We are excited to announce a new event for 2020:
Virginia Woolf: In her steps – The Isle of Wight trail.
Dates available throughout June.
If you want a new and enhanced understanding of Virginia Woolf’s life and work, spend some time on the Isle of Wight in her footsteps.
Dimbola Lodge, in Freshwater Bay, is the former home of Woolf’s Great Aunt; the pioneering Victorian photographer Julia Margaret Cameron, whose striking Pre-Raphaelite style portraits quite often featured Woolf’s mother Julia Prinsep Duckworth.
Cameron bought two adjacent cotrages, later linking them with a gothic tower, to become a quirky ramshackle building that seems entirely in tune with its former owner and her somewhat bohemian lifestyle.
The lodge became something of a creative hub at the heart of a community of artists, writers and thinkers dubbed the ‘Freshwater Circle’, and included the likes of Alfred Lord Tennyson, Lewis Carroll, Edward Lear, William Alingham and Cameron herself.
Tennyson’s nearby home, Farringford House was another cultural centre. It is one of the Island’s most important Grade 1 listed historic estates, and has been restored to its 19th century heyday. In this secluded spot on the Isle of Wight, the new Poet Laureate and his family sought a retreat from the clamour of London life. But while Farringford provided a tranquil domestic haven, it also attracted many of Tennyson’s eminent friends, becoming a locus of intellectual and artistic activity.
It was on the island that Woolf wrote her only play Freshwater: a three act comedy satirizing the Victorian Era. Although only performed once in her lifetime, It has been translated into many languages and produced in many countries since.
Virginia Woolf researched the life of her great-aunt, publishing her findings in an essay titled Pattledom (1925) and later in her introduction to her 1926 edition of Cameron’s photographs.
We start the day by embarking on a six mile walk across the downs, with a knowledgable local guide, to the Tennyson Monument, both a beacon for sailors and a tribute to the poet who made his home nearby for the best part of 40 years. Haunting lines from his elegiac poem, “Crossing The Bar” are etched on the plinth: “Sunset and evening star, And one clear call for me! And may there be no moaning of the bar, I put out to sea.” It is easy to imagine his ghost still paces the cliffs, wrapped in his signature cape and sporting a broad-rimmed hat.
Continuing to the Needles and headland at the western extremity of the island is a genuine ‘wow’ moment. The swell pounding the needles, a row of three stacks of chalk that rise about 30m out of the sea, is substantial even in a light breeze.
We return along a lower route to Freshwater Bay, visiting Dimbola Lodge and Farringford House learning more about Woolf and her life and loves.
Wo0lf’s friend, lover and muse Vita Sackville-West.