A Central Rectangle

Louise DeSalvo’s work on Virginia Woolf which I featured recently in https://derrickjknight.com/2020/05/19/seeking-acquaintance/ prompted me to return to ‘Between The Acts’, the writer’s last novel. Dr DeSalvo had sought metaphors and other phrases in the novel which could be referring to Woolf’s childhood sexual abuse. I could see the possible reasons for the doctor’s interpretations, but, of, course they can never be proven.

Bearing in mind that the novel never received a final revision by the author, who drowned herself before this could happen, I did think that the family story of a watery death in the duckpond may have suggested her impending demise; however, the book was completed on the eve of the Second World War which looms in the shadows over the final pages.

None of this can detract from the delicious, spare, uncomplicated, language used by Mrs Woolf in her keenly observed descriptions of her characters, flora, and fauna, relationships, and village life from a much gentler age than our own. This is a sensitive and insightful writer.

The dramatis personae include the characters taking parts on stage in a local pageant, and in the assembled audience who play their parts between the acts. As usual, I will tell no more of the story.

My Folio Society edition of 1974 contains an introduction by Quentin Bell and lithographs by Gillian Barlow. It is bound in boards bearing

a design by Fiona Campbell.

Well composed, from interesting perspectives, Gillian Barlow’s illustrations have captured the essential isolation of her subjects which does perhaps reflect those of Woolf and her family.

The book by DeSalvo is illustrated with contemporary photographs which I chose not to include in my above-mentioned post. Barlow’s illustrations were so tuned into one page of photographs that I now include them here:

Was Barlow influenced by these paintings, I wonder? Or did she acquire all her inspiration from her reading of the novel?

While I was drafting this material Jackie continued gardening and produced some views.

Florence sculpture stands at Fiveways.

Here are two views of the Shady Path and another of the vista from the Wisteria Arbour.

We designed The Rose Garden with paths spanning from a central rectangle shown in the first image. This group of pictures finishes with the rickety entrance arch which is all that is left of the rubble-encrusted vegetable garden that we inherited.

This evening we dined on succulent roast chicken with sage and onion stuffing; crisp Yorkshire pudding; perfect roast parsnips; creamy mashed potato; crunchy carrots; firm cauliflower; tender cabbage; and tasty gravy. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Syrah.


Lake on fieldStream overflowing

Heavy overnight rain had left lakes on the landscape and pools on the roads. Tractor tracks disappeared into a field now occupied by waterfowl. On my walk home from  car trip to Milford on Sea, I took one look at the overflowing stream alongside the footpath leading to the nature reserve, and decided to take the Park Lane route to the clifftop. As I received a sparkling cascade thrown up by a speeding motorist, I realised I may have been slightly mistaken in this.

Councillor Matthew Goode has been helpfully engaged in a conversation on Streetlife about the replacement of the footpath that fell into the sea last summer. Local residents are concerned about the time this is taking. It seems to me it would be rather rash to replace it before proper geological studies have been undertaken. It is easy to see where the next falls could possibly occur. The dog in the photograph was perhaps conducting its own survey.

Dog on clifftop

Crow on stumpCrowsWhenever rooks or seagulls find themselves a convenient post on which to perch, they are dive-bombed by relatives wishing to supplant them, and generally take off in a hurry. So it was this morning.

Later this afternoon, I finished reading Virginia Woolf’s novel ‘Orlando’. Woolf herself termed it a biography, which was why it was less popular with booksellers than with the reading public, because the shops believed biography did not sell as well as the fictional genre. Quentin Bell, in his introduction to my copy, describes the work as a prose poem.

James Joyce, in his lengthy novel ‘Ulysses’, manages to occupy no more than twenty four hours in the life of Leopold Bloom. The shorter piece from Mrs Woolf has Orlando, born at the end of the sixteenth century, still living in 1928, changing sex from male to female at the midway point, bearing two children, and reaching the age of just thirty- six by the end of the book.

Having met in 1922, Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West’s friendship developed into a two or three year sexual relationship, perhaps culminating in this gift from Virginia to Vita, first published in 1928. The writer has found a fascinating form with which to celebrate her lover; her lover’s family, the Sackvilles; and Knole, their ancestral home. Orlando/Vita glides through three centuries of largely indulgent life in elegant surroundings described in beautifully flowing, opulent, and gloriously seductive descriptive prose. Woolf was having fun, even to the extent of calling it biography.

Vita Sackville-WestIllustrations of the adult, female, Orlando are photographs of Vita Sackville-West.

My copy purports to be no. 191 of a limited edition of 1000 of the Hogarth Press Collected Edition published in 1990. The £1 pencilled on the flyleaf suggests I bought it second-hand with no dust-jacket. Although the boards look genuine, I was surprised to find the book perfect-bound; containing several typographical errors; and a number of blank pages, not, as in Lawrence Sterne’s ‘Tristram Shandy’, deliberately left so by the author.Stamp

Two stamps, one superimposed on the other, giving an impression reminiscent of the London Underground, are in what my uneducated eye imagines to be Chinese. The only signs that the book may have been read before me were a few splashes of what I hope is coffee on the page edges; and pages 212/213 pasted in. Where has it been, and who drank the coffee?

Second-hand books do often give scope for such speculation.

Becky is, I know, not responsible for the stain, because that was in place when I lent it to her recently. She did, however, take the trouble to find the two missing pages of text on the internet and stick them into the blanks. Other empty pages should be part of the appendices.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s juicy chilli con carne and my plain boiled rice, followed by Pearl’s delicious Dutch Apple Cake with a.n. other’s cream. I started on an excellent bottle of Arene des Anges Costieres de Nimes 2013 given to us for Christmas by Helen and Bill.