"The sheer vital energy of the Woolfs always astonishes me when I stop to consider what they accomplished on any given day. Fragile she may have been, living on the edge of psychic disturbance, but think what she managed to do nonetheless -- not only the novels (every one a breakthrough in form), but all those essays and reviews, all the work of the Hogarth Press, not only reading mss. and editing, but, at least at the start, packing the books to go out!
"And besides all that, they lived such an intense social life. (When I went there for tea, they were always going out for dinner and often to a party later on.) The gaiety and the fun of it all, the huge sense of life! The long, long walks through London that Elizabeth Bowen told me about. And two houses to keep going! Who of us could accomplish what she did?
"There may be a lot of self-involvement in A Writer's Diary, but there is no self-pity (and what has to be remembered is that what Leonard published at that time was only a small part of all the journals, the part that concerned her work, so it had to be self-involved). It is painful that such genius should evoke such mean-spirited response at present. Is genius so common that we can afford to brush it aside? What does it matter if she is major or minor, whether she imitated Joyce (I believe she did not), whether her genius was a limited one, limited by class? What remains true is that one cannot pick up a single one of her books and read a page without feeling more alive. If art is not to be life-enhancing, what is it to be?"
A good question indeed.
The pictures above are of Monks House, Virginia and Leonard Woolf's country house in Rodmell (near Lewes), Sussex. This 17th century house -- decorated with painted furniture, fabrics, and art by Virginia's artist sister Vanessa Bell (who lived nearby at Charleston) and other artist friends -- is now a National Trust property.