To The Lighthouse

On another overcast morning Aaron, tasked with improving our stepping stone escape route from the Dead End Path to the patio, fetched some spare paving from his own home and

produced this level work. He was one stone short and will bring that next week.

I first read

in 1989. About 20 years later I read it again for the Upper Dicker Book Reading Group. Today I finished it once more in order to test my response to Louise DeSalvo’s biography.

I don’t remember ever reading another novel three times.

I enjoyed the work once more, no doubt with greater understanding. Perhaps all first novels are to some extent autobiographical, and, having been enlightened to the story of this most gifted writer’s childhood and adolescence, I have to agree that Mr and Mrs Ramsay are undoubtedly based on Mrs Woolf’s own parents. As it is my custom not to reveal spoiler details of the story, I will say no more about this.

This novel is an exceptional work of art. The symbol of the trip to the Lighthouse underpins the developing dissection of a family group’s relationships evoked with remarkable insight. As always the author’s language, given her abundance of detailed description, is elegantly economical. Every adjective, every adverb, every metaphor, every simile is made to count. (She makes good use of parenthesis and would not have countenanced this last sentence). Her punctuation is flawless, and her phrasing perfect, reflecting the numerous revisions she apparently made to her well crafted works.

Gilbert Phelps’s introduction is knowledgeable and educational.

The cloth boards are embossed with a design by the artist.

I confess to having been initially ambivalent about Maryclare Foa’s colour illustrations. Although very well composed with good palettes I found the distorted figures rather ponderous. Now, however, I believe the painter has captured the isolation of the individual characters much as Virginia’s sister Vanessa Bell did in her faceless paintings. It is a policy of the Folio Society to choose an illustrator who can represent the period.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s super savoury rice; a rack of pork ribs in barbecue sauce; salt and pepper prawns; and spring rolls with which she drank Becks and I drank more of the Douro.

“Where’s Mouse?”

While watching for an opportunity to photograph the field mouse yesterday, Jackie made a few more pictures.

Seated beneath the wisteria she could see the Dragon Bed with its pelargoniums, geraniums, foxglove, and ivy; her favourite garden view; a baby blackbird, not yet having acquired fear; and a greenfinch screeching from the Weeping Birch.

She did produce another image of the mouse, the leaf on which it stands providing scale. “Where’s Mouse?”. Enlargement and the clue that appears on the gallery should aid location.

Today we were able to take it easy because the temperature had dropped by a good 10 degrees and intermittent light rain fell throughout the day.

I finished reading a posthumously published collection of stories by Virginia Wolf bearing the title “A Haunted House” (1944). My Penguin Modern Classics edition of 1973 bears a foreword by Leonard Woolf explaining that his wife had not made final revisions to some of the tales included in the slender volume.

The works offer snippets of her imaginative creative genius; her splendid descriptive skill; her flowing language lacking superfluity; and, perhaps surprisingly, her love of life. She is insightful of people and a loving observer of nature. She enjoys playing with words and their use. There is a richness of simile and metaphor. Some of the stories demand a little work from the reader and often ultimately leave us thinking.

This evening, as is customary, we dined on a second sitting of Hordle Chinese Take Away’s excellent fare. Jackie drank Becks and I drank more of the Carles.

A Central Rectangle

Louise DeSalvo’s work on Virginia Woolf which I featured recently in 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.

Seeking Acquaintance

Dr Louise DeSalvo (1942-2018) was, according to Katherine Q. Seelye’s obituary of November 11th 2018 in The New York Times ( ) ‘a Virginia Woolf scholar and memoirist’. She was Professor of English at Hunter College, New Jersey.

This afternoon I finished reading her book “Virginia Woolf: The Impact of Childhood Sexual Abuse on her Life and Work”, published by The Women’s Press in 1989. I have not read enough of Woolf’s writings to do justice to Dr DeSalvo’s interpretations, but it is clear that this author’s research is thorough and her writing well crafted. There are numerous quotations from novels, non-fiction, diaries, and letters referenced in notes at the back of this volume.

I do not dispute the facts of Ms Woolf’s childhood abuse, but I did feel that much of DeSalvo’s speculation which cannot be subjected to the examination of the deceased subject had to be based on the Doctor’s views on psychoanalysis and on her understanding of Victorian upper class practices and beliefs. In my view she has come to the conclusion that the particular Stephen dysfunctional household is typical of its class.

She has been strongly influenced by the work of Alice Miller, a Polish-Swiss psychologist who has produced much good work on parental child abuse.

It is perhaps likely that her undoubtedly emotionally deprived and abused childhood caused Virginia Woolf’s depressions and eventual suicide; and there are plenty of examples in her writings that Louise DeSalvo finds to support such an inference; but this cannot now be proved.

I have not read the memoirs of Dr DeSalvo, but the following section from the above-mentioned obituary may have a bearing on her own writing about Woolf:

‘In “Vertigo,” she tells of initially writing in her diary almost nothing of the crises swirling around her — her sister’s suicide (in 1984), her mother’s shock treatments for depression, her father’s anger at her for not being emotionally available during these traumatic events, and her own fainting spells, which she detailed in the book.’

Virginia Woolf’s creative genius transcends her traumatic life. Thanks to DeSalvo I am inspired to return to her work with new eyes.
While I was drafting this Jackie worked in the garden, taking a while to watch
a minuscule goldcrest seeking acquaintance with its reflection.
This evening I prepared a meal consisting of Jackie’s splendid pork paprika from the freezer with boiled new potatoes and tender runner beans with which the Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden and the sous chef drank Valle Central Carmeniere Reserva Privada 2019.

Memorable Fitzrovians


Today I scanned another dozen colour slides from July 2004.

The first three are of Flo getting to grips with the swing suspended from a false acacia tree in the garden at Lindum House.

The others are the next nine in the Streets of London Series.

Judd Street WC1 7.04

This wall in Judd Street WC1 is enlivened by a bright hanging basket.

Euston Road NW1 7.04

Here is another view of the juxtaposition between The British Library and the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel, this time from Euston Road NW1. The photograph also shows the effect that a lane closure can have on London traffic.

Flaxman Terrace WC1 7.04

Seven years ago two separate estate agents advertised this house in Flaxman Terrace WC1 at £2,375,000 and at £4,250,000.

The headquarters of the British Medical Association straddle Upper Woburn Place and Tavistock Square WC1. The third view is from the corner of Endsleigh Street, the End of which has been chopped off.

Gordon Square WC! 7.04

University College London occupies a number of buildings in and around Gordon Square WC1. I imagine the two young men in this picture are university students.

Charlotte Mews W1 7.04

There are three streets named Charlotte Mews in London. It wouldn’t be amusing to find yourself in either the one in W10 or in W14 if you were aiming for this one. Note that if you were driving a vehicle needing more than 11′ headroom that wouldn’t be funny either.

Goodge Place, W1 7.04

This fascinating mural in Goodge Place W1 was painted by Brian Barnes in the year 2000. The following details are taken from The website of the London Mural Preservation Society:

“Residents and workers in the Fitzrovia area are very aware of the mural off Tottenham court road – some because they walk past it every day, others because they were around when it was created. However, are those same people aware of the small mural located on the side of the Fitzrovia Neighbour Centre on Goodge place?

This painting covers the lower part of the side of the building. It was painted in 2000 by Brian Barnes. In the mural are famous people or buildings in the area. The gentleman in the red coat is Olaudah_Equiano who lived in the area during the later years of his life. He was a prominent African involved with the British movement to abolish slavery. Behind Olaudah is an image of a ship. This scene is taken from the painting by J M W Turner called The Slave Ship.

Below Olaudah is Marie Stopes who was responsible for opening the first family planning clinic. This establishment set up it’s head quarters on Whitfield Street in Fitzrovia in 1925. To the right of Stopes is Simon Bolivar, a Venezuelan political leader who helped free Latin America from the Spanish. He was sent to London in 1810 to seek protection from the British Government. Whilst in London he met with Francisco de Miranda who is portrayed to the bottom right of Bolivar. He was also a Venezuelan revolutionary who had led a previous revolt in Latin America. De Miranda settled in Fitzrovia. Both men are remembered in the area; there is Bolivar Hall which is part of The Venezuelan Embassy and a statue of De Miranda on Fitzroy Square.

Above De Miranda and next to Bolivar is the writer George Bernard Shaw who had a home in Fitzroy Street. Moving to the top of the mural is an image of the Middlesex Hospital. The first hospital was built in the mid 17th century and functioned up until quite recently. The place was closed in 2005 and most of the buildings have been pulled down; the site is still waiting to be redeveloped.

To the left of the mural at the top is Totterhall Manor, an Elizabethan building whose land is now occupied by Fitzroy Square. Below the building ia a former resident of this place, the writer Virginia Woolf. Next to her is a stalwart for the Fitzrovia Play Association, Cynthia Williams, a local resident for more than 50 years who passed away during 2000 and was commemorated in the mural. Finally below her we have some Bengali dancers. The neighborhood centre does much work with local Bengali people. Next to this picture is an image of the BT tower,completed in 1962 and at one point the tallest building in London.

This mural offers an education about just a small number of the famous people associated with the area. Sadly it’s possible that the Fitzrovia Neighbour Centre will move out of the building after 36 years of service. It will be most likely that the mural will be destroyed after that so pop down and have a look at it before it goes.”

This evening we dined on Jackie’s newly created Post House pie. This was a layered savoury concoction. Minced beef was covered by onions, peppers, and leftover vegetables, Mashed potato topped by mature cheddar cheese came next. It was most moreish. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I finished the rioja.