Sunday, 28 March 2010

I don't think two people could have been happier than we have been

On the 28th March, 1941, Virginia Woolf left her house in Rodmell Sussex and drowned herself in the river Ouse just a short walk from her garden. She left two suicide notes behind, one for her husband Leonard and one for her sister Vanessa. She was 59 years old and had just finished her last novel Between the Acts which was published after her death.

Last summer I walked from Rodmell, along the river Ouse and over the South Downs to Charleston Farmhouse, the house that Virginia's sister Vanessa lived in. It is a walk Virginia would have done many times herself and I thought a lot about how last journey to the river and her decision to end her life. You can't quite see the river in this picture at the bottom of the downs.

There has been a lot of discussion about Virginia Woolf's suicide and I feel sometimes that her "moods" and suicide somewhat dominate the perception of her and her writing so I wont dwell on this any longer, I just took moment to think about it with today being 28th March.


  1. Here in Oz we are just enjoying a series about the revival of Sissinghurst, with quite a few historical references. Have you seen it?

  2. How interesting and though provoking - thank you indeed for posting. I had rather forgotten about the date. I have been to Charleston and Sissginghurst but never to Woolf's home or to the river. My understanding is that Between the Acts pushed her into this place - obviously after years of battling depression and severe breakdowns.

    I have been meaning to read Hermione Lee's biography - which is on my TBR for ages - you have motivated me to get around to this - so thank you!

    Thanks indeed for a sensitive and interesting post


  3. Is the Sissinghurst program you are watching the one the BBC did with Adam Nicholson and Sarah Raven? If so, then yes I did see this and thoroughly enjoyed it.

    I thought there was an interesting argument between preserving a building and garden as it was and keeping the soul and essence of the place alive. How far should you go to preserve things for future generations? If everything is repaired and replaced does it loose its originality and become a copy?

    Sissinghurst is a wonderful place and I can’t imagine what living there would be like. I would be quite content with the little cottage and the hot garden!

  4. Thanks for your comment Hannah – Rodmell is very much worth a visit. It is on a much smaller scale than Charleston and has a different feel to it but I really enjoyed going there. It is a National Trust house and there are people living there as custodians!

    I found that reading about Virginia Woolf in the various biographies that have been written, really comes to life when you have been to the places that are referenced. I had always imagined that Monks House would look more like Charleston so was surprised when it didn’t. I am hoping to fit in a few London Woolf trips this year to get a feel for where she lived and wrote in London.

  5. Hello, I've just been browsing through your posts and enjoying them very much. I've only read two or three of Woolf's novels and sadly I wasn't fond of them. Virginia Nicholson in the BBC's Dear Diary series said that she admired the diaries more than the novels so perhaps I should read the diaries.

  6. The diaries certainly contribute to the process that creates the novel; VW's novels often begin to be thought about in her Writer's Diary but, of course, at the time she was also creating a new form for the novel - one that did not have the traditional beginning, middle and end. She knew about modern painting, her sister Vanessa was a painter and, in the 1920s, the restructuring of painting was in process. She felt that the traditional novel was in a 'rut' as far as its structure went, so she set out to change that and realize a novel that was drawn from real events - they were mostly autobiographical as a result, an unknown fact by the first time reader of VW.

  7. Everything the famous author had became a part of her literature. Virginia Woolf's house is now a landmark in Sussex, England. This is her comfort zone, a haven for her work and the coven where she left the world. It may be tragic, but she left a legacy filled with beautifully written novels and a house across the river. It's truly beautiful.