This year I’ve been Bloomsburying: visiting as many local places as possible related to Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury group. I’ve visited most of them before, but never all in one concentrated, themed effort.
“Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.” — Virginia Woolf, Mrs Dalloway (1925)
It seemed fitting to begin, for our first trip out after release from the most recent lockdown, by venturing to Gordon Square, in the Bloomsbury neighbourhood where Virginia lived with her brothers and sister, which later gave its name to her literary circle. We larked across London just as Clarissa did in Mrs Dalloway. It was still early spring so only the first blossoms were out. On our way back we stopped off at a bookshop, where I scored a fabulous Bloomsbury-themed cookbook.
“…a good dinner is of great importance to good talk. One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” — Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own (1929)
Next up was Virginia and Leonard Woolf’s country home, Monk’s House. They ended up moving there on a more permanent basis after their London home was bombed at the beginning of the second world war. Here we saw Virginia’s actual Room of Her Own where she did her writing, her dining room (I bought an original artwork of this room earlier this year to help inspire me), her bedroom and the sitting room where they entertained guests. We could only begin to imagine the conversations these walls must have heard, the rooms littered with art made by friends and family. The garden was mostly looked after by Leonard who was keen on exotic plants, having grown up in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). It was here where Virginia left her love letter to Leonard before setting off to the River Ouse to end her life in 1941.
“Until we can comprehend the beguiling beauty of a single flower, we are woefully unable to grasp the meaning and potential of life itself” — Virginia Woolf
One of our favourite summer trips is to Sissinghurst. I’ve previously blogged about it here. Virginia Woolf’s friend and lover, the poet and writer Vita Sackville West, lived here with her husband. Together Vita and her husband created the most dreamy, idyllic English garden. The day could not have been more perfect and I feel sure that Mrs Dalloway would have glowed among all the blooms.
“Orlando naturally loved solitary places, vast views, and to feel himself for ever and ever and ever alone.” — Virginia Woolf, Orlando (1928)
And finally, we made a trip to Knole where Vita Sackville West grew up and where the novel Orlando was loosely based. Although there are no formal gardens, we found a beautiful orangery and then caught up with the deer in the extensive grounds. The attics were recently opened up for visitors, but are now closed again due to Covid restrictions. It must have been thrilling to grow up as Vita did, surrounded by so many acres and so much history. I like to imagine her and her siblings having fun dressing up in the attics and romping around the portrait-filled galleries.
Of course I have more Blooomsburying trips planned. Thank you Virginia for giving my summer, and my photography, a wonderful narrative thread to follow.