Friday, March 17, 2006

A key to a room of your own and a mind without end*

Shall I say "nothing happened today" as we used to do in our diaries when they were beginning to die? It wouldn't be true. The day is rather like a leafless tree: there are all sorts of colours in it, if you look closely. But the outline is bare enough.

I've started reading The Diary of Virginia Woolf, and I've started at the beginning. My Aged Poet friend is reading them too, but she started with Volume 4. We're both motivated by Leonard and his press; AP had a dear husband who made wonderful books with his press at one end of the house, printing while she wrote poems at the other end of the house, so she probably relates more to the Woolfs than I do. I have a dear husband who watches The League of Gentlemen on DVD while I plan my printing; but he's a lot more literate than any other of my lovers, so I guess I'm heading in the right direction.

AP hasn't found much about the printing side of Hogarth; I, however, was thrilled to read VW's brief mention of herself and Leonard sitting at tea on the 25th of January 1915:
we decided three things: in the first place to take Hogarth, if we can get it; in the second, to buy a printing press; in the third to buy a Bull dog, probably called John. I am very much excited at the idea of all three -- particularly the press.

(Cor, imagination the size of a planet and she wants to call the dog John.) I love the thought of them sitting and making those plans, both grand and mundane. Then life intervenes with another bout of VW's madness, and the press is put on hold for a few years.

Those life interventions are hard to reconcile. I remember a teacher at art school taking me down to the library when I was pregnant and depressed about being sidetracked yet again, and showing me a stack of catalogues on famous artists. She opened each one to the biography section, and made me read down the list. She pointed out the gaps between exhibitions, between major achievements. "See those?" she said, "They're called LIFE. Nothing happens as you plan it. Just stay as focussed as you can." Well, it's taken about 9 years, but I reckon I'm back on track.

The Hogarth Press plans were made, as I said, in January 1915. They didn't buy the press until Spring 1917. It must have been very frustrating for Leonard. In those two years it wasn't certain whether Virginia would recover, let alone write again. And if she didn't recover, he would have had a hard time starting a press. Of course, she did, and he did, and while you can't say there was a happy ending, at least they both got a lot done.

I love and loathe Virginia herself. She's a strange mix of genius and utter prat. It's mesmerising. So I'm slogging through Volume one (1915–19) Only four more volumes to go! Only 7 days until the next Lifeline Book Fair -- I'm hoping to pick up some more Diary volumes there. Among other things. Heh.

P.S. Re. the phone-camera shot a few posts down -- I was emailed this link today. Check out the nice phone camera nature shots! Steev, take note!

* Indigo girls, of course.

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