- Women & Fiction: The Manuscript Versions of A Room of One's Own, and: Leonard and Virginia Woolf as Publishers: The Hogarth Press, 1917-41
In 1975, when editing the manuscript of Freshwater, I was misled by what proved to be a scholar's error identifying two different versions of Virginia Woolf's play. My own reading should have made this clear from the outset, but since the scholar was an authority whose judgment all Woolf scholars continue to respect highly, I presumed my initial reading to be incorrect.
By contrast, one admires the self-reliance S. P. Rosenbaum possessed in questioning Leonard Woolf's identification of the 134 holograph leaves as "Women in Fiction" when it was actually the long sought early manuscript of A Room of One's Own. Despite the struggle so many Woolf scholars have experienced in deciphering Virginia's handwriting, particularly during periods of illness, depression, and, as we note shortly, hard work, it never occurred to anyone before Rosenbaum to presume that her husband could misread "Women & Fiction" to be "Women in Fiction." What has resulted is an edition of Woolf's early manuscripts that will prove indispensable to every scholar of A Room of One's Own as well as to readers interested in Woolf's evolving art. Women & Fiction: The Manuscript Versions of A Room of One's Own will be as influential as Susan Dick's and John Graham's much consulted holograph editions of To the Lighthouse and The Waves.
Until Rosenbaum's important discovery, A Room of One's Own remained the only book published in its author's lifetime for which no actual manuscript had been found. Among many points of interest is the fact that, however influential the book was to become in America, libraries and private collectors evidently made no offers to buy the manuscript; Vita Sackville-West tried unsuccessfully to sell it while lecturing in the States. When American publisher Donald Brace approached The Huntington Library, they showed only mild interest, while a wealthy California collector was more interested in obtaining the manuscript of Flush. Woolf as a result was advised to sell it in England.
With its recovery, readers may now probe the very processes of Woolf's thinking as it develops between the time of her two Cambridge lectures (first at Newnham, later at Girton) and five months later as A Room of One's Own. Rosenbaum aptly describes this as an "interruptive process," reflecting the disrupted lives most women lead. Perhaps led by his excellent Introduction, I found most intriguing those revisions reflecting her struggles [End Page 395] with "anger." But readers predictably will find their special interests engaged and challenged throughout Women & Fiction. It will be difficult for any serious student of A Room of One's Own to consider it without use of this important edition.
Leonard and Virginia Woolf as Publishers, the first full scholarly study of The Hogarth Press, should appeal to a wide audience as well as prove essential to scholars. The depth and perceptiveness with which J. H. Willis, Jr. contextualizes its major publications—he lists the best of 474 titles as Woolf's nine major works, two volumes of T. S. Eliot's poems, the extensive translations of Sigmund Freud and Rainer Maria Rilke—makes his study a pleasure to read.
The general assumption regarding the Woolfs' decision to buy a hand-press on Virginia's birthday in 1915 is that, following her very recent suicide attempt, she needed a distraction—especially from her writing. Such approaches tend to reduce the originating premises of The Hogarth Press to the status of distracting hobby. While Willis does not deny therapeutic intentions, he stresses instead the seriousness of this diversion. It is interesting in this regard to hear evidence of Woolf's earlier bookbinding skills (continually underestimated) and to be reminded of the...