Sunday, July 27, 2014

Julia Prinsep Stephen (née Jackson; formerly Mrs Duckworth) (7 February 1846- May 5th, 1895)

 Julia Prinsep Stephen (née Jackson; formerly Mrs Duckworth) by Julia Margaret Cameron
albumen print, 1867, NPG

'Pity has no creed. We are bound to these sufferers by the tie of sisterhood and while life lasts we will help, soothe, and, if we can, love them.' Women are not all blind followers of men. They have power to think as well, and they will not weaken their power of helping and loving by fearlessly owning their ignorance when they should be convinced of it. Women should not reject religion merely because they desire to please men. Man and woman have equal rights but with different areas of influence. Women do not stand on the same ground as men with regard to work, though we are far from allowing that our work is lower or less important than theirs, but we ought and do claim the same equality of morals.'  Agnostic Women, Julia Duckworth Stephen: Stories for Children, Essays for Adults, pg. 243 and Virginia Woolf: A Writer's Life by Gordon Lyndall, pg. 20

When Aunt Julia Cameron (1815-1879) took an albumen print of her ‘favorite niece', Mrs. Herbert Duckworth, the year was 1867 and Mrs. Duckworth was newly married less than a year. She was born Julia Jackson and her image would go down in the annals of history as one of the great beauties but little is known of this mysterious woman. An image captured in a moment by a family member would launch infinite mystery and curiosity.  
Julia Prinsep Stephen (née Jackson; formerly Mrs Duckworth); Mia Jackson
by The London Photographic Company
albumen print, circa 1867, NPG

She was born Julia Prinsep Jackson on 7 February 1846 at Calcutta, India. She was the daughter of Dr. John Jackson and Maria Theodosia Pattle, the youngest sister of Julia Margaret Cameron. The Prinsep name enters the frame when another aunt Sarah Pattle married Henry Thoby Prinsep (1792-1878). She became cousin to their son Valentine Cameron Prinsep. Julia and her mother known as ‘Mia’ stayed with Sarah and Thoby Prinsep beginning in 1848 until Dr. Jackson returned to England in 1855.  The matriarch of the family moved them into Brent Lodge, Hendon, while Julia was educated at home becoming her mother’s nurse and companion. The Jackson’s lived at Brent Lodge for ten years and the story goes that a young, twenty-one year old beauty, Julia Jackson paid a visit to her cousins at Little Holland House where she met a thirty-four year old barrister named Herbert Duckworth. She later admitted part of her attraction to him was his straightforwardness with her. He stood out among the other men who ‘attempted’ to court her; namely, sculptor Thomas Woolner and painter Holman-Hunt! 
Julia Duckworth with her husband Herbert Duckworth by Oscar Rejlander, 1867/70
albumen print, Mortimer Rare Book Room, Smith College, Leslie Stephen's Photograph Album, plate 33a

 Mr. and Mrs. Duckworth were married for three years. They were devoted to each other, rarely apart, ‘the greatest happiness that can fall to the lot of a woman’ until in September 1870, while Herbert was attempting to pick a ripe fig from a tree branch, an undiagnosed internal abscess burst and he died. Julia Duckworth lay grieving for hours on her husband’s grave at Orchardleigh. She gave birth to their son, Gerald Duckworth six weeks later at the tender age of twenty-four. She went from being restrained and undemonstrative to no longer being, ‘inclined to optimism’ taking on a ‘melancholy view of life’. She would describe her loss in one simple word:  ‘shipwreck’.  She elaborated only saying, ‘The world was clothed in drab shrouded in a crape-veil’.

Nurse with Gerald Duckworth, c. 1871
Reproduction of plate 34i from Leslie Stephen’s Photograph Album
Original: albumen print. Mortimer Rare Book Room, Smith College

The fact that Julia was a young mother would help sustain her and keep her going. She drew inner strength from her maternal instincts and the love of her baby. Herbert’s resulting loss would leave Julia with a life-long understanding and need to help those suffering any pain, illness, and loss of any kind. She adapted a stoicism that only those in her inner circle would observe and comment on. She rejected Christianity and began reading articles by a man named Leslie Stephen about agnosticism which brought her much comfort. Leslie was married to Minny Thackeray, the daughter of novelist William Makepeace Thackeray during this time. Julia developed a strong lifelong friendship with Minny’s sister Anny Thackeray. 
 Harriet Marian (“Minny”) Thackeray Stephen (1840-1875) and Leslie Stephen (1832-1904) are seen here standing outdoors, probably on their wedding trip to Switzerland in 1867. Reproduction of plate 35d from Leslie Stephen’s Photograph Album.
Original: albumen print,  Mortimer Rare Book Room, Smith College

 According to Leslie's letters, it was Julia’s remote and reserved approach that he first noticed about her. She met his practical and emotional needs.  Caring for Leslie fulfilled her nursing vocation as well as a need for safety, companionship and appreciation that she craved and missed.  He later described a winter’s evening when he and Minny were sitting at home ‘in perfect happiness’. Julia looked in and found them ‘so happy together that she thought the presence of a desolate widow incongruous, and left us to return to her own solitary hearth’.  It should not be surprising that Julia was visiting The Stephen Family since she was a friend of The Thackeray’s going back to her days at Little Holland House. It was Julia who helped Anny keep her manuscripts in order and did copying work for her. Julia said of Anny, ‘she helped me into some sort of shelter and made things more real to me again’ when her husband Herbert Duckworth died. Sadly, it was that night after Julia’s visit that Minny went into severe convulsions and suffered what we today would call eclampsia. She died on November 28, 1875. Julia went to Brighton with Leslie and Anny shortly after Minny’s death. 

Leslie, Anny and Laura moved from 8 Southwell Gardens to 11 Hyde Park Gate South, in June 1876 when Leslie inherited it from Minny. Julia helped her new neighbors settle in. She had just moved from 90 Redcliffe Gardens into 13 Hyde Park Gate. It was during this period that Leslie Stephen would refer to Julia Duckworth as his ‘saving angel’. He was in danger of becoming depressed and a recluse. Julia saw the writing on the wall and recognized the signs of grief. She spent all of her free time making herself available to Leslie’s every need. Their children played together and one year later, on July 5, 1877, Leslie knew he was falling in love with Julia. He had papers drawn up naming Julia household accountant of sorts even giving her guardianship of his only daughter with Minny named Laura Makepeace Stephen (1870–1945) who was born three months premature and suffered from mental retardation according to Leslie's letters.  

Leslie and Julia Stephen in Grindelwald, Switzerland, 1889
by Gabriel Loppé (1825-1913)
Reproduction of plate 39e from Leslie Stephen’s Photograph Album
Original: albumen print (17.0 x 12.3 cm.)
Mortimer Rare Book Room, Smith College

On March 26, 1878 Leslie and Julia were married. Even though, Laura was looked after by governesses in a separate part of the house Julia had her committed to the Earlswood Asylum for the Imbecile and Weak-Minded. Laura’s family rarely visited her.  

Even with periods of difficulty in their marriage, Leslie’s letters reveal a harmonious domestic life surrounded by the joy and happiness his children brought him. It was during their marriage that Leslie became founding editor of Dictionary of National Biography (1885).  He was a very well known editor, critic, and biographer by this time. Together they had four children:  Vanessa Stephen (1879), Thoby Stephen (1880), Virginia (1882), and Adrian Stephen (1883).  Vanessa Stephen became Vanessa Bell an English painter, interior designer, member of The Bloomsbury Group. The most well-known of the siblings was Virginia Stephen who became Virginia Woolf. Thoby became known for starting The Bloomsbury Group and his brother Adrian became an author, psychoanalyst and member of The Bloomsbury Group. 
Julia Stephen at the Bear, Grindelwald, Switzerland, 1889
by Gabriel Loppé (1825-1913)
Reproduction of plate 39c from
Leslie Stephen’s Photograph Album
Original: silver print 
 Mortimer Rare Book Room, Smith College

During their marriage, The Stephen Family lived at 22 Hyde Park which had been Julia’s house before she shared it with Leslie. The children complained about the cold, calling it ‘a regular mausoleum’. It was set in a narrow, gloomy cul-de-sac, across the street from Kensignton Gardens. It was a five-story house with two extra levels and a rear extension that was added in the autumn of 1879. According to their daughter Virginia, ‘her mother sketched the plans of the house to save on architect’s fees’. The top of the house was where Leslie’s large study, library, night and day nurseries for their four children could be found. Vanessa remembers coal fires warmed the nurseries making the house, ‘very snug, if stuffy’ with ‘a very unhealthy atmosphere’. Windows were never opened. On the first floor three bedrooms were reserved for the Duckworth children as well as the marital bedroom and another nursery. The servants used the basement as their own space and the kitchen was looked after by the cook, Sophie Ferrell. On the ground floor you would find the dining room and large double room opening from, ‘a cheerful little room, almost entirely made of glass with a skylight, windows all along one side looking on to the back garden.’ A total of sixteen people lived here and all daily arrangements were supervised by Julia Stephen. 

When a lamp flares up in the nursery; Ellen, the housemaid, is called, then Annie, the parlor maid, then Adrian, ‘summoned his mater and Thoby’. Julia successfully deals with every situation showing examples of her energy and enthusiasm. She rises at 6 and ‘defied the burst pipes alone’. She is the kind of person who ‘sees gold under a covering of copper.’  Although, Julia is ‘an ardent lover of rats’ she wants a dog to rid her of the creatures that destroy her provisions; she adores birds and scatters crumbs to ‘entice the feathered favorites’. 

According to Hyde Park Gate News, ‘there are trips to glass blowing, a ventriloquist, the pantomime, Kensington Park, the Zoo, birthday parties, plays, musicals, Gondola rides, skating, and an ice carnival in Regents Park.’  

 Talland House, c.1882-1894
Reproduction of plate 37c from Leslie Stephen’s Photograph Album
Original: silver print (10.3 x 14.7 cm.)
Presented by Quentin and Anne Olivier Bell.
Mortimer Rare Book Room, Smith College

Some of the happiest times were spent in Cornwall, St. Ives, at Talland House a retreat from the city. This is where the family spent summers from 1882 to 1894, with visits from friends and relatives. In contrast to the Hyde Park townhouse, Talland House is full of light and warmth. Virginia looked back at her years here as, ‘days of pure enjoyment’. As children they ate cherries, cream, bread and jam, grapes, peaches, strawberry ices, cake and chocolates and remember the food most of all later in life. The garden was divided into separate sections by thick sweet-smelling escallonia. Virginia explained how every small room had its own function: the coffee garden, the cricket lawn, the Love Corner—covered in purple jackmanii, the Fountain, the kitchen garden, the strawberry beds, the pond, the Lookout place. 

They played endless games and activities: Up Jenkins, cricket, rounders, croquet, football, cat and mouse, hide and seek, Tom Tiddler’s ground, charades, etc.,  A neighbor at St. Ives, described Julia’s children as, ‘tall and fair, never mixing with other children, almost like Gods and Goddesses.’ 

Julia Stephen was always there to support her family and friends. She nursed the sick and dying, travelled round London by bus visiting hospitals and workhouses and she was never afraid to speak out ‘on behalf of workhouse inmates whose half-pint beer allocation had been removed by temperance campaigners’. Pall Mall Gazette, 4 October 1879. In 1883, she published her book, Notes from Sick Rooms, a discussion of good nursing practice, which demonstrated attention to detail and to language.

Although these stories date back to 1885,‘Julia Duckworth Stephens Stories for Children, Essays for Adults’ was published in 1987. These consisted of stories she told her very own children. They were stories that promoted the values of family life including kindness to animals. For instance, with titles such as, ‘Cat’s Meat’, ‘The Monkey on the Moor’, ‘The Black Cat or the Grey Parrot’ as well as many more. 

On May 5th, 1895, Julia Stephen died at the age of 49. Virginia Woolf’s memories of her mother would remain permanently tangible; keeping her memory alive always, ‘She wore a white dressing gown and next to her were great starry purple passion flowers, the buds part empty, part full. She wore three rings diamond, emerald, and opal with silver bracelets that twisted and jingled as she lay sleepless. Their sound meant that she would be coming to sooth her restless daughter telling her of rainbows and bells. She remembered how her mother held her very straight’. Julia’s final words to her thirteen year old daughter as she crept out of the door were, ‘Hold yourself straight, my little Goat’.  
Julia Stephen, 1894
 Reproduction of plate 38k from
Leslie Stephen’s Photograph Album
Original: silver print (7.0 x 5.4 cm.)
Mortimer Rare Book Room, Smith College

 I couldn't resist adding this photograph of Julia's mother 
Maria Jackson (nee Pattle) (1818-1892)

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Upcoming Read: Poor Splendid Wings: The Rossettis and Their Circle by Frances Winwar

I was not seeking it out but it found me. I have always had a passion for Pre-Raphaelite art and the artists of the Brotherhood.  When I came across this fascinating award-winning book, I almost fell off my chair!  I quickly searched online and found  an affordable copy that will hopefully arrive soon. I can't wait to read it, see how accurate or inaccurate it is and share it with all of you!

If anyone has read it, please contact me at and tell me your thoughts, or just leave a comment below and I will share it here.

 Poor Splendid Wings: The Rossettis and Their Circle by Frances Winwar won a $5,000 prize by the Atlantic Monthly and LItttle Brown and Company 'for the most interesting unpublished work (not fiction)'.   It is a biographical narrative including The Rossetti's influence on fellow artists such as, Millais, Ruskin, Swinburne, Holman-Hunt, and William Morris.
  •   Hardcover: 413 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (1933)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000855BEM
  Author Biography

Frances Winwar was born Francesca Vinciguerra born on May 3, 1900 in Taormina, Sicily, Italy. She was an Italian-American biographer, translator, and fiction writer. The daughter of a singer in Italy, her family came to the United States in 1907 when she was seven years old. She grew up in New York City, attending Hunter College and Columbia University.

By the age of 18, she spoke three languages: English, Italian, and French. She never finished her studies. In 1918, at the age of 18, she published her first piece of poetry in a then radical socialist magazine, The Masses.

In 1923, she published a literary essay on Giovanni Verga in Freeman that was noticed by many periodicals; during that year the New York World hired her as a staff book reviewer, and she became  a contributor to the New York Times, the New Republic, and the Saturday Review of Literature.

She wrote her first book, The Ardent Flame, in 1927, based on the story of thirteenth-century lovers Paolo and Francesca. The following year she published Golden Round, set in the same period, and in 1929 she published Pagan Interval, a romantic fantasy.

Her publisher asked her to change her name because it was too long so she changed it to Winwar, a literal translation of Vinciguerra.
Frances then wrote a series of biographies: Poor Splendid Wings: The Rossettis and Their Circle (1933); The Romantic Rebels, about John Keats, Percy Shelley, and Lord Byron;  Farewell the Banner (1938) on Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Wordsworth, and Wordsworth's sister; American Giant: Walt Whitman and His Times (1941), and Oscar Wilde and the Yellow 'Nineties. In The Life of the Heart (1945), on the life of George Sand, she wrote about Frédéric Chopin, Gustave Flaubert, and Louis Napoléon, and the book became the most successful of all her works. The Saint and the Devil; The Story of Joan of Arc and Gilles deRais (1948); The Land and People of Italy (1951); Napoleon and the Battle of Waterloo (1953), Queen Elizabeth and the Spanish Armada (1954) and Haunted Palace (1959), about Edgar Allan Poe; and Jean-Jacques Rousseau Conscience of an Era (1961) followed.

Frances was a terrific translator: she translated two cantos of Dante's Divine Comedy; Charles Baudelaire’s poems; and the most acclaimed, Boccaccio's Decameron. She loved music, so she also translated Verdi's Simon Boccanegra; Rossini's Il signor Bruschino;and Verdi's Don Carlo.
She was an outspoken opponent of Italian Fascism, the only Italian American besides Pietro di Donato to speak at the Second American Writers Congress in 1937, where her paper "Literature under Fascism" vehemently condemned Fascist repression and its effects on literature in the country of her birth, asserting that "The dark Seicento [i.e., the seventeenth century, a time of decline and unrest] has come again over intellectual Italy" (Canistraro and Meyers, p. 269, American National Biography).

In 1923, with a group of visual artists, she founded the Leonardo da Vinci Art School in Manhattan where free or very inexpensive art classes were offered to less fortunate students. In 1949, she wrote Ruotolo: A Man and Artist, dedicated to the school’s director, sculptor and poet Onorio Ruotolo.

Frances had a very tumultuous romantic life: she married writer Victor J. Jerome in the twenties; after a divorce, in 1925, she married Bernard D. N. Grebanier, a professor of English literature at Brooklyn College. After a new divorce, in 1943 she married mystery writer Richard Wilson Webb. After him, she married Dr. Francis Lazenby, a scholar from the University of Notre Dame.

She died on July 24, 1985, at her home in New York City.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Gordian Knot by Kevin Marsh Author Interview!

Congratulations to author, Kevin Marsh on the publication of The Gordian Knot. It is the second book in his series. The first was The Belgae Torc which I really enjoyed.  The Gordian Knot is out now available for purchase on Amazon. I will post links to both Amazon sites and his website at the end of the interview.

I have to say I have read his first two books, The Belgae Torc and The Witness and loved his writing style, his passion for history and research. His writing is excellent.   I hope you all enjoy our author interview about his latest novel, The Gordian Knot out now in paperback!

Twelve months has passed since the traumatic events that almost claimed her life and Dr Orlagh Gairne is looking forward to a well-earned holiday. With her partner, Jerry, they jet off for the Aegean coast where they plan to make the most of the Mediterranean sun and visit the ancient sites of Anatolia. The Phoenix Legion, still reeling from a humiliating defeat, have re-grouped and are now planning the next phase of their quest. They are in possession of the Belgae Torc, but this is not enough to ensure total power so they must rely on the druids and their connection with the spirit world. Whilst searching for treasure in the Sea of Azov, Jack Harrington and his team make an unexpected discovery and with the past merging with the present are unable to avoid being drawn in to another deadly battle. The Belgae Torc, Jack Harrington and The Phoenix Legion are far from her thoughts, but as Orlagh enjoys her holiday with the man she loves, these forces come together. Will she manage to avoid another conflict or will she become a victim of circumstances that are beyond her control? "People had died because of the Belgae Torc and somehow she felt responsible." From the author of The Belgae Torc.

  • Paperback: 314 pages
  • Publisher: Paragon Publishing (July 12, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1782222650
  • ISBN-13: 978-1782222651

1)      The Gordian Knot is the second book to follow-up The Belgae Torc. Tell us a bit about what the title refers to and if any characters from The Belgae Torc are in this one, too?
 The Gordian knot is a legend of Phrygian Gordian associated with Alexander the Great and is often used as a metaphor for an intractable problem.

I thought this an appropriate title because of the challenges facing my characters.  The mystery and power surrounding the Belgae Torc has an effect on them all and this forms the basis of The Torc Trilogy.

As the plot is linked with both Germanic Paganism and Celtic mythology, I chose the Triquetra,a three cornered shape and symbol used by both Christians and Polytheists, as a foundation for some of the druidic rituals in the story.  It is also an appropriate image for the cover of the book.

This particular design is influenced by an illustration in the Lindisfarne Gospels and although it’s a Celtic or ‘trinity knot’, I think it symbolises the metaphor perfectly.  The colour green and the Celtic element is for Orlagh and her Irish roots.

Every aspect of my novel is influenced by this magical design, and the title; The Gordian knot, leads nicely into the final part of The Torc Trilogy, but that is of course, another story.

  2)      What inspired you to write The Gordian Knot and was it a natural progression from The Belgae Torc?
 1.       My inspiration to write The Gordian Knot came from a discussion with my publisher.  The Belgae Torc was always going to be a standalone novel, but it seemed such a shame not to develop my characters Orlagh Gairne, Jack Harrington and Jerry Knowles, just to mention a few further.  The idea was to start with the love aspect between Orlagh and Jerry. This began in the first book but as this one is set twelve months later it seemed natural that they should have grown closer.   I couldn’t resist starting the book however, with high drama, so that is what I have done. The Gordian Knot is a natural progression from The Belgae Torc with all the elements in place.  The protagonists are the same as before, but I’m not going to say too much. 

3)      Are you a visual person when you write? Do your characters speak to you, can you see the scene before you as you write it out or do the words just flow?  Describe your writing process?
 1.       I am a very visual writer, the scenes are running through my head like a fast forward film and it’s sometimes very difficult to keep up with my pen.  My characters talk to me constantly; I can hear their voices inside my head and if I’m not careful I answer them back.  Maria, my wife thinks I’m mad talking to myself!  It’s then I have to grab a pen and write down whole sections of conversation.

I will have an idea, a direction in which I want to plot to go, then something will happen unexpectedly and my characters find themselves in an unexpected situation.  It’s then I have to do more research in order to understand what is happening , learn about what is going on and use it to help them out of a fix.  For example, I have not been to some of the places described in the plot, so I have to use the internet and books to find out, learn as much as I can so that I am able to write convincingly about the scenes.  I have never flown a helicopter or dived on a wreck, but I now know enough to be able to convince my readers that I’m an expert.  Once I have enough notes and ideas, the words flow and the scenes play out in my mind.  I write in a chronological order, and don’t jump from chapter to chapter, although I sometimes have to write notes to cover ideas of what might happen in a few chapters time.

I always write my first and second draft by hand, I have a rough book in which I write, then I copy that into a second book, expanding or scrubbing out lines as I see fit.  That gives me an opportunity to read/write what I have done the previous evening and get my thoughts back on track.  Typing and changes come next and when the manuscript is complete I bring out the red pen.  I will do a major edit and re-type, then further editing until there is little red pen left to correct.  Then it’s time for Maria to read and criticise.  Once that is done the proofreaders have their say.  More typing as I take on board their corrections and critique then the manuscript is ready for the publisher.

4)      What are you working on next? 
 1.        I am now planning the next book in the series.  I have started my research and I know where the plot is going, or at least how it begins.  All the elements are in place but that is not to say things won’t change when the characters have their say.  I have the title for the final book in this series and I know what is going to happen, some of the middle bits remain a little sketchy, but as I said; once the characters get going…

I am having loads of ideas for other books too; there are notebooks aplenty in my study with plots emerging and dialogue forming.    The Cellist is the second book in the series that began with The Witness, and the characters in that book are beginning to shout, they want their story to be heard, but I have to complete The Torc Trilogy first.

5)      Any advice for writers out there?
1.       My advice to writers out there is to write about what you know and what you are interested in.  Form strong characters that will help you to turn out good novels.  Make sure of your facts, research very carefully until you are confident with the facts.  Don’t be afraid to use that red pen when you edit, it is your sword, your strength so be brave or even ruthless with it.  Nothing is good enough, but there will come a time when you have to stop and cannot change any more.  I also paint, my pictures like my books are never finished to my liking, there is always something I want to change.  Do not be tempted to change things once the proofreaders have done their job.  I did once to my peril and it was a very hard lesson to learn.  Above all you must enjoy your writing and give it your best shot.  The job does not end when the novel is finished, but marketing is another story!

To purchase The Gordian Knot in the U.S.,  Amazon

To purchase The Gordian Knot in the U.K.,  Amazon

For more information about the author, visit his website,  Kevin Marsh

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Thomas Hardy: The World of His Novels by J. B. Bullen

Thomas Hardy’s Wessex is one of the great literary evocations of place, populated with colourful and dramatic characters. As lovers of his novels and poetry know, this ‘partly real, partly dream-country’ was firmly rooted in the Dorset into which he had been born.

J. B. Bullen explores the relationship between reality and the dream, identifying the places and the settings for Hardy’s writing, and showing how and why he shaped them to serve the needs of his characters and plots. The locations may be natural or man-made, but they are rarely fantastic or imaginary. A few have been destroyed and some moved from their original site, but all of them actually existed, and we can still trace most of them on the ground today.

  • Thomas Hardy, The World of His Novels
  • London. Frances Lincoln. 2013.
  • 256 pages
  • ISBN 978 0 7112 3275 4


Ever since I was assigned Tess of the d'Urbervilles to read when I was in high school over twenty years ago, I have always wanted to learn about Thomas Hardy's life and inspirations behind his writing.  Well, The World of His Novels by J.B. Bullen may help readers and Hardy fans discover more about his fictitious world of Wessex where his novels took place. Instead, I was hoping Bullen would integrate more personal details of Hardy's life growing up in the hamlet of Stinsford east of Dorchester, in Dorset, England. I find it difficult to properly review simply because I gain more knowledge from researching my own aspects of a writer's life. However, Bullen has taken painstaking levels of effort into providing readers with an abundant amount of geographical, and agricultural background into all six of Thomas Hardy's novels:  Far from the Madding Crowd, The Return of the Native, The Mayor of Casterbridge,  The Woodlanders, Tess of the d'Urbervilles, and Jude the Obscure.   

Bullen cleverly supports each geographical modification with excerpts of Hardy's writings, as well as descriptions of philosophical works. Bullen includes beautiful color landscape paintings of Hardy's Dorset and Wessex throughout The World of His Novels. There are only two photographs of Thomas Hardy. There are no photographs of his family members or wives because they are not included in this novel. It is mainly a discussion of Hardy's novels broken into sections and analyzed using landscape theory and philosophy. No aspect of Hardy's life is mentioned as being inspirational to his writing; it is purely event based. However, we know Hardy was definitely inspired by his neighbors, friends, colleagues, etc.  So, if you are looking for a strictly non-humanized look at Hardy's work then Thomas Hardy The World of His Novels is for you!   I enjoyed it but was hoping for a different aspect of Hardy's works.  There are so many fascinating aspects of his life that he developed into his works it would have been wonderful to read it here as well. For instance, The Hardy Players a theatrical group of people who put on plays of Hardy's works during his lifetime in and throughout England.  Also, the two women who 'supposedly' inspired his writing Tess of the d'Urbervilles aren't even mentioned here because the focus is on the land and region. 

I will be reading and reviewing another work of J.B. Bullen's next, Rossetti Painter and Poet. Let's hope it is more than a geographical retrospective.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Virginia Woolf's Garden: The Story of the Garden at Monk's House by Caroline Zoob

Monk’s House in Sussex is the former home of Leonard and Virginia Woolf. It was bought by them in 1919 as a country retreat, somewhere they came to read, write and work in the garden. From the overgrown land behind the house they created a brilliant patchwork of garden rooms, linked by brick paths, secluded behind flint walls and yew hedges. The story of this magical garden is the subject of this book and the author has selected quotations from the writings of the Woolfs which reveal how important a role the garden played in their lives, as a source of both pleasure and inspiration. Virginia wrote most of her major novels at Monk’s House, at first in a converted tool shed, and later in her purpose-built wooden writing lodge tucked into a corner of the orchard. 

Caroline Zoob lived with her husband, Jonathan, at Monk’s House for over a decade as tenants of the National Trust, and has an intimate knowledge of the garden they tended and planted. The photographer, Caroline Arber, was a frequent visitor to the house during their tenancy and her spectacular photographs, published here for the first time, often reveal the garden as it is never seen by the public: at dawn, in the depths of winter, at dusk. The photographs and text, enriched with rare archive images and embroidered garden plans, take the reader on a journey through the various garden ‘rooms’, (including the Italian Garden, the Fishpond Garden, the Millstone Terrace and the Walled Garden). Each garden room is presented in the context of the lives of the Woolfs, with fascinating glimpses into their daily routines at Rodmell. Included is a very moving forward by Cecil Woolf, nephew of Leonard and Virginia Woolf.
  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Jacqui Small LLP (17 Oct 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1909342130
  • ISBN-13: 978-1909342132

never has the garden been so lovely dazzling one's eyes with reds & pinks & purples and mauves~Virginia Woolf

Within these pages you will find beautiful family photographs of Leonard and Virginia Woolf during their years together since the beginning when they bought Monk's House at auction in 1919, through Virginia's death, over the years into Leonard's life after Virginia until his death in 1969.  Author, Caroline Zoob writes with clarity and passion about The Woolfs life in their home and gardens. Every section of the garden and grounds is written about from the perspective of The Woolfs, as well as, today's visitors and fans of Virginia Woolf. It is a fascinating account of the beauty a garden can bring. Readers will feel closer to The Woolfs as people who loved their home and lived life together as more of a regular married couple than you would think. I loved reading excerpts from Virginia Woolfs diary as well as Leonard's writings which helped bring a better understanding of who they were together and separately beyond their fame and notoriety.

Virginia and Leonard Woolf in their orchard

Leonard is making a new flower bed, pulling down an out house, and building an earth closet. He particularly wants to know where he can buy old paving stones to make a path. Could you tell us? A place near here, if possible; because this garden too is being renovated. There's no end to his activities ~ Virginia Woolf talking to Ralph Partridge in November 1921

Caroline Zoob covers the years at Monk House and the garden seasonally, embracing its changes through Virginia's love of cooking meals for her husband and friends as well as entertaining and writing in the writing lodge at the back of one of the sections in their garden still preserved and kept in tact as it was when they both lived there. Monk House has become a haven for fans of Virginia Woolf but Caroline Zoob's book, brings to life how the gardens helped bring The Woolfs closer together.  As a reader, you learn more about Leonard Woolf as a man who loved to be in his garden planting not only food but adding a pond to the garden which Virginia was not too keen on to begin with. She loved and sometimes hated the garden because although it made her husband happy, it also took up much of his time away from her. Their marriage may be 'odd' nowadays but it worked for them. She focused on her writing, publishing and dealing with earning more money than he did as her success grew. They faced so many challenges together i.e. her admitted affair with friend Vita Sackville-West. Monk House and the gardens out back kept them together and happy I believe for most of their marriage. I never would have come to that conclusion had I not read, Virginia Woolf's Garden.  

Our garden is a perfect variegated chintz asters, plumasters, zinnias, geums, nasturtiums all bright, stiff, upstanding, cut from brightly coloured paper as flowers should be ~ Virginia Woolf

Then came the postman on this very English summer day, just the right kind of soft delicious heat and the thrushes and the blackbirds eating my apples lazily on the path - for I gathered three bushels of July pippins yesterday from an ancient apple tree~ Leonard Woolf

A book review of The Ghost Ship by Kate Mosse

New York Times  bestselling author Kate Mosse returns with  The Ghost Ship , a sweeping historical epic of adventure on the high seas. The B...