[Vwoolf] curiouser and curiouser: the desk(s) of VW

Leslie Hankins lhankins at cornellcollege.edu
Sat Aug 29 16:57:23 EDT 2015

Hello again!  The desk plot thickens.  A colleague at dinner (not a VW
scholar) told me she had read somewhere that VW was really very predatory
and rude about asking for and demanding a desk from a friend, a desk that
was an heirloom, etc.  She said that Vanessa had been horribly embarrassed
by the whole thing, etc, etc.

I felt at a loss because it didn't sound familiar, at least not the outrage
of it all.

Finally she tracked it down to the novel Vanessa & Her Sister by Parmar.

The passage in the novel (set up as a journal entry) is rather harsh:

Saturday 5 May 1906--46 Gordon Square (end of a long day)

"Virginia asked Violet for a table.  Such an innocuous sentence, but what a
rumpus it has caused.  It is apparently a particular favourite of Violet's
and a valuable antique to boot.  Virginia just thundered in to tea at
Violet's one afternoon and told her that she would quite like to have it.
Mother would be so distressed.  Thoby and Adrian are appalled--"One simply
does not go about asking for other people's things, Ginia!"--and I am now
resigned.  I was unsettled at first, wary as I am for any signs of
imbalance or incongruity in Virginia, but seeing that it was just one of
her peculiar moments of directness at work, I relaxed.  Violet was an utter
dear and had the table delivered the next day.  Virginia is planning to
have two of the legs sawn off, which makes the gift quite irreversible.

      And--Virginia, after listening to a stinging lecture from Thobs, has
written twice today, pestering poor Violet for the price of the table."

I've looked at VW's letters to Violet (Vol 1 270, [May 1906] p 225ff  but
haven't found anything about Vanessa's reaction.  Does anyone have any more
information about this?  I've hardly looked at Patmar's book but my
colleague noted that it made VW out to be rather demonic.

I'll keep looking but it does seem curious.

Leslie Kathleen Hankins
Department of English & Creative Writing

*"Moreover, however interesting facts may be, they are an inferior form of
fiction, & gradually we become impatient of their weakness & diffuseness,
of their compromises & evasions, of the slovenly sentences which they make
for themselves, and are eager to revive ourselves with the greater
intensity & truth of fiction." *
                                                         Virginia Woolf,
"How Should One Read a Book?"
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