Friday, August 26, 2011

A footnote to a footnote

This is obscure, even for me, but very cool.

In Mrs. Dalloway, Clarissa wonders if Hurlingham might be the cause of the traffic. Hurlingham is a polo ground outside London. The Woolf's went to see the polo there in May of 1923, when she was returning, in earnest, to drafting the novel. In a letter, Woolf writes: 

"We’ve just been to see the Polo at Hurlingham, and my wits are gone. How I wish I were the Duke of Peneranda and could play polo! And what d’you think they’re like to talk to?—the D. of Peneranda, the Marquis of Cholmondeley? Imagine their conversation” (L 3.41; 21 May 1923; to Molly MacCarthy)

But who is this Duke of Peneranda? None other than a silver medalist for polo...

Wikipedia tells me, after some labor, that "The Duke of PeƱaranda de Duero was a Gentilhombre de Camara (Gentleman of the Household) to King Alfonso XIII of Spain. At the1920 Summer Olympics he and his brother were on the Spanish polo team, winning the silver medal.[1]"

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Intensity, Mrs. Dalloway edition

I'm wrestling a file full of quotations into a book introduction. It's not pretty, but that's the project. My brain is like a jello salad that didn't quite set. I don't trust myself to blog. But I can share some great quotations with you. Like this one:
“I have had only 4 days writing at my novel [Mrs. Dalloway] since I got back. Tomorrow, I say to myself, I shall plunge into the thick of it. But how does one make people talk about everything in the whole of life, so that one’s hair stands on end, in a drawing room? How can one weight and sharpen dialogue till each sentence tears its way like a harpoon and grapples with the shingles at the bottom of the reader’s soul? (L 3.36; 13 May 1923; to Gerald Brenan)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Septimus & Leonard

Septimus (?) must be seen by some one. HIs wife? She to be founded on L? Simple, instinctive, childless.

L? L! (Virginia Woolf, The Hours (the manuscript draft of Mrs. Dalloway, ed. Helen Wussow, 416)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Gerald Brenan & Woolf, Septimus & Clarissa

An incredibly humane letter from Woolf to Gerald Brenan, a WWI veteran:
“You said you were very wretched, didn’t you?....and compared this state of yours with mine, which you imagine to be secure, rooted, benevolent, industrious—you did not say dull—but somehow unattainable, and I daresay, unreal. But you must reflect that I am 40: further every 10 years, at 10, again at 30, such agony of different sorts possessed me that not content with rambling and reading I did most emphatically attempt to end it all; and should have been often thankful, if by stepping on one flagstone rather than another I could have been annihilated where I stood.” (L 2.598; 25 December 1922; to Gerald Brenan)
Here, we see so much of Woolf's sympathy for the suffering veteran that we cannot help but see how Woolf drew on her own experiences to make Clarissa into more of a person, less of a satire.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Bad Bankers, c. 1879

From Olivia Laing's new book, To the River, about a walk up the Ouse. This passage describes Kenneth Grahame's early working life, in the Bank of England, c. 1879:
“the Bank was, by all accounts an exceedingly eccentric place…it wasn’t unusual to come across a clerk in the lavatory butchering the carcass of a sheep bought wholesale in the local market. The lavatories were also used for dogfights, which were so much a part of Bank culture that some of the rougher clerks kept fighting dogs chained in readiness at their desks” (65).

One might write a nostalgic book about rodents in canoes after such an adventure. I'm glad Wind in the Willows emerged from this nonsense. Don't get me started on the bankers of 2011...

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Draft footnote of the day: Peter the porpoise

7.21 Peter Walsh Cf. Hours notebook 3 for an anecdote about a porpoise called Peter at the Brighton aquarium (Add. MSS 51046, 130R)

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Draft footnote of the day: flying flowers

227.4 flying flowers over some tomb Persephone is gathering flowers when Hades abducts her and takes her to the underworld. Cf. the anonymous Homeric “Hymn to Demeter, c. ll. 5-19.

Thursday, August 04, 2011


From Putnam's Monthly (1907), celebrating the arrival of Rumpelmayer's in London. Gertrude Stein loved their honey cake. Hope Mirrlees invited Woolf to the Paris Rumpelmayer's in the early 1920s.

"Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.
For Lucy had her work cut out for her. The doors would be taken off their hinges; Rumpelmayer's men were coming."

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

The orchids of Burma

Ah! She could not resist recalling what Charles Darwin had said about her little book on the orchids of Burma.--Mrs. Dalloway (269-70).

For a real life botanist and amateur orchid enthusiast, read Katherine Harrington's Kew Gardens blog post about Charles Samuel Pollock Parish (1822 - 1897). He and his friend, Major Tickell, made an annual collecting trip there.