Thursday 23 April 2009

At the Edge of Another World

I have just finished reading
A Boy at the Hogarth Press by Richard Kennedy
published by Slightly Foxed.
It is a delight - packed with anecdotes of a vanished literary world
and scrambled line illustrations full of energy and wit.

Virginia Woolf setting type by Richard Kennedy

The Hogarth Press was started by Leonard and Virginia Woolf
and published works by members of the Bloomsbury group
with cover designs by Vanessa Bell, sister of Virginia Woolf.

The Common Reader by Virginia Woolf
cover design by Vanessa Bell

Richard Kennedy worked there during the period
that Virginia Woolf completed Orlando
and talks of visits by Vita Sackvillle-West.

Lady in a Red Hat (Vita Sackville-West) by William Strang, 1918

This inspired a desire to visit Knole House
where Vita Sackville-West grew up as the only child
of Lionel Sackville-West, 3rd Baron Sackville
and so we joined the crowds on Sunday afternoon.

The Venetian Ambassador's Room by Ellen Clacy, 1888.

The most beautiful room in Knole is
The Venetian Ambassador's Room.

Vita described this room as follows:
"Green and gold...of all rooms I never saw a room
that so had over it a bloom
like the bloom on a bowl of grapes and figs"

Virginia used equally lyrical language
to capture the shimmering elegance
"The room...shone like a shell
that has lain at the bottom of the sea for centuries
and has been crusted over
and painted a million tints by the water..."

It was extraordinary to be in the room
and imagine them there, seeing everything that I saw.

(A slight overstatement as the State Bed is currently
dismantled for restoration - but bear with me...)

Kew Gardens by Virginia Woolf, Hogarth Press 1919
cover handpainted by Roger Fry and woodcuts by Vanessa Bell

Later, in the gift shop, there was a shelf of rare books
which included copies published by the Hogarth Press.
As I held one of these books
and considered that it might have been packed
by Richard Kennedy or even Virginia Woolf
it felt as though my ordinary Sunday afternoon
and the exotic and complex world of the Bloomsbury Group
were touching at the edges.


blackbird said...

Oh, how I envy you...I adore VSW.

Thomas said...

I can see that you are now well part of the literary world and will have the Bloomsbury group at your fingertips. Good typography and fine paper will soon be essentials in your life - if they are not already.

Unknown said...

The quotes you give about that bedroom are so eloquent - a real treat - thanks for sharing - that's set me up for the day :o)

JuliaB said...

Wow! I love this post. I feel like i'm there exploring in wonder with you. x (ooh word verification - dances)

dottycookie said...

Now, this is very spooky indeed - I have been preparing a post alomng the same lines following visits to both Charleston Farmhouse and The Orchard on Granthchester in the last week or so ...

Lovely words and images.

nikinpos said...

Oh! I just spent a day wandering around the gardens of the Villa Cimbrone in Ravello where the Bloomsbury group used to meet up. Such an inspiring place!

Margaret said...

How lucky of you to stumble upon those books! Thanks for sharing the photos.

The domestic novice said...

Ooo - what a wonderful post. We have grand plans to visit Sissinghurst this summer and I've just picked up Vita's book 'The Edwardians' - can't wait to read it. xx

The Coffee Lady said...

I love it when I learn something. You're really good at this.

monica said...

I'm really jealous too... magic.

kristina said...

What a fabulous cover on the Common Reader. Would love to visit Knole someday. I only just heard about it on the recent Sissinghurst program. K x

Heaven on Earth Sweeties said...

Do try and get to Charleston now it has re-opened for the summer-A great deal of the paintings are back there this season and many added on long term loan from private collections. You will have a lovely time and begin a new lifelong love of the art and reading...time well stolen...

Mary said...

Back over here from DC's - I remember reading this post and it seemed so far removed from my life and yet so comforting as well..