I’ve been a big fan of Virginia Woolf’s work, especially To the Lighthouse and Mrs Dalloway, for a long time, although I didn’t really know much about her as a person, so I was keen to learn more when the opportunity to read and review Virginia Woolf in Richmond arose. It is interesting to first note that the book was written as a sort of “companion piece” to a campaign, which author Peter Fullagar has been involved with, to better promote Woolf’s relationship with the London borough of Richmond Upon Thames and the impact that her time there had on her work and her life more generally. The campaign is seeking to raise funds for a life-size bronze statue of Virginia Woolf seated on a bench on Richmond Riverside, and I sincerely hope that the campaign is as successful in achieving its aim as Peter Fullagar has been in writing such an interesting book about Woolf’s life in Richmond.
When writing Virginia Woolf in Richmond, Fullagar has made excellent use of Woolf’s letters, diaries, papers and published works to chronicle her time in Richmond and the way that she developed as a writer during the ten-year period she lived there. It appears that scholars interested in Woolf’s writing generally focus on the time she spent living in Bloomsbury in Central London, despite the fact that she wrote many short stories, essays and book reviews while living in Richmond. In fact, Woolf and her husband Leonard actually founded the famous Hogarth Press while residing in Richmond (they lived at Hogarth House, 24 Paradise Road, Richmond), so her time there was also very important to publishing and literature in general.
It also appears that many people have an inaccurate understanding of Woolf’s own thoughts and opinions about Richmond, perhaps due to a negative quote attributed to her that appeared in the film The Hours. In his book, Fullagar succeeds in demonstrating that such negative statements do not truly reflect Woolf’s opinion of her life in Richmond, since her letters reveal that she actually enjoyed her time there and felt that the atmosphere of the place was conducive to writing. She was particularly fond of Hogarth House, which she described as “a perfect house, if ever there was one”, and it’s really interesting to read the thoughts of both Virginia and Leonard Woolf on the founding and growth of Hogarth Press. I feel that I learned a lot about Virginia Woolf’s personality and her early works by reading this book.
Virginia Woolf in Richmond is a great book for Woolf scholars and for laypersons with a general interest in her life and work. Fullagar shows how the time she spent in Richmond – and the events that took place in both her own life and the wider world during that time – influenced Woolf’s development as a writer and her personality in a more general sense. It is clear that Woolf’s life and work (and hence the books that so many of us love) would have been very different if she had not lived there.
Joseph Ludlow 5/5
Virginia Woolf in Richmond by Peter Fullagar
Aurora Metro Books 9781912430031 hbk Nov 2018