than live without him. She was only thirty eight.

Ralph married Francis in 1933 and they were rarely apart.  Francis was a Cambridge student but (like all women at that time) couldn’t get a full degree. The Partridges  travelled together, they ballroom danced, enjoyed music and had a very close marriage until he died of a heart attack in 1960. Francis lived until 2004 and died at the age of 104.

Q is for …

 

Quentin Bell (1910 to 1996)

Quentin was the son of Vanessa and Clive Bell and the nephew of Virginia Woolf.  Here is his impressive C.V.

  • Art historian, critic, biographer, author, sculptor, artist, lecturer.
  • Lecturer in Art History, University of Durham
  • Professor of Fine Art, University of Leeds
  • Slade Professor of Fine Art, Oxford University
  • Professor of Fine Art, University of Hull
  • Professor of Art History, University of Sussex

Quentin’s biography of Virginia Woolf earned him the James Tait Black Memorial Prize; one of the oldest literary awards with prizes for biography, fiction and drama. He was awarded the prize in 1972 and he was in very good company. Lytton Strachey also won the biography prize in 1921 for Queen Victoria; David Garnett won the fiction award in 1922 for Lady into Fox, and E M Forster won in 1924 for Passage to India.

Quentin married Anne Olivier Popham, a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, with two honorary doctorates from the York and Sussex Universities. Quentin and Anne had three children; Julian (artist), Cressida (textile designer, interior designer and cake decorator), and Virginia (writer).

I have mentioned that Quentin Bell was Professor at Leeds University. The University campus boasts a range of public art but Bell’s Levitating Woman, also known as The Dreamer  is the most popular and I cant wait to see it. The best bit? Leeds is my home town so its only about thirty minutes drive to the University. I will of course show you my photographs but for now, please use this link.

Quentin Bell: The Dreamer

I have now been to see this artwork and have taken a few photographs. Please visit my ‘cultural afternoon (part 1)’ post to see how I got on (it is under the ‘places of interest’ menu).

P is for …

 

The Pattle Sisters

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Virginia’s Grandmother, Maria Pattle; one of the Pattle sisters.

Adeline de l’Etang, a French aristocrat, and James Pattle, of Calcutta, had ten children; nine girls and a boy.  James, Eliza and Harriett all died as children. The remaining seven girls came to be known as the Pattle sisters. One of them, Maria was Virginia’s grandmother. The others were her Great Aunts.

The siblings (all born between 1812 and 1828) were Adeline, James, Eliza, Julia Margaret, Sarah, Maria, Louisa, Sophie, Virginia and Harriett.

The sisters were famous for their beauty and they were the ‘toast’ of Calcutta and Kensington. They were good looking, high spirited and unconventional and they certainly caused quite a stir in Victorian Society.  Virginia and Sophia made aristocratic marriages and Julia became a famous photographer. Between them they had a huge circle of influential, literary, artistic and political friends and were part of the well known social and cultural life in London. Maria married Dr John Jackson who was a highly respected physician in India. Maria and her daughters spent much time in London. One of Maria’s daughters, Julia, was to become Virginia Stephen’s (Woolf’s) mother.

Virginia Woolf certainly descended from a high profile family. William Thackeray is reported to have been besotted and to have said abut Virginia Pattle that ‘when she comes into the room, it is like a beautiful air of Mozart breaking on you’. He described her as a ‘young lady with every kind of perfection, a charming face and a perfect form’.

O is for …

 

Omega Workshops

3a9Omega literally means ‘Great O’ (‘mega’) and Omicron is literally ‘Little O’ (‘micro’). Omega is the last letter of the Greek alphabet and is used to signify the last word on a subject.

The Omega workshop was a design enterprise that was founded by the Bloomsbury Group in 1913. It was introduced to give artistic expression to the values of the Bloomsbury Group, to provide a showcase for artists and to provide them with the means to make a living.

Roger Fry was the main man who thought that not only could artists design their own work but they could also produce and sell. This was rather like the ethos of the Hogarth Press venture that embraced the idea that writers could not only write but could print and publish their own work.

The workshops encompassed public showrooms and studios where artists could display their work and customers could view and buy. The modernist emphasis was on abstract patterns, bright colours and bold simplified forms. Designs were a form of rebellion against the drabness of mass production and were often met with hostility from the public who did not quite favour modern art.

The Omega workshops designed and produced furniture, textiles, accessories, murals, mosaics, stained glass, tableware, pottery, linens, fabrics, and expanded in to dressmaking and interior design. Products were expensive and exclusive and were featured in the Ideal Home exhibitions of the time.

Customers would range from those who bought a small item to those who had something custom made to those who requested the design and decoration of entire interiors. There was no other shop in London quite like it. However, it had a short life and closed after about six years when it ran in to financial difficulties and suffered with internal conflicts which led to a clearance sale and closure.

It did however, establish interior design as an accepted branch of art and secured the Omega designs in the history of design.

Designers and artists who were involved in Omega were never allowed to sign their name on a piece of their work. Works had to be displayed anonymously to ensure that they were bought on merit rather than on the reputation of the artist.

All pieces were marked with the Omega sign instead.

 

N is for

 

Novels etc.

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What exactly did Virginia write?

Novels by Virginia Woolf


The Voyage Out (1915)

Night and Day (1919)

Jacob’s Room (1922)

Mrs Dalloway (1925)

To the Lighthouse (1927)

Orlando (1928)

The Waves (1931)

The Years (1937)

Between the Acts (1941) posthumously

Short Stories by Virginia Woolf


A Society

Monday or Tuesday

An Unwritten Novel

The String Quartet

Blue and Green

Kew Gardens

The Mark on the Wall

The New Dress

The Duchess and the Jeweller

Lappin and Lapinova

In the Orchard

Solid Objects

The Shooting Party

The Lady in the Looking Glass: A Reflection

A Woman’s College from Outside

Biographies


Flush

Roger Fry

Non Fiction


Modern Fiction

The Common Reader

A Room of One’s Own

On Being Ill

The London Scene

The Second Common Reader

Three Guineas

The Death of the Moth and Other Essays

The Moment and Other Essays

Women and Writing

Autobiographical Writings


A Writers Diary

Moments of Being

A Moment’s Liberty: The Shorter Diary

The Diary of Virginia Woolf from 1915 to 1941

Drama


Freshwater: A Comedy

M is for …

 

Memoir Club

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Gosh, it sounds like the Memoir Club would have been most people’s worst nightmare. A group of friends gathered together with the aim of writing their memoirs but in the process having to share their most intimate secrets and thoughts.

The Memoir Club was founded in the 1920s as a way of encouraging those procrastinating writers to write something, specifically their memoirs or autobiographies. Membership was by invitation only and extended to a dozen people who all knew each other well and was, more or less, the Bloomsbury Group as we know it.  The group met from 1920 to 1964 (the year I was born, incidentally) and during this time met about sixty times and between them they read about 125 memoirs. Quite a prolific and dedicated, long lasting group.

The key rule to the meetings was that all members should always tell the truth. Anyone presenting their memoir should be frank and open and should have the freedom to say anything. It would be received in an atmosphere of acceptance and understanding and no one could be shocked or angry with what they heard. Yeah right.

Memoirs were read out to the group. This was the arena in which Virginia disclosed the abuse she had suffered by the Duckworth brothers but apparently she delivered it in an entertaining way. She would not have been offered support at the meeting, just acceptance for what it was.

The Memoir Club sounds too intimate for my liking. It really would have been my worst nightmare. Not that I have anything to hide but I don’t think I want to know everything about everyone else either. Lol.