I spare you the twists and turns of my cogitations, for no conclusion was found on the road to Headingly, and I ask you to suppose that I soon found out my mistake about the turning and retraced my steps to Fernham.
--Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own (1929)
Now that my edition of Mrs. Dalloway is out, I’m trying to move on to next things. Part of that means moving all my notes out of my study and into the attic. Although these notes have now been superseded by the book, I can’t quite bear to throw them away yet. Some day. Soon.
Here is the pile of, from the top down:
- A photocopy of the first English edition of Mrs. Dalloway, with each page folded in half.
- Photocopies of the textual apparati from the prior textual editions of the novel.
- A box from Staples with a photocopy of the proofs with my corrections
- The spiral binder I bought on Charlotte Street, London, in 2005 and in which I made my first pass at writing the textual apparatus
- A photocopy of the first American edition of the novel
- A photocopy of the first English edition in a manila folder marked “XEROX of 1E don’t mark”
- Printout of final comments and corrections from the series editors
- Printout of the XML proofs with my comments
- Printout of my final submission (as a word document, not including the novel)
- A survey of creative writing students (some things get misfiled)
- An MA thesis on crime fiction that one of my mom’s friends thought I’d like to read (also misfiled)
- Printout from the British Library catalogue of manuscript material relevant to Mrs. Dalloway (1 page)
- A printout of an email to myself from 2011 listing footnotes I need to research and write
- Printout of Jerome McGann, “What is Critical Editing”
- A blank marketing questionnaire from Cambridge
- A long memo from the series editors, dated February 2012, on preparing the edition, to supersede earlier versions of this memo
- Brenda Silver, “Textual Criticism as Feminist Practice”
- Edward Bishop, “The Alfa and the Avant-texte”
- A manila folder with a few handwritten notes from the folks at the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain
- Two pages of handwritten notes from October 2010 on The Metropolitan Traffic Manual
- A manila folder with the 2007 version of the memo on preparing the edition
- A cover letter for the inclusion of the photocopy of the first edition of Mrs. Dalloway, confirming my right to use it as copytext for the edition
- Two handwritten, small format hot-pink pages, ripped from a spiral bound notebook, in purple sparkly ink, from June 2004, noting the editors’ ambitions for the edition as a whole
- A yellow lined sheet of handwritten notes (in my hand) on a questions about preparing the edition (but so deeply in code that I can barely figure them out)
- Permissions information from the New York Public Library
- A 2010 letter from me requesting permission of the NYPL
- A recipe for egg white frittata with leeks
- A printed bibliography from London Transport Museum
- A list of every proper name in the novel
- Amy Smith, “Loving Maidens and Patriarchal Mothers”
- An article printed from the web on Mrs. Dalloway
- Rowena Fowler, “Moments and Metamorphoses”
- Jesse Wolfe, “The Sane Woman in the Attic”
- a chapter in mss from Yopie Prins
- Steve Monte, “Ancients and Moderns
- Paul Saint-Amour on antiwar prophecy
- Mark Hussey’s handout from a panel we were on about editing Woolf in 2009
- handwritten notes on Margot Asquith’s autobiography from 2011
- more handwritten notes on Asquith and on traffic
- more articles
- a Cambridge University Press style guide
- articles on textual editing
- notes from my graduate assistants on proper names in the novel
- permissions guide from the Lilly Library in Indiana
- Sara Blair’s essay on Bloomsbury
- the mailing address of a student in Scotland who could help me in 2007
- Andrew Marvell, “Upon Appleton House”
- an email from the Lilly Library
- a list of illustrations
- my typed notes from Brenda Silver’s edition of the Reading Notebooks
- an article in mss on Mrs. Dalloway
- a photocopy of some material from the Smith College archives
- a typed list “Works I need to consult”
- permissions form from the NYPL
- the general editors’ preface in mss
- email from the editor about the textual apparatus
- Cambridge guide to proofreading
- my working photocopy of the first English edition
- on salmon paper, in pencil, my notes on corrections to the Raverat proofs
- my royalty agreement (2’ in! delighted to find this one—not taking this to the attic)
- a solicitation from Yale for money
- one from Wellesley
- a poem about Virginia Woolf mailed to me by a librarian friend
- a three ring binder containing a printout of the first English Edition of Mrs. Dalloway—my working copy
What on earth should I do with all of this stuff? What do you do with your notes once a project is done?
On Saturday night, a few dozen friends gathered in a friend’s apartment in Upper Manhattan for a party to celebrate the publication of Mrs. Dalloway. After working on this edition for eleven years, I knew there needed to be a publication party and I knew it had to be just right. It was perfect.
But what’s uncanny and wonderful about throwing a party in honor of a book about a woman throwing a party is all the echoes of the book that inevitably occur. A few moments, then, each with an echo, distant or close, to something in the book.
Oh, the nerves of a hostess throwing a party. It happens every time before I have guests over: I wake up and, thinking about all that needs to happen before the party, it feels like the party is a folly and the most appealing way to spend the evening is not with friends but alone, knitting and listening to some soothing classical music. The anxiety is so ridiculous and so profound and has no real connection to what needs to be done. In this case, the cheese (from Murrays) was going to be delivered, the wine (from Astor) was going to be delivered, the sparkling water (Costco!) was in the basement, my friend was getting her apartment ready. All I had to do was buy the flowers. So why was I thinking of Clarissa’s fear, “Why, after all, did she do these things? Why seek pinnacles and stand drenched in fire?”
I bought the flowers myself, of course.
I don’t know any Ellie Hendersons (she’s the poor aunt whom Clarissa invites only reluctantly), but the only people who get in touch with a hostess on the day of a party are the ones who have fallen sick or are snowed in. Oh, these messages make me so sad. My Miss Manners advice is to write those regrets in a message just as the party is beginning—then your regrets are first encountered in the afterglow I was so very grateful for the friend who left a voice mail telling me how excited she was to see me later and offering to bring something special. That was cheering.
My friend’s apartment had a real New York fire escape and peek-a-boo views of the George Washington Bridge. At one point, my younger daughter asked me to make an announcement about the lovely pink sunset because she was so little that no one paid attention to her.
We never envisioned dancing, but we did want music. After a little effort, we figured out how to get my friend’s turntable running and we put on a few records. The sound of classical music on vinyl coming out of an old hi-fi was perfect for a Woolf party.
I had wanted to give a toast, but there was never a moment when it seemed right to do so. If it had, I would have thanked my wonderful, and generous hostess, my family and all my friends, absent and present, who put up with my whining, my updates, my stress, my footnotes of the day, for all these years. I would also have thanked Virginia Woolf (born January 25, 1882) and my mother (also born January 25th, but more recently). Without them, no me.
But not finding the moment to give a toast is the equivalent of beating the curtains back: it means the party was a success—it didn’t need that structure for it to work. People ate and drank and were merry.
At one point someone looked over at my older daughter, did a double take, and then realized that that beautiful girl was not just another party guest, but my daughter. We called her over and made her blush at the compliment even as we laughed at how we’d Elizabeth Dalloway-ed her.
The Prime Minister did not come, but because of the snow in the morning, I wasn’t sure if many would make it at all. With each new face—colleagues, graduate students, friends, Woolf scholars from other schools in the city, novelists, and artists, I felt that delight: oh, it’s you! Wonderful!
For there they were. My friends. Such a treat. So grateful.
I totally forgot to tell you, but it's true: my edition of Mrs. Dalloway has been published. That's eleven (count 'em) short years in the making, but it's finally here. There have been some issues with stocking it, but order away, we'll find a way to make the press print all the copies you need. I'm so excited I could burst.
Earlier this week, I met up with a friend and we went to a Penelope Fitzgerald event at Columbia. Lots of old people in attendance, but some young ones and it was really lovely to hear Hermione Lee talk about her new biography which is getting rave reviews. I bought The Blue Flower but not the biography (I've purchased about 10 books this last week and need to draw the line...).
Still, a fascinating life and I'm sure very well told.
At University, she was expected to be a huge success and was nicknamed "Penny from Heaven." During the war she fell in love with & married an Irish charmer, Desmond Fitzgerald. He was damaged by war & took to drink. They had four children. She lived on a barge and taught at a crammer's school for kids trying to get in to Oxbridge. One day, the barge sank and the children came home from school to find their toys floating on the Thames. Fitzgerald was unusually late and "scatty" in class that day, "Sorry I'm late. My house sank," she said.
Three novelists--Alexander Chee, Ellis Avery, and Margot Livesey--each read their favorite passage. That, too, was lovely & relaxing & nice.
Ellis taught at Fordham briefly and when my colleague Mimi Lamb died, I inherited Mimi's copy of Ellis's first book, a mediation on 9/11. It was nice to tell her so at the event.
After the event, I said hello to Hermione Lee. I told her I was a Woolf scholar and that many years ago I'd given her a ride from a campus in rural New Hampshire to a tiny NH airport, in the fog, on winding roads--"Oh! That was AWFUL! And someone had just died in a small plane crash. And I never went to a Woolf Conference again. I was Woolf'ed out."
I'm writing a piece on To the Lighthouse & Woolf's diaries & wanted to find a quotation describing Woolf's mother when she was alive, something that gets beyond the majesty of Julia/Mrs. Ramsay to something individual and strange. I think this does the trick. Written when Woolf was ten (and not, of course, Woolf):
“Mrs. Leslie Stephen though she is an ardent lover of rats is somewhat ‘riled’ by the way in which her favourites eat her provisions and therefore she has determined to get a dog. ‘Not for pleasure but for business’ as she told her offsprings….Mrs. Stephen has requested that it shall not be a dog like some others of her acquaintance ‘frinstance’ (to use Master Adrian Stephen’s favourite phrase) Pepper” (HPGN 79; 4 July 1892)
From the way-back machine (going through notes, on deadline):
“By the way, shaking my dirty clothes basket the other morning, a dead mouse dropped out—starved to death. Nelly believes that I brought him home from Monk’s House in my petticoats. Lottie says if she had shaken him out from her petticoats she would have died. This is about all the news there is” (L 2.430; 15 April 1920; to Vanessa)
Pushing, against all odds, to meet a deadline. (I'll miss it, but don't want to miss by too too much.) Taking notes & thinking and, as ever, Woolf's thoughts on writing suit my needs:
“The novel is now easily within sight of the end, but this, mysteriously, comes no nearer. I am doing Lily on the lawn: but whether its her last lap, I don’t know. Nor am I sure of the quality; the only certainty seems to be that after tapping my antennae in the air vaguely for an hour every morning I generally write with heat & ease till 12.30: & thus do my two pages.” (3 September 1926; D 3.106)
May 14th was the anniversary of the publication of Mrs. Dalloway, so I wrote up a little essay in honor of the anniversary. You can read it at The Awl. And it's been republished at this lovely website of London Fictions, a companion to the new book, London Fictions--essays about more than two dozen London novels: looks great.
a look of John Burrows That is, he looks like a criminal. In Trollope’s The Vicar of Bullhampton (1870), John Burrows is a notorious jailbird, also called ‘Jack the Grinder’, who is convicted of the murder of Farmer Trumbull. VW’s father had known Trollope. In her 1932 revision of ‘The Novels of George Meredith,’ VW calls Trollope’s novel The Small House at Allington along with Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice ‘those two perfect novels’ after which ‘English fiction had to escape from the dominion of that perfection’ (E5 551). In MB, VW refers to Trollope as one of the rare novelists who can convey both being and non-being (70).
Ah, gentle reader, welcome to 2013, same as 2012.
That’s right, just as I rang in 2012 scrambling to write footnotes for Mrs. Dalloway, so, too, will I ring in 2013 doing the same. The edition is close. One of the outside readers said it was good to go. The other reader noticed that I had not footnoted every single solitary proper name. I missed dozens, in fact, not having understood the mission of the edition--all the party guests and all the Londoners who stand in the crowd and watch the car drive by. Now, I'd noted the names of ones that stuck out at me, but Mr. Fletcher, retired, of the Treasury, who is just a phrase in the novel? Him, I had not noted. I am doing so now. Each first name and surname gets a note for which I will have checked:
- Woolf's family tree for relatives with that name
- Woolf's other novels, mostly prior to 1925 but occasionally post-Dalloway, for characters with that name
- Woolf's letters and diaries for friends and associates with that name
- Woolf's essays up to 1925 for reviews by authors with that name or of novels w/characters of that name
- The etymology of the name
- For surnames, the Oxford DNB for famous people whom Woolf might have known or of whom she might have been aware with that name
- And, for surnames only, its frequency & geographic distribution in the 1881 UK census
Now, most names won't get all points mentioned, but each name has to have all checked. So, if the frequency of a surname isn't mentioned, it's because it's in that zone of not being in the 100 most common names, but is common enough to be in the census as my editorial decision was to note only when names were so infrequent as to have fewer than 100 bearers in the 1881 census (the closest in time to Mrs. Dalloway) OR so frequent as to be among the 100 most common.
I’m getting better at this and I alternate between despair and cockiness. Give me a proper noun, any proper noun, and I will write you a footnote explaining its relevance to Mrs. Dalloway. Try me!
Oh, my poor edition of Mrs. Dalloway needs another thirty or so footnotes before it can go into production. I was asked, among other things, to comb through the entire print run of the Virginia Woolf Bulletin of Great Britain in case I missed anything.
One thing I missed: this 2007 review of my first book:
This very attractively produced volume runs to just 168 pages of text and aims to 'investigate the relation between these two facts' (my italics). These 'facts' are that Woolf read 'widely and with passion' and that 'she was also an unusually subtle feminist thinker'. While the former may be pretty self-evident one wonders what sort of 'fact' is the latter, as it contains at least two subjective judgements. The first is that Woolf was an unusually subtler thinker and that she was a feminist one. Fernald goes on to assert that Woolf was 'one of the best-read writers in the history of English literature'; all very easy judgements to make when no comparative evidence is presented on any of these three assertions. Who are the unsubtle feminist thinkers and who are the poorly-read writers one wonders.
This analysis...reminds one of Anna Snaith's Virginia Woolf: Public and Private Negotiations...a much better written and lucidly argued account.
Moving right along.