Writers’ rooms: Virginia Woolf | Books | guardian.co.uk
Virginia and Leonard Woolf bought their house in Sussex, Monk’s House in Rodmell, in 1919, for £700. Two years later, she had a small writing room in the garden constructed out of a wooden toolshed below a loft. It had big windows and a view of the Downs across to Mount Caburn. She wrote there in the summers, and liked it very much, though it was not ideal for concentration. She was always being distracted – by Leonard sorting the apples over her head in the loft, or the church bells at the bottom of the garden, or the noise of the children in the school next door, or the dog sitting next to her and scratching itself and leaving paw marks on her manuscript pages. In winter it was often so bitterly cold and damp that she couldn’t hold her pen and had to retreat indoors. In 1924 they put in an oil store. Ten years later, the “writing lodge”, as she called it, was moved down to the far end of the garden, under the chestnut tree next to the flint churchyard wall. She wrote there with a board on her lap (as her father, Leslie Stephen, used to do). They built a little brick patio in front of the lodge, and on summer evenings, visitors would come and sit and watch the extremely competitive games of bowls being played on the lawn.
In this writer’s lodge, Woolf wrote parts of all her major novels from Mrs Dalloway to Between the Acts, many essays and reviews, and many letters. This was where Leonard came out in July 1931 to tell her that The Waves, which he had just finished reading, was a masterpiece. This was where she struggled for months on end with The Years, trying to cut down on her smoking (from six or seven to one a morning in 1934). This was where, on Friday March 28, 1941, on a cold spring morning, she wrote a farewell letter to Leonard before walking down to the River Ouse, leaving her papers in disarray, with several revisions of her last essay on Mrs Thrale in the waste-paper basket and immense numbers of typewritten sheets lying about the room. It looks much tidier now.
- Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf (girlygirl.typepad.com)
- Madame Woolf (timescolumns.typepad.com)
- Virginia Woolf’s play exposes the silly side of the Bloomsbury group (guardian.co.uk)
- Virginia Woolf’s A Common Reader (danitorres.typepad.com)
- Virginia Woolf’s ‘To The Lighthouse’: Narrating “life or spirit, truth or reality” (centrifugalbumblepuppyblog.wordpress.com)
- Who’s afraid of virginia woolfe? (romancingtheclassics.wordpress.com)
- BBC recording of Virginia Woolf’s voice from 70 years ago (lostateminor.com)
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Tags: Dalloway, Downs, Leonard Woolf, Leslie Stephen, Mount Caburn, Mrs Dalloway, Rodmell, Virginia Woolf, Woolf, Years