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Virginia Woolf and December 1910 : studies in rhetoric and context


Illuminati Books


Makiko Minow-Pinkney


Grosmont, Wales

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On 27 December 1910, Virginia Stephen ate some hearts at Saxon Sydney-Turner's house in Brighton. Her account of the visit is both intense and dismissive. For a few hours, she glimpsed the contours and colours of lives that were profoundly different from her own. And then she went home. But fourteen years later, she remembered Mrs Turner and her own younger self when she sat down to describe what it means to be a writer. In this essay I ask: when in 1924 Virginia Woolf wrote the famous words that are the seed of this volume, what memories was she reviving? Who was she in December 1910? Why did she pick December, rather than the more obvious May (when George V ascended the throne), or November, when the first Post-Impressionist exhibition opened at the Grafton Galleries. There are only a few published surviving papers from December 19 10 - no diary, just a handful of letters; but if we read those letters carefully we see the young Virginia Stephen - not yet 30 years old - staging her own exclusions f ro m life through a series of witty and poignant vignettes, and transforming herself into a writer, one of those curious people who observe the lives of others and make them their own by writing them down. Virginia Stephen in December 1910 was struggling to re-create her self, a self that had been dissolved by depression for most of the previous year, and her letters from that month show her transforming the pain of feeling left out into a triumph. It was during that month that she started to imagine what it actually meant to be a writer, crafting imaginary, evanescent worlds from which, after the first wild moment of creation, she would forever be excluded.



The remains of several hearts