Blogging Woolf

I’m back to working on Woolf—the break of a month or so really feels longer than it has been because, well, the book is done. Woolf has been on my mind 24/7 for years and years and now, even as I return to her, I can go for hours at a time without the nagging buzz of "must finish Woolf manuscript" in the background. Someone described this as a Woolfish blog and that seems about right to me. It’s not a Woolf blog and it won’t be. Still, I find myself wishing for more Woolf in the blogosphere, wishing for something like the Bronte Blog for Woolf.

When I took over as the bibliographer for the International Virginia Woolf Society, I had hoped to really expand the “Passing Glances” which my predecessor Sally Greene began. (If you search around on the IVWS website, you can find the page. Click on bibliography, then click on one of the earlier years and scroll down….barely worth it, I know…) She asked readers to submit mentions of, allusions to, and debts to Woolf in contemporary culture. Instead of expanding the idea, it died on my watch. Sorry! This idea, I see now, of course, would be ideal blog fodder. Any takers?

Still, there’s been some great Woolf stuff around the blogosphere this month and it feeds my enthusiasm for the return to Woolf. I even found, amazingly, an entry on Woolf and Hakluyt (the subject of one of my chapters) by my old friend Sally! After reading To the Lighthouse, Mark Thwaite has turned to Mrs. Dalloway which he seems to have liked a lot. Ana Maria uses her knowledge of Woolf to help her through Robbe-Grillet: it’s always such a pleasure to read her thinking through her readings and this is a really mart entry about how we approach experimental writing and what it feels like to have a brain abuzz with tons of reading. And, as I mentioned before, A Curious Singularity continues to blog Woolf’s amazing short story “Kew Gardens.” There are lots of bloggers, lots of opinions over there—including a very funny entry from someone who couldn’t even bring him or herself to finish the (very short) story.

My next project will be pretty tightly focused on Mrs. Dalloway. So, as a warm-up, I’m going through David Bradshaw’s notes to the Oxford edition of Mrs. Dalloway. What have I learned? Lots. Among the tidbits, this favorite: early in the novel, Mrs. Dalloway thinks about houses she has visited, about all the parties she’s been to. She lists two famous houses and then “the house with the china cockatoo.” This refers apparently, to the “home of Angela Georgina Burdett-Coutts, Baronness Burdett-Coutts (1814-1906), an indefatigable philanthropist, friend of Charles Dickens, the Duke of Wellington, and a host of other Victorian notables…[At her London home,].a white china cockatoo ‘hung “on a level with the top of a passing omnibus” on a circular perch in the big bay window…Like the Royal Standard at Buckingham Palace, the bird’s purpose was to indicate that its owner was in residence’” (Bradshaw, quoting Diana Orton, Made of Gold).

Now, that is rich. “Like the Royal Standard.” Imagine thinking that about yourself! “What I really need is something like the Royal Standard!” And then, that degree of vanity reached, coming to the next thought, “I know, we’ll put the white china cockatoo in the bay window upstairs!”