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Today would mark the 135th birthday of one of the most talented and influential writers of the 20th century, Virginia Woolf. Her Modernist works, so famous for their stream of consciousness style, delve unflinchingly into the mingled beauty and tragedy of life and remain as relevant today as when they were first published.
In honour of Virginia, we’ve brought you some of the best ways to celebrate the renowned author’s life, along with words from the author herself.
To the Lighthouse, one of Woolf’s most celebrated novels, celebrates the 90th anniversary of its publication, this year. Set during one family’s seaside cottage holiday, this beautiful, Modernist exploration of how lives are interwoven and the resonating impact of loss, framed symbolically by the promise of a trip to the nearby lighthouse, is an enduring portrayal of the human condition.
Although the book is set in Scotland’s Hebrides Islands, Virginia drew her inspiration for the novel from the childhood summers she spent at Talland House in St Ives, overlooking the golden sands of Porthminster Beach and Godrevy Lighthouse out on its craggy, island home.
‘I have been walking along the sands and sitting in the sun’, Virginia once wrote, during one of her stays. ‘I am so drugged with fresh air that I can’t write… As for the beauty of this place it surpasses every other season.’
Taking in the view that inspired her remains a part of the literary pilgrimage for die-hard Woolf fans. Whilst in St Ives, be sure to pop for some refreshment at The Badger Inn, where Virginia spent Christmas in 1909, when it is was known by its former name of the Lelant Hotel.
Want to enjoy the magic of St Ives, like Virginia? Check out our selection of St Ives cottages.
Wayne McGregor’s critically acclaimed ballet, Woolf Works, has to London’s Royal Opera House from January 21st to February 14th. The triptych piece, with music from award-winning composer, Max Richter, is inspired by three of Woolf’s novels – Mrs. Dalloway, Orlando, and To the Lighthouse.
“Her subject matter is a kind of pure research into the nature of language, personality, voice, and the question of being itself”, says Richter. “She seems constantly to ask us: ‘how can we live?’ It’s this that drew me obsessively to her writing.”
Having painstakingly composed a clear musical language for each section, Richter endowed his composition with what he describes as “an overall musical fingerprint”, to unify each novel and represent the presence of the author.
Before the performance, why not soak up some of the many spots Virginia that were haunts of Virginia and the famous Bloomsbury Group she was an integral part of? Or, delve into her works, at the British Museum’s Reading Room, which features in A Room of One’s Own: ‘[…] there one stood under the vast dome, as if one were a thought in the huge bald forehead which is so splendidly encircled by a band of famous names.’
Virginia and her husband, Leonard, moved to Monk’s House in 1919. Nestled in the peaceful Sussex countryside, she would write many of her novels here and fell utterly in love with the stunning garden that Leonard created around it, with its apple orchard and abundance of flowers. Virginia went on to live and work her until her suicide in 1943. Fittingly, her ashes are buried beneath a tree in this tranquil garden.
Now owned by the National Trust, the house remains as it was, whilst the Woolfs lived there; in fact, it seems almost as if they may have stepped out only a few moments ago and is a magical visit for fans of the author.
So, go on! Seek out your own Woolfian adventure today.
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