pdf Download PDF

Out of the Archive:
Woolfian Domestic Economies

15 February 1924

Hogarth House, Richmond


The usual shortage of letter paper makes it necessary to use this professional sheet. Don’t you smell me? I am like a civet. Leonard detests me. I think myself too, too, too lovely. Yes: you’ve entirely altered my life, and given a new channel for vanity to flow in. As you may have guessed, that inexplicable and most detestable prudery which for 10 years led me to make sanitary towels out of Kapok down rather than buy them, has always prevented me from saying to a powdered shop girl “I too am a woman. … I want powder too.” Now you have removed an inhibition, ruined a home, intoxicated a heart, and made me for life your slave, suppliant, servant, debtor.

“I am like a civet”—an African mammal whose perineal glands are harvested for the strong-smelling musk they produce.1 So writes Virginia Woolf to Bloomsbury member Mary Hutchinson, while baiting her addressee to inhale her new odor from afar. The letter quickly moves from the attraction and repulsion the civet symbolizes, a binary extended to the Woolfs themselves—Leonard disgusted, Virginia self-admiring—to a frank admission of prudery. Without encouragement, Woolf has been too embarrassed to partake in the modern-day marketplace of femininity, one defined by store-bought sanitary towels and cosmetics.2 Exchanges social and financial liberate: according to Hermione Lee, Woolf felt incompetent at assessing trends in women’s fashion; her admiration for Hutchinson’s elegant taste, coupled with Hutchinson’s willingness to school her in postwar fashion, [End Page 141] allowed Woolf to consume new styles and toiletries with confidence.3 But ultimately, the social exchange obligates. Hutchinson’s hospitality turns Woolf into “slave, suppliant, servant, debtor” in perpetuity. A jesting tone presides over this letter, but a crucial combination of economies, encompassing the domestic, bodily, and social emerges here, one challenged by nods to abjection yet nevertheless driven by the terms of the marketplace. Scarcity prevails, whetting demand: at the outset of her letter, Woolf lacks paper; by its end, she lacks the resources to repay her social debt. Woolf acknowledges, then curtails, the freedom from economies that socializing promises; this self-same circumscribed promise recurs in her writings, autobiographical and fictional alike.

Fig 1. Virginia Woolf engagement diary, 1933.
Click for larger view
View full resolution
Fig 1.

Virginia Woolf engagement diary, 1933.

Originally, “economy” referred to the management and administration of resources within households; its meaning was extended to communities and other organized bodies, including the self. Sparingness, frugality, and saving are also implied. The Woolfs generated a robust domestic economy, one that encompassed not only the relentless monitoring of their home-based employment and expenditure, but also socializing and [End Page 142]

Fig 2. Virginia Woolf engagement diary, 1939.
Click for larger view
View full resolution
Fig 2.

Virginia Woolf engagement diary, 1939.

their health. These economies are foregrounded in Leonard’s and Virginia’s engagement or pocket diaries, which tersely and provocatively tabulate the intermingling and maintenance of work, friendships, and selves. Leonard’s diaries were archived at the University of Sussex in 1973 and include one 1898 volume and desk or engagement diaries for every year from 1910 until his death in 1969. Virginia’s longhand diaries have been in print since the late seventies, but her pocket diaries entered the public domain for the first time in 2013, when they were purchased by the University of Sussex’s Special Collections.4 The years 1930, 1933, 1935–37, and 1939–41 are preserved. When she edited The Diary of Virginia Woolf, Anne Olivier Bell had recourse to the pocket diaries, but they continue to offer information unavailable within that well-plumbed, five-volume publication. Some of this information falls under the category of sheer haptic pleasure: the 1933 diary is one of two that houses its original pencil, and its elastic closure is stretched to uselessness; stamped “L. W.,” it is likely a Leonard cast-off (fig. 1).5 Stylistic information emerges also: Virginia customized three diaries, [End Page 143] gluing overlays of roughly cut morocco leather to the original covers in 1937 and 1940 and adding a green binding to her 1939 Collins’ royal blue diary, replete with pencil loop and thread bookmark (fig. 2). Diary format underscores historical anxieties and truisms of the Woolfs’ era: Virginia’s 1930 diary contains a map of the English empire in its opening pages. Next to that map, Virginia penciled the Eliots’ address (fig. 3). Given Eliot’s status as a renowned Anglophile, this chance juxtaposition inevitably satisfies the modernist reader. Affect surfaces too, as the manner of recording names exposes Virginia’s feelings; in stark contrast to the familiar “L.” (Leonard) or “Nessa” (Vanessa Bell), Elizabeth Bowen is almost always, rather formidably, “E Bowen.”6 But perhaps the greatest impression these diaries offer is one of plenitude. These eight slight volumes précis over a thousand meetings with key figures of the Woolfs’ day: Vita Sackville-West, Roger Fry, E. M. Forster, and Christopher Isherwood are names regularly scrawled on the lineated pages. Not all of these meetings merit mention in Virginia’s longhand diary.7

Fig 3. Virginia Woolf engagement diary, 1930.
Click for larger view
View full resolution
Fig 3.

Virginia Woolf engagement diary, 1930.

With this sheer quantity of socializing in view, the pocket diaries illustrate the necessity of the Woolfs’ extraordinary commitment to systematization, a commitment reinforced when the diaries are read in conjunction with their other autobiographical writings. Leonard meticulously recorded the workings of Virginia’s body for ten years after her 1913 breakdown, and returned to this recording as she entered menopause. That Virginia Woolf regularly made note of her menses throughout the early 1930s is a newly available fact; context surrounding these notes challenges long-standing claims that she was overwhelmed by her cycle. With emphasis on the economy of the female [End Page 144] body, the broader implications of the Woolfs’ monitoring of their health and well-being will be the focus here. In Virginia Woolf’s published fiction there are a scant three mentions of menstruation; all notably occur during interactions social and economic. Hence it is fitting that private records of menstrual flows and illnesses exist cheek-by-jowl with the Woolfs’ more public social engagements; for both members of this couple, socializing was a license to speak about the impermissible, including, as in Virginia’s exchange with Hutchinson, the body sexual and abject. These moments of joyous impropriety aside, Virginia’s and Leonard’s sociality was willfully circumscribed by a model of utility. Paradoxically, obligation contradicts the premise of hospitality, which, given freely, aims to transcend economic strictures of indebtedness. Never abandoning her belief in the requisite reciprocity of socializing, Virginia instead expresses a longing for something she called “immunity.” For Virginia Woolf, immunity signaled an individual, unattainable imperviousness to invading systems, one that reads as a response to the sustaining and constraining domestic economy she generated with her husband.

In his autobiography, Leonard Woolf explains how he used his engagement diaries to recount recent occurrences rather than the more customary future appointments: “I have never kept a proper diary recording events and comment upon events, but for the past fifty years or more I have kept a skeleton diary in which I enter a few lines in a bare account of what I do each day.”8 Similarly economical entries, albeit with a more conventional view to future plans and socializing, can be found in Virginia’s late engagement diaries. Comparison of these two sets of diaries reveals that Leonard was a “husbandman” in the antiquated sense of the term, fastidiously managing the household finances throughout the Woolfs’ marriage and the garden at Monk’s House from 1919 onward. In keeping with this role, Leonard used pocket diaries designed for domestic farmers: in 1919, Leonard’s Charles Letts Poultry Keeper’s Pocket Diary included information on breeds of fowl and poultry diseases; in 1931, 1932, and 1933, Leonard used the Charles Letts Royal Horticultural Society Gardener’s Pocket Diary, which offered a calendar of seeding times and information about common blights. Leonard maintained extensive accounts of all household purchases and exchanges, a habit traceable to the one preserved diary from his adolescence. In 1898, eighteen-year-old Leonard tallies his bodily expenditure; countless entries in that diary read “Walked school & back,” and early pages tabulate the total mileage he traversed that year on bicycle and by foot. Come 1911, Leonard’s logged expenditure is more financial in nature, if just as detailed; he records the purchase of stamps, pipe tobacco, tea, toothbrushes, flowers, paper, gloves, painting supplies, and lunches (with a separate category for tipping); he also keeps close watch over books loaned to friends. During his years with Virginia, Leonard diligently chronicled their spending on clothes and their home, their fluctuating incomes, the Hogarth Press, and later, their cars—mileage was carefully recorded each and every time Leonard drove.

Leonard’s scrupulousness contrasts starkly with Virginia’s vagaries. The personal memoranda page of her 1930 pocket diary offers spaces to record the user’s glove, boot, collar, and hat sizes, among others; all remain empty. The same page includes grids to list the departure times of frequently traveled trains; under “To Town” and “From [End Page 145] Town” Virginia has scrawled, indiscriminately across both columns, “7 miles” or the distance from Rodmell (the village where Monk’s House is located) to the nearby city of Brighton (fig. 4). The pages entitled “Cash Accounts” at the back of each of Virginia’s engagement diaries are invariably blank; so irrelevant were they to her that when she rebound her 1939 diary, she glued the accounting pages into the new cover so as not to have to bother rifling needlessly through them all year long. Virginia eschewed minute daily financial tallies, but her writing diaries indicate that resources of time and money were considerable anxieties. Virginia had a horror of wasting time: “What am I to do with two hours?” she speculates at the outset of a diary entry on January 7, 1931. “I dont want to spend them fuming over my … household. … And I cant settle to read” (4:4). As if to reassure herself that she has been productive, she then proceeds to detail her current writing processes. But as she completes her entry, she returns to her original concern: “O dear. What machine is there for making 1 hour & 35 minutes blaze?”9 Virginia frequently juxtaposes the labor of literature with the labor of socializing, as evinced by two lists compiled in her writing diary in the summer of 1932, respectively entitled “Reading this August” and “People this August” (4:122). Like John Martyn in her early fiction “The Journal of Mistress Joan Martyn”—drafted in 1906, or well before her life with Leonard—Virginia is comforted by reviewing household accounts, accounts that included time spent hosting and visiting.10 The Woolfs’ shared penchant for reckoning fueled their symbiotic approach to matters financial. Neither wanted commercial work that compromised their aesthetic principles; neither desired a lavish life.11 A middle-to-upper class “frugality” defined their family economy and became a

Fig 4. Virginia Woolf engagement diary, 1930.
Click for larger view
View full resolution
Fig 4.

Virginia Woolf engagement diary, 1930.

[End Page 146]

competitive game that permitted personal luxurious expenditure. Each year, Leonard predicted their separate expenditures, then recorded their actual spending; any residual “profit” was labeled their “hoard”—a sum to be spent individually and frivolously (Autobiography, 2:291–92). As such, it is not quite accurate to suggest, as does Paul Delaney, that “Virginia was quite unworldly about money.”12

In his autobiography, Leonard draws on his old engagement diaries to list the income amassed from the publications produced by his household, both personal writings and those of the Hogarth Press. Recognizing that “these figures may seem too dull and detailed to many people,” Leonard nevertheless justifies their inclusion on the grounds that “the facts behind them had economically a considerable effect upon our lives” (Autobiography, 2:293). Economics mattered to Leonard, personally and politically. Although not formally educated in the discipline, he wrote extensively about the international relations—including economics—of his day and was of course, as was Virginia, a close associate of Britain’s then preeminent economist, John Maynard Keynes.13 But as critics explicitly and implicitly assert, Leonard does not readily align with Bloomsbury economic models.14 Where Keynes “conceiv[ed] the market comprehensively, dynamically, [and] chaotically,” Leonard engaged with pragmatic economic systems, which he extended beyond household finance and applied to the administration of Virginia Woolf’s body and interactions.15 Leonard asserts: “It was a perpetual struggle to find the precarious balance of health for [Virginia] among the strains and stresses of writing and society. The routine of everyday life had to be regular and rather rigid. Everything had to be rationed, from work and walking to people and parties” (Autobiography, 2:220). Without this rationing, as Leonard attests early and often in the second volume of his autobiography, Virginia “tired herself by walking too long and too far, … sat up later than eleven two or three nights running [and] went to too many parties,” thus bringing on the dangerous symptoms that preceded a breakdown, among them, headache, insomnia, racing thoughts, and exhaustion (2:54–55). While acknowledging the imprecision of the term, Leonard labels Virginia’s malady “neurasthenia” in keeping with the medical protocol of the time. Leonard was aware of Virginia’s fragile mental well-being before they married and describes his role as her nurse with no small equanimity, given the consequences it had on his life and marriage: “For nearly thirty years I had to study Virginia’s mind with the greatest intensity” he reports, pointing out that this state was best served by good food and plenty of rest (2:53).

As with most repetitious aspects of Leonard’s life, administering to Virginia’s health involved daily accounts in his skeleton diaries. Some of these records are encrypted, as he discusses in his autobiography:

Very occasionally in times of crisis, when I want to make the record unintelligible to anyone but myself, I make my [diary] entries in cypher mainly composed of a mixture of Sinhalese and Tamil letters. My diary of the year 1913 shows very clearly the rapid progress of Virginia’s illness and of my apprehension. From January to August I noted almost daily the state of her health, whether she could work, how she slept, whether she had sensations of headache; and in August I began to keep the diary in cypher.

(2:106) [End Page 147]

The rationale for keeping this information from prying eyes—Virginia’s included—is either assumed or deliberately avoided here. Leonard’s dates are also wrong: he began to keep diary entries in cypher in 1911—nine months before the Woolfs married in August 1912—and not, as he attests, with the onset of Virginia’s 1913 breakdown. On December 8, 1911, he writes in English in his diary that he dined with Vanessa and Clive Bell; in cypher, he then adds a list of topics of discussion, and this list includes “Virginia.” Half-English, half-cyphered entries continue throughout that month. Sometimes they refer to his own social discomfort: on December 9 he mentions finding his exalted mentor G. E. Moore easier to talk with, and describes the degree to which his hand shook during their visit. This tremor was a lifelong health concern. On December 26, we witness how socializing frees Leonard, as it did Virginia, to speak of things taboo: the entry reads, in English, “talked w. [John Maynard] Keynes and Duncan [Grant],” followed by, in cypher, “about sodomy.” Occasional uses of cypher continue throughout 1912, when, according to Lee, Leonard was first pressed into service as Virginia’s guardian by her sister, Vanessa; on March 21, Leonard records, again in cypher, that he consulted with Virginia’s doctor that morning and then had lunch with Vanessa (Virginia Woolf, 308). On occasion, these Tamil-Singhalese entries are mysteriously banal, as on April 7, 1912, when Leonard encodes his laying and leveling of a terrace.16

In 1912, all entries abruptly end on July 28, or a fortnight or so before the Woolfs’ wedding. When Leonard returns to his skeleton diary in January 1913, he appears motivated by the need to record Virginia’s increasingly worrying behavior. Throughout 1913, Leonard develops a shorthand for the most repetitive aspects of these accounts. The entry for April 18, 1913, is typical: “V. n. v. w. bad n.,” or “Virginia not very well bad night” August 11 reads: “V. bad f.g.n.,” indicating “Virginia bad fairly good night” On August 16, he writes: “V. better. Less worr. No diff w food. G. n.” These notations speak to Leonard’s ongoing concern about Virginia’s bouts of high anxiety (“worry”) and refusal to eat when agitated or depressed: “No different with food” means that she must still be coaxed to eat. Encryption surfaces throughout these entries, particularly in relation to recordings of Virginia’s weight and her use of prescribed drugs—among them, veronal, paraldehyde, and sleeping draughts. On occasion, as on October 12, her violent outbursts are encoded; oddly, the violence, which goes without description, is not consistently registered in cypher. Leonard does, however, encrypt his account of Virginia’s September 9 suicide attempt. Countering his claim in the autobiography, these encryptions continue into 1914, while the summative shorthand records of Virginia’s mental and emotional well-being run consistently through Leonard’s diaries well into 1917.17

Virginia Woolf was no stranger to cyphering. In the year following her 1896 breakdown, circles and symbols appear at the bottom of many of her own diary entries, which her editors ascribe to the recording of her moods, potentially at the request of her doctors but certainly with a view to keeping information about herself private should she so desire.18 But while Leonard’s shorthand is readily ascertained and appears merely a time-saving device, his encryption undeniably kept discussion about Virginia from Virginia long before he witnessed the worst of her susceptibility to mental breakdown. [End Page 148] Although used inconsistently, the code begs questions about Leonard’s perception of his role as protector and nurse. By the most pessimistic reading, he lacks the confidence in his decisions—and those made in collaboration with Virginia’s doctors and family—requisite to a fully transparent account. At the very least, the cyphering indicates his awareness that Virginia might resent accounts made of her situation. In his later years, Leonard returned to these cyphered engagement diaries and personally decoded some of the encryption beneath the original; it is evident that these translations took place long after Virginia’s death in 1941, as his hand tremor worsened in old age, considerably affecting his writing. By translating, Leonard made the entries available to the ever-widening public presumed by the maintenance of his legacy.19

Fig 5. Virginia Woolf engagement diary, 1930.
Click for larger view
View full resolution
Fig 5.

Virginia Woolf engagement diary, 1930.

Allegations of Leonard’s excessive paternalism are well worn, and in her writing diaries, Virginia voices anxiety about divulging her illnesses to Leonard, as she knew that he would insist on rationing her daily activities.20 That said, Virginia also uses her pocket diaries to record the physical health of her household. When illness occurs, Virginia, like Leonard, dispenses with the convention that an engagement diary is meant to record future appointments, instead using them to record the immediate past or present. For instance, from February 16–22, 1930, Virginia runs continuous lines through all the days in her engagement diary (fig. 5). These lines recur throughout the [End Page 149] pocket diaries and are often accompanied by the words “bed” or “ill.” The continuity of the lines suggests that the days have already passed, as Virginia could not have known in advance how long she would be confined. This habitual recording extends to Leonard, about whom Virginia can be seen writing “L. ill” on more than one occasion.21 In short, record keeping about illness is a shared aspect of the Woolfs’ domestic economy; Virginia could not have been unaware that Leonard religiously maintained his skeleton diary, but she nevertheless goes to the trouble of recording his illnesses in her own pocket diaries, perhaps as a precautionary second set of records or else out of concern that he might have failed to acknowledge his illness in his own. Regardless, the care and watchfulness Leonard exhibits in his accounts is reciprocated in Virginia’s, if admittedly to a lesser degree.

In a brief period in 1940, Virginia counters the customary words “bed” or “ill” in her pocket diary with records of arising, recorded simply as “up.” This positivity echoes her persistent attempts to recoup illness and turn it into a form of productivity, an approach that differs markedly from Leonard’s equation of sickness with waste. When Leonard begins recording fluctuations in Virginia’s health in earnest in 1913, he measures her well-being by her ability to work and the time she spends laboring each day, as on January 16: “V. 1/2 morn work.”22 “Work” was Leonard’s mainstay; this word comes first in most of his diary entries in later life, including the day after Virginia’s suicide. But where Leonard describes the period of Virginia’s first breakdown as “years which we simply lost out of our lives,” Virginia is determined to channel the disruptions of illness into the flow of still more writing, thereby converting illness back into the utility of the Woolfs’ domestic economy (Autobiography, 2:119). For instance, on September 8, 1930, following what the lines in her engagement diary suggest was a ten-day period of bed rest, Virginia writes: “So this illness has meant two weeks break—but as I often think, seasons of silence, & brooding, & making up much more than one can use, are fertilizing. I was raking my brain too hard” (Diary, 3:317). Here Virginia plays husbandman to her own creativity, cultivating her fertility through illness. Illness can also be celebrated because it releases Virginia from her time-consuming social obligations: in November 1934, Virginia notes, with evident relief, that she has been diagnosed with a strained heart, which she “take[s] … as permission not to go to parties”; in December 1934, she claims that her autumnal writing has been “fruitful” and “successful … thanks partly to my tired heart.”23 Other periods of illness are too difficult to reclaim. From July 21 to October 11, 1936, the engagement diaries record no appointments whatsoever, while letters from the same period disclose a Virginia worryingly ill—more ill than in April of the same year, when she took herself to bed after completing The Years. In April 1936, Virginia continues her exercise of crossing out engagements when sick. But between July and October, when there are neither appointments nor cancelations, she appears incapable of taking daily stock and perhaps, still more bleakly, of anticipating future events.24

There is a similar blank in Virginia’s recording of her 1913 breakdown; neither letters nor diaries exist for this period, so Leonard is our only source. And his account is not merely pragmatic, but intimate. As a succinct, later example of the Woolfs’ intimacy, [End Page 150] we might turn to Leonard’s “Account of Virginia Woolf’s Fainting Attack on 11 August 1932”—a typed narrative in which he precisely details an instance when Virginia lost consciousness in the garden at Monk’s House. This account reveals a long-standing knowledge of Virginia’s body and its cycles: Leonard is privy to the fact that it is the last day of Virginia’s menstrual cycle, to the nature of the abdominal pain she experiences—“acute menstrual pains similar to those when the period is coming on”—and explains that Virginia “had a considerable motion of the bowels, diarrhoeic.”25 Twenty years into their marriage, Leonard is acutely aware of the routine functioning of Virginia’s body. This awareness can be traced to his 1913 diaries, when Leonard embarks on what was to become a ten-year account of Virginia’s menstrual cycles in 1913. This fact is briefly acknowledged in George Spater and Ian Parsons’s A Marriage of True Minds: An Intimate Portrait of Leonard and Virginia Woolf, where Leonard’s motivation is attributed to “the possibility that her mental disorders coincided with the occurrence of an unusually long interval between periods.”26 Given that, menopause aside, Virginia experienced only one such long interval in the Woolfs’ thirty years together, this speculation does not quite do justice to the nature of Leonard’s recordings.

Fig 6. Virginia Woolf engagement diary, 1940.
Click for larger view
View full resolution
Fig 6.

Virginia Woolf engagement diary, 1940.

Leonard’s intrinsic knowledge of Virginia’s body indicates care and openness, but his recordings of her body suggest a paternalistic view of female biology that was becoming outdated in the wake of the early twentieth-century liberal feminism Virginia herself espoused. Julie-Marie Strange writes that historical myths associated [End Page 151] with menstruation—the uncleanliness of menstrual blood, superstitions about its monstrous power—permeated the Victorian era, when doctors argued that women were unstable due to their menses, thus rationalizing their exclusion from the public sphere.27 Throughout the nineteenth century, gynecology was dominated by male practitioners who perceived themselves to be their patients’ protectors, even as they wrote articles in leading medical journals about finding timid, pliant women for their studies—women who would consent to the methods published in their case reports, methods that included “thrusting into the vagina, plunging through a hymen, [and/or] holding women still” (Strange, “Depending on Menstruation,” 104). The combination of ignorance, misogyny, and violence exhibited by medical practitioners reached its apogee in the Victorian mental asylum, where the nervous disorders of female patients were almost exclusively attributed to inconsistencies in their menstrual flow, with the result that other pertinent symptoms were ignored. On a woman’s entry to an asylum, it was standard procedure to ask her relatives for an account of her menstrual history, with questions raised about timing, flow, and behavior during each cycle. It was widely believed that amenorrhea (suspension of the menstrual cycle) had a causal effect in mental or nervous disorder and that, by extension, return to a regular cycle assured a woman’s improved health. As irregular menstruation was considered a disease, marriage and pregnancy were promoted as viable “cures.”

Fig 7. Leonard Woolf desk diary, 1913.
Click for larger view
View full resolution
Fig 7.

Leonard Woolf desk diary, 1913.

Strange’s study of British medical journals and asylum records offers helpful context for Leonard’s recordings of Virginia’s cycle. These recordings begin on January 14, 1913—“V.’s p. 1. Worked 1/2 morn. Bad night” (fig. 7)—and continue, each month without fail, until October 1923. On occasion, Leonard is so precise as to indicate the [End Page 152] part of the day that the period starts, as on February 13, 1914: “G. day until aft P1 then rath. exc. F. g. n.” or “Good day until afternoon period starts then rather excited. Fairly good night.” Throughout 1913, these records are part of Leonard’s daily entries; come 1914, they are listed within the diary proper and in its back pages, where the “Cash Account” section shows an annual overview of the dates of Virginia’s cycles, accompanied by the duration in days of each (fig. 8). This same scenario, with the past two years juxtaposed, recurs in 1915 (fig. 9). In 1919, the same set of recordings is reserved for the “Statistical Summary” pages at the diary’s end (fig. 10). The rationale behind this process becomes clearer in the final pages of the 1917 diary, wherein Leonard collates all of the previous years’ cycles. He returns to this page the following year to add the 1918 figures, then tallies the average duration of each year’s cycle (fig. 11).28

Fig 8. Leonard Woolf desk diary, 1914.
Click for larger view
View full resolution
Fig 8.

Leonard Woolf desk diary, 1914.

[End Page 153]

Fig 9. Leonard Woolf desk diary, 1915.
Click for larger view
View full resolution
Fig 9.

Leonard Woolf desk diary, 1915.

[End Page 154]

Fig 10. Leonard Woolf desk diary, 1919.
Click for larger view
View full resolution
Fig 10.

Leonard Woolf desk diary, 1919.

As the identified protector of a mentally and emotionally unstable woman, Leonard’s accounts and statistical summaries are commensurate with Strange’s findings in late-nineteenth century asylum records: “Menstrual flow was continually being measured against an ideal and abstract concept of the universal menstrual cycle” (“Depending on Menstruation,” 110). After 1913, Virginia’s cycles average a fairly consistent thirty-one days; by 1918, they have diminished to thirty and a quarter days, which was likely read as a sign of progress, as it brought Virginia twenty-four hours closer to the twenty-eight day “ideal.” This ideal was propounded by the medical establishment and by progressive campaigners for women’s health, among them, Marie Carmichael Stopes. While noting that variations can occur, Stopes nevertheless insists throughout her publications that a healthy woman should have a twenty-eight day cycle.29

Virginia Woolf’s menstrual cycle thus provides a widely approved, measurable gauge of her health. That Leonard’s calculations occur at the back of his diaries, alongside extensive records of domestic financial expenditure, is both a convenience and a none-too-subtle symbolic reminder that Virginia’s menstrual flow was, in Leonard’s pragmatic mind, an inextricable part of their functioning household economy. And while these records suggest an extraordinary devotion to and comfort with the fluctuations of the female body, the anxious paternalism here cannot be elided. That paternalism is compounded by the evidence of Virginia’s steadily increasing health, certainly post-1915, by the stunning regularity of Virginia’s periods after 1913—why continue recording [End Page 155] such a regular cycle until 1923?—and by the column at the bottom left-hand corner of figure 11. This column, which records an annual overview of Virginia’s regularly measured weight, is replicated in the years 1914, 1915, and 1916. The weigh-ins occurred with greater regularity—from once a week to once a fortnight—shortly after the breakdown. That these weigh-ins were exposing is indicated by Leonard’s note in the column next to June 28—“dressed”—which suggests that all other weights that year were taken with Virginia in a state of undress. That Leonard oversaw the process is assured by the 1915 record, where he records “x” next to weights not taken by himself personally, explaining that symbol in a footnote on the same page. Taken in their entirety, Leonard’s diaries indicate that Virginia was not in charge of procedures or records dealing with her own health.

Fig 11. Leonard Woolf desk diary, 1917.
Click for larger view
View full resolution
Fig 11.

Leonard Woolf desk diary, 1917.

“Paternalism” is an inadequate word, particularly when we consider that Leonard was not the first member of Virginia’s family circle to record her menstrual cycle on her behalf. James King dates Virginia’s menarche to October 1896, a fact gleaned from the archived pocket diaries of her half sister, Stella Duckworth. After the death of their mother, Julia Stephen, in 1895, Stella was in charge of the household; as part of this [End Page 156] role she, like Leonard, transcribed her daily chores, including the purchase of sanitary towels, and marked the first days of the periods of all female members of the family, including those of Virginia and Vanessa.30 Manufactured menstrual products became available in the United States and Britain in the 1880s and were only affordable for wealthier women; long before that time and well into the mid-twentieth century, most women made their own.31 As Sharra L. Vostral discusses, sanitary towels were marketed via a discourse of liberation coincident with the rise of the New Woman; Virginia’s half-sister, Stella, is thus forward-thinking in embracing the new technology of disposable menstrual products. Disposable pads or napkins challenged the ideology that women must remain bedridden or homebound during their cycle. But marketing campaigns also replicated women’s limited range of social freedoms, reinforcing the stereotype that menstruation was a hidden and unsavory facet of female health. Building on this narrative of shame, companies offered mail order services that promised plain paper wrapping and coupons in women’s magazines that indicated to the local shopkeeper the product women sought without having to voice that request aloud (Vostral, “Masking Menstruation,” 250). This cultural history suggests that Virginia’s reluctance to purchase sanitary napkins—as mentioned in her letter to Mary Hutchinson—was in no way aberrant, as her biographers have suggested.32 Instead, Virginia was entirely typical of her generation and of the generations to follow.33 Vostral describes how corporations clamored to overcome this reluctance by “appeal[ing] to women as managers of menstruation” (“Masking Menstruation,” 244). “Management” is a key word here; in 1926, Johnson and Johnson hired an efficiency expert to conduct the first ever study of approaches to menstruation. What the company learned was that menstruating women were “a market entirely ripe for exploitation” (253). In short, a variety of authoritative bodies—domestic, medical, corporate—were paying attention to menstruation in the modernist era as never before.

The burgeoning market for sanitary products enters Virginia Woolf’s fiction. In a late episode of The Years, Peggy Pargiter, a doctor, arrives at her Aunt Eleanor’s to dine before they attend a family party. The visit is uneasy, and the intergenerational opposition between these two women extends to their attitude toward the upcoming party, about which Eleanor is delighted, while Peggy inwardly fumes about how her family loves to “flock together.” “They love it,” she tells herself, but “she hated it.”34 On their way to the gathering, they observe modernist London, passing a picture palace, offices, “a pallid, hoary-looking church,” advertisements, and garish crowds. Their car stops just before the Edith Cavell monument in Trafalgar Square:

“Always reminds me of an advertisement of sanitary towels,” said Peggy, glancing at the figure of a woman in nurse’s uniform holding out her hand.

Eleanor was shocked for a moment. A knife seemed to slice her skin, leaving a ripple of unpleasant sensation; but what was solid in her body it did not touch, she realised after a moment.


Cavell, who Woolf leaves unnamed, was a British nurse killed by a German firing squad in 1915 for assisting British, French, and German men to safety in Holland under the [End Page 157] cover of her Brussels hospital base.35 Eleanor’s discomfort at Peggy’s abject belittling of a national martyr is accompanied by her recollection that Peggy’s brother was killed in the war. As Sue Malvern writes, Woolf’s passage intriguingly conflates wartime wounds with sanitary products.36 This conflation is in fact historically and economically appropriate, given that in England, the first manufacturers of sanitary napkins were bandage and medical dressing companies. The earliest advertising campaigns were directed at medical professionals like Peggy and emphasized the sterility of napkins by depicting spokeswomen dressed in the cap and apron customary to a nurse’s uniform—hence Peggy’s associative thinking.37 Embedded in that thinking is an equation of the mass destruction of war with marketization for the masses; propaganda, Peggy insists, is not necessarily progressive in incorporating women. Eleanor ultimately considers Peggy’s social transgression epiphanic, even liberating. Their conversation continues, the taxi starts up anew, and the meter runs high. As they arrive at the family get-together, Peggy rushes to pay the fare despite Eleanor’s protestations against indebtedness. So concludes another Woolfian social interaction in which female freedoms verbal, personal, and bodily are defined by the marketplace, by financial exchange.

Like this passage in The Years, Leonard’s records of Virginia’s periods in the “Cash Accounts” sections of his engagement diaries echo the contemporaneous commodification of menstruation. His pragmatic, frank approach to Virginia’s menstruation complicates his complicity in the narrative that a menstruating woman is an unstable woman, a woman in need of monitoring and protection. As early as the 1870s, women in England had spoken out against the widespread belief that menstruation disabled women; come the 1880s, doctors registered growing uncertainty about the “causal” relationship between madness and menstruation. At the start of the twentieth century, medical practitioners encouraged increasingly rational and healthy approaches to women’s periods (Strange, “Depending on Menstruation,” 111–13). These new attitudes emerge in Stopes’s 1918 bestseller, Married Love, where she insists that married men should pay attention to their wives’ cycles. In so doing, Stopes argues, they will become attuned to women’s natural and much-overlooked sexual desires, which are most prevalent just before and after menstruation. Stopes writes:

That woman has a rhythmic sex-tide, which, if its indications were obeyed, would ensure not only her enjoyment and an accession of health and vitality, and would explode the myth of her capriciousness, seems not to be suspected. We have studied the wave-lengths of water, of sound, of light; but when will the sons and daughters of men study the sex-tide in a woman and learn the laws of her Periodicity of Recurrence of desire?


For Stopes, the positive outcomes of such attentiveness are twofold: firstly, in an echo of Henri Bergson’s élan vital, she suggests that sexual desire is associable with a “creative impulse … an expression of a higher power of vitality” (44). Increased vitality will enable women to develop “all [their] powers,” thus bringing about the second advance, namely the end of women’s financial dependence on men (80, 37). By the terms of this progressive trajectory, awareness of the cyclical female body will culminate in the economic autonomy Virginia Woolf herself so ardently desired. [End Page 158]

Throughout her career, Stopes delineates a direct relationship between economics and menstruation, challenging traditional approaches that consigned women to passivity and the private sphere due to their biology. Virginia’s doctors were indubitably of the traditional ilk, and may well have asked Leonard to monitor Virginia’s menses. Sir George Savage oversaw Virginia’s health from childhood to her 1913 breakdown; this same Sir George arises as an infamous, contemptible example in Strange’s history of modernist menstruation: “Savage was particularly adept at creating lurid images of women at the mercy of their reproductive organs” (“Depending on Menstruation,” 110).38 Savage’s 1903 discussion of menopause in the Lancet offers a stunning synopsis of his approach to female health.39 A woman entering menopause, Savage asserts, is liable to delusions, alcoholism, violence, and severe lust. Foremost in his article is concern not for the women themselves, but their relatives; as he asserts, “The unfortunate husband suffers grievously under such cases as these.”40 By deliberate contrast, Stopes’s Change of Life in Men and Women (1936) refuses to describe the climacteric as a crisis, or, as her title suggests, as an event that only occurs to women. The book attacks the belief that menopause signals a cessation of a woman’s social and cultural value. Stopes shores up her argument by returning to the “Periodicity of Recurrence of Desire.” She asserts that women’s twenty-eight day cycle and its attendant healthy sexual longings continues well after menstrual blood ceases to flow and can continue to the end of a woman’s life (156). For Stopes, this continuity enhances women’s productivity:

If the processes of the menopause have been happily normal, and intelligently guided, the cessation of the monthly flow should be a saving of vital energy to the woman’s system. Some energy is always lost at each menstrual period, and strength has always had to recuperate after that loss. After the cessation of menstrual losses this energy should be available for creative effort in new channels, and for the utilisation after ripening of that wisdom which should come with full maturity.


Because it is energy saving, Stopes claims that menopause “ushers in a series of new experiences and adventures,” and she quotes fellow sexologist Havelock Ellis who observes that many women find that their “active intellectual careers” begin with menopause (169, 273). Stopes overturns Savage’s emblematic narrative by which nonreproductive women are a drain on society, but both intimately tie female biology to economics.

Leonard Woolf was well aware of feminist advances: he worked on behalf of the Women’s Co-operative Guild and had glowing things to say about the tirelessness and righteousness of the women of that organization; nearly three decades after the publication of Three Guineas, he continued to extol the virtues and values of the rationale behind Virginia’s highly contested feminist essay.41 Yet, while Leonard disregarded Savage’s encouraging advice about Virginia bearing children, his archived records suggest that he remained at least partly disposed toward the antiquated ethos Savage represented. More troublingly, that ethos persists in the work of Virginia Woolf’s contemporary biographers and editors. Lee asserts that Virginia’s “profound depression always involved thinking of her childlessness. The onset of her periods were [sic] particularly stressful and would often leave her, as she put it, ‘recumbent’” (Virginia [End Page 159] Woolf, 336). Later in her biography, Lee claims that Virginia’s “menstrual cycle … always made her ill” (359). Must Virginia’s depression always be attributable to reproductive stress? Lee’s reductive insistence on a Virginia Woolf incapacitated by a narrative of stereotypical “womanhood” is echoed by the editors of Virginia’s diaries, Anne Olivier Bell and Andrew McNeillie. Impressively thorough indexes document all diary references to Virginia’s menstrual cycle, but the editors have assumed that whenever Virginia says she is recumbent, she is menstruating, which is not always the case. On January 11, 1918, Virginia notes that she is having a sedentary day, and her editors index this entry under “menstruation.” But according to Leonard’s records, the first day of her period did not occur until January 24. In general, Virginia displays a more modern than Victorian approach to menstruation: she travels, socializes, and works throughout her periods. Our awareness of her activities is heightened by the concise precision of Leonard’s and her own engagement diaries, which offer more detailed and more accurate accounts of what took place on a particular day than the discursive overviews of past time offered by Virginia’s longhand diaries.

For instance, on July 22, 1918, Leonard records the first day of Virginia’s period; her writing diary indicates that she traveled from Lytton Strachey’s home in Tidmarsh to London that day, before having lunch in the city, followed by dinner with a friend (Diary, 1:171). Similarly, on January 25, 1920—her birthday—Leonard records “P1,” even as Virginia describes going to a concert in Kensington, then having tea with the Countess of Cromer (2:14). That these were common events during her menses is verified by a quick glance at Virginia’s engagement diaries from the years 1930–35, when she was still menstruating regularly and had taken up Leonard’s habit of entering “P1” on the first day of each cycle. Journeys to London from Rodmell and to Leonard’s mother lie alongside these entries, as do Italian lessons, trips to the theater and visits—sometimes more than one in a day, as examples drawn from her 1933 engagement diary alone attest (figs. 1216). These activities far outweigh the very rare canceled event coincident with a “P1” recording. It should be noted, too, that Virginia’s profession made productivity and proneness compatible: on October 25, 1917, she writes that due to her period, she “had to spend the day recumbent. However this is much mitigated by printing [for the Hogarth Press], which I do from my bed on the sloping table” (1:66).42 Virginia’s period flow, then, does not unduly impact the Woolfs’ domestic economy.

It is, of course, the potential cessation of that flow that worries Leonard during Virginia’s thirties and forties, and again as menopause approached. Evidence exists in Virginia Woolf’s fiction and longhand diaries that she shared this concern. More than a decade before Woolf enters menopause, she writes about its consequences for her characters. In the short story “Mrs. Dalloway in Bond Street,” Clarissa Dalloway, bumping into Hugh Whitbread in the street, realizes that he is worried about his menopausal wife, and recalls how Hugh had been like a brother to her when they were younger. Connecting her thoughts, Clarissa inwardly observes: “One would rather die than speak to one’s brother—.” Here Woolf truncates Clarissa’s stream of consciousness so as not to have to add, “about one’s period”; she then portrays Clarissa considering how menstruation (“drat the thing!”) keeps women from riding horses, sitting in Parliament, or [End Page 160]

Fig 12. Virginia Woolf engagement diary, January 1933.
Click for larger view
View full resolution
Fig 12.

Virginia Woolf engagement diary, January 1933.

“do[ing] things with men.”43 Clarissa enjoys this distinction between the sexes and loves Hugh’s respect for that difference. Woolf teeters on the edge of satire here, as Clarissa participates enthusiastically in her own biologically-based oppression, while proving too repressed to allow the words “menopause” or “menstruation” to pass through her own psyche. Nevertheless, the distasteful topic stays with Clarissa as she shops. Extending sympathy to a lacklustre assistant who has offered to show her gloves that she does not really want to buy, Clarissa wonders, “Were there others half an inch longer? Still it seemed tiresome to bother her—perhaps the one day in the month, thought Clarissa, when it’s an agony to stand. ‘Oh, don’t bother,’ she said. But the gloves were brought” (157). Here the old-fashioned Clarissa is compared to the modern shopgirl, or she who must not lie recumbent on the first day of her cycle, no matter how vexing it proves. Such is the imperative of the shop girl’s participation in the marketplace that she must continue to entertain Clarissa’s every whim, the flows and fluxes of her body [End Page 161] notwithstanding. Clarissa’s sympathy is speculative, warm-hearted, and inevitably patronizing, not least because it comes from a woman who has never experienced a day of menial work in her life. It is also edited out of the final version of Mrs. Dalloway, of which this story—published in the Dial in 1923—forms an early draft. In the 1925 novel, the references to Evelyn Whitbread’s menopause are also more oblique; here, Hugh’s wife’s illness is an “internal ailment, nothing serious, which, as an old friend, Clarissa Dalloway would quite understand without requiring him to specify.”44 This ailment is almost inevitably, but not necessarily, menopause, suggesting that this is not a social exchange, as in The Years, where speakers will risk discussing female biological processes and their attendant anxieties.

Fig 13. Virginia Woolf engagement diary, February 1933.
Click for larger view
View full resolution
Fig 13.

Virginia Woolf engagement diary, February 1933.

Fig 14. Virginia Woolf engagement diary, June 1933.
Click for larger view
View full resolution
Fig 14.

Virginia Woolf engagement diary, June 1933.

[End Page 162]

Fig 15. Virginia Woolf engagement diary, November 1933.
Click for larger view
View full resolution
Fig 15.

Virginia Woolf engagement diary, November 1933.

No such prudery inhibits Virginia Woolf’s diaries. In 1929, she begins to speculate about her aging body’s future:

And then I am 47: yes: & my infirmities will of course increase. To begin with my eyes. Last year, I think, I could read without spectacles. … What other infirmities? I can hear, I think, perfectly: I think I could walk as well as ever. But then will there not be the change of life? And may that not be a difficult & even dangerous time? Obviously one can get over it by facing it with common sense—that it is a natural process; that one can lie out here & read; that one’s faculties will be the same afterwards; that one has nothing to worry about in one sense—I’ve written some interesting books, can make money, can afford a holiday—Oh no; one has nothing to bother about; & these curious intervals in [End Page 163] life—I’ve had many—are the most fruitful artistically—one becomes fertilised—think of my madness at Hogarth.

(Diary, 3:254)
Fig 16. Virginia Woolf engagement diary, December 1933.
Click for larger view
View full resolution
Fig 16.

Virginia Woolf engagement diary, December 1933.

Woolf overcomes her fear of bodily change by adding up her achievements and by consoling herself that whatever else transpires, she will remain financially autonomous, because even bouts of neurasthenia can be productive. This optimism proves harder to sustain when menopause actively begins. Woolf describes its symptoms as including “swollen veins—the tingling; the odd falling; feeling of despair. Brain not fully blooded. Hot & cold.” On this day in particular she is pleased to have social engagements because they mean “that I shant be alone, alone I fall into those trances, comas, which are I suppose t. of l; but so frustrating [?], when I want to be clear & to read. A curious throbbing this disease produces” (5:35). Menopause is now a disease, with its limitations and discomforts understandably foregrounded; Woolf pens these lines on November 24, 1936, or seventeen months after recording her last menstrual cycle on June 30, 1935. The lived experience justifies the premenopausal concern she appears to have shared with Leonard. On December 22, 1932, Leonard’s entry reads as follows: “Work Drove Brighton & Lewes / shop / 23068.” To this list of activities and mileage, he adds a small “P” beside the date. After a ten-year hiatus, Leonard’s documentations of Virginia’s periods begin anew.45 Throughout 1933, Leonard abandons “P” for an “x” [End Page 164] marked next to the date; these “x”’s correspond almost perfectly with Virginia’s “P1” annotations.46 These obscure markings in Leonard’s diaries have gone unnoticed or unmentioned until now, but juxtaposed with the content of Virginia’s newly available pocket diaries, their meaning is indisputable. The Woolfs’ records nearly perfectly accord throughout 1934 and up until June of 1935, except for May 6, where Leonard records an “x” and Virginia makes no note at all.47 Leonard’s accuracy is suggested by the fact that the month prior, Virginia’s period started on April 6 or 7. This instance of Virginia’s forgetfulness is rarely replicated in any of her other engagement diaries, wherein her regular periods are recorded almost without fail.48

Is Leonard’s use of “x” in lieu of his customary “P1” a return to a model of encryption? Or is it simply another short form easily reproduced and comprehended in the absence of any other recordings about Virginia’s health? Even if Virginia didn’t know that Leonard was noting the start date of her menses, their communication was certainly frank enough that Leonard had access to this personal information. Virginia’s writing diaries corroborate this assertion. On November 10, 1932, or at the very time that Leonard returns to recording Virginia’s cycle, she finishes yet another diary entry about the progress of her writing, socializing, and a big domestic purchase—a car—with the following: “I don’t think we’ve ever been so happy. … And so intimate, & so completely entire, I mean L. & I. If it could only last like this another 50 years—life like this is wholly satisfactory” (Diary, 4:130). And again, a year later, in December 1933: “Well we are very happy. … I think we live in a rich porous earth[,] … very fully, freely, & adventurously” (4:193). Perhaps Virginia invited Leonard to assist her with keeping track of the dates; perhaps, if we had them, Virginia’s pocket diaries for 1913–1923 would affirm that the couple had a long custom of recording her menstrual cycles in tandem.

Regardless of the motivation behind this accounting process, these records remind us that Leonard is not wholly accurate in his biographical assertion that “[f]or nearly thirty years I had to study Virginia’s mind with the greatest intensity” (53). Instead, these accounts shore up Virginia’s assertion, from her 1926 essay “On Being Ill,” that

literature does its best to maintain that its concern is with the mind; that the body is a sheet of plain glass through which the soul looks straight and clear, and, save for one or two passions such as desire and greed, is null, and negligible and non-existent. On the contrary, the very opposite is true. All day, all night the body intervenes. … The creature within can only gaze through the pane—smudged or rosy; it cannot separate off from the body like the sheath of a knife or the pod of a pea for a single instant.49

“All day, all night the body intervenes”—this quote does not reveal a writer entirely at home in her body, which is posited as an intrusion. It does, however, suggest a writer alive to the ways in which the body is inextricable from our daily consciousness. Menopause clearly forced Virginia to pay closer attention to her body and to her accounts of its machinations. We can see this attentiveness at play in one of her last recordings of her cycle in her engagement diaries, on March 30, 1935 (fig. 17). Here it is not the event that is crossed out due the arrival of Virginia’s period but rather the period itself, [End Page 165] which is recorded not once but twice and then crossed out in both instances. It is as if Virginia is alert to, but cannot quite read, her body’s interventions that day, and the double recording suggests a keenness to ascertain that her period has indeed begun again. This interspersing of Virginia’s fecund but aging body with a visit to T. S. Eliot is ironically appropriate, given that Eliot’s writing is so often anxious about women’s sexuality and physicality. We can envision Virginia Woolf preoccupied by her menstrual flow while visiting Eliot, creator of the wonderfully morose J. Alfred Prufrock, he who shudders at the sight of “light brown hair” on the arm of an otherwise impeccable woman attending a formal occasion.50

Fig 17. Virginia Woolf engagement diary, 1935.
Click for larger view
View full resolution
Fig 17.

Virginia Woolf engagement diary, 1935.

This entry is apposite for two other reasons: firstly, Eliot stands as a representative of the extraordinary quantity of socializing Leonard and Virginia conducted during their marriage. So busy was that social life that in a letter to Eliot dated July 11, 1937, Virginia begs him to visit just so that they can arrange another visit: “Come on Sunday [End Page 166] 25th [July],” she writes, “and we will have out our engagement books and try to rescue a night from chaos” (Letters, 4:144). Secondly, Eliot’s prudery elicited amazement from Leonard and Virginia alike. These assertions are not unrelated, in that while the couple was intensely bound to the obligations and duties associated with hosting and visiting, part of its appeal was that socializing paradoxically offered them respite from the very decorousness that ostensibly defined the process. From the time that Bloomsbury began to form, Virginia courted impropriety in her letters. “I wish I could stop writing this letter—,” she tells Duncan Grant in March 1917. “It is like an extremely long visit to the W. C. when, do what you will, fresh coils appear, and duty seems to urge you to break off, and then another inch protrudes, which must be the last; and it isnt the last—and so on” (2:146). Despite her complaints about the relentless flow of their social engagements, duty does not urge Virginia to break off here. Similarly, Virginia’s letters to those within her inner circle often mention sex, excretion, and menstruation alongside the terms of hospitality. To her sister, Vanessa, on December 26, 1917, she writes: “It’s very melancholy how life is disposed of by periods. / Do come on Saturday if you can” (2:204). Virginia’s tendency to engage in “inappropriate” conversation carries over into her later years.51 By sharp contrast, Leonard describes Eliot as “enclosed in an envelope of frozen formality,” and in his autobiography, he recounts Eliot’s shock when they went for a walk near Monk’s House and Leonard hung back to “make water” in the woods. “Tom said that he not only could not possibly have done what I did, that he would never dream of shaving in the presence even of his wife” (Autobiography, 2:266). Virginia, too, was astonished by Eliot’s palpable need for an intimacy he seems unlikely to find.52 She was specifically bewildered by the realization that he could not speak openly about one of her and Leonard’s favorite topics of conversation: money.53 Eliot chafes and fascinates in that he is a preeminent modernist with observably Victorian sensibilities; his formalities may spark this response in the Woolfs because he reflects the progressions and regressions inherent to their own domestic economy.

In 1930, Virginia moans in her writing diary: “Our friends work us very hard. Heres Tom Eliot: when are you back? … Heres—& my two months’ respite nibbled at by all who choose. I think I will spend August next year in Northumberland” (Diary, 3:320). As so often in Virginia’s writing, friends are a laborious effort that detract from the more important labor of writing. There is no place in this description, or in Virginia’s and Leonard’s shared worldview, for time not defined by productivity. But in presenting herself as an exhausted serf of her social realm, Woolf in fact draws on the etymology of hosting, as J. Hillis Miller explains:

The word “Host” is of course the name for the consecrated bread or wafer of the Eucharist from … Latin hostia, sacrifice, victim. If the host is both eater and eaten, he also contains in himself the double antithetical relation of host and guest, guest in the bifold senses of friendly practice and alien invader. The words “host” and “guest” go back in fact to the same etymological root: ghos-ti, stranger, guest, host, properly “someone with whom one has reciprocal duties of hospitality.” … A host is a guest, and a guest is a host.54 [End Page 167]

Hillis Miller depicts socializing as an economy defined by, and unable to get away from, a binary of reciprocity or exchange. In so doing, he suggests that the concept of duty underlies the meaning of the words “host” and “guest.” In Of Hospitality, Jacques Derrida extends this etymology by articulating a law of hospitality that aims to exceed duty, stating “if I practice hospitality ‘out of duty’ … this hospitality of paying up is no longer an absolute hospitality, is no longer graciously offered beyond debt and economy.”55 To welcome a guest properly, that welcome must be unconditional, even as the imperative “must” means that the law of hospitality—a law that has to be without limitations in order to exist—is trapped in a set of prescriptions. For Derrida, the domestic sphere, or the sphere into which we welcome guests and act as hosts, summarizes this paradox. We perceive the home as inviolable space, yet in order to be a home, it must be open to the outside world and to the possibility of violation. As such, Derrida writes, the home, like hospitality itself, has as its “condition” an impossible but defining “inviolable immunity” (51, 65).

To be immune is to be free, protected, resistant, healthy. In her later years, as Lee observes, immunity is a word that becomes increasingly important to Virginia Woolf.56 Woolf uses this term to signal her desire to remove herself from all of the pressures of her domestic economy, as she writes in her diary on July 14, 1932:

“Immunity” I said to myself half an hour ago, lying back in my chair. Thats the state I am (or was) in. And its a holy, calm, satisfactory flawless feeling—To be immune, means to exist apart from rubs, shocks, suffering; to be beyond the range of darts; to have enough to live on without courting flattery, success; not to need to accept invitations; not to mind other people being praised; to feel This—to sit & breathe behind my screen, alone, is enough; to be strong; content … to feel no one’s thinking of me; to feel I have done certain things and can be quiet now; to be mistress of my hours; to feel detached from all sayings about me; & claims on me; to be glad of lunching alone with Leonard; to have a spare time this afternoon; to read Coleridge’s letters. Immunity is an exalted calm desirable state, & one I could reach much oftener than I do.

(Diary, 4:116–17)

Ideas associable with “immunity” surface in Woolf’s writing diaries, where she frequently longs to be “mistress of [her] soul” or of the hours that mark her mortality and the real limits on her productivity (4:24). “Immunity” allows Woolf to supersede the demands placed on her by the workings of her often ill body, by social interactions, and by the limits by which she, like any individual, is always restrained. These, Derrida claims, are the constraints that condition how we define our guests and our hospitality; by engaging persistently with these questions and conditions, we enter what Derrida labels “the economy of a circle” (Of Hospitality, 135). It is that very circular economy that Woolf aims to transcend. On January 2, 1931 she writes:

Here are my resolutions for the next 3 months; the next lap of the year.

First, to have none. Not to be tied.

Second, to be free & kindly with myself, not goading it to parties: to sit rather privately reading in the studio.

To make a good job of The Waves. To care nothing for making money.

(Diary, 4:3) [End Page 168]

Here Woolf addresses key facets of her domestic economy: her individual well-being, socializing, writing, and money. These resolutions are echoed at a later date when she states that she is optimistic, cares nothing for her audience, and will not partake in two key forms of expenditure: socializing and shopping (4:125). Woolf’s drive to transcend the domestic sphere is underscored by still another instance in which she gleans “a divine sense of immunity” from a decision taken to learn Italian (4:284). Foreignness excitingly negates home. “Immunity is an exalted calm desirable state” that removes Woolf from her daily machinations, even as it offers her the opportunity to be content with those machinations. It is an impossible, if telling, longing for inviolability, one that indicates how the Woolfs were so often torn between a traditional sense of domestic and social duty and a desire to generate the ever-widening freedoms—freedoms artistic, political, social, and personal—that these daily obligations enabled.57

Virginia and Leonard Woolf courted and married just prior to World War I, or at about the same time as Max Weber compiled his notes for Economy and Society, the influential tome that interrogates how Westerners achieved worldwide domination through the drive to master all via calculation. Weber’s work addresses the household, or “the most widespread economic group” that “involves continuous and intensive action”; he suggests that “[i]t is the fundamental basis of loyalty and authority.” In the twentieth century, Weber claims that household economies are threatened by “the rise of the calculative spirit” in part because they are now units of consumption rather than shared production.58 Stopes addresses this same concern when she posits the ideal couple as one where husband and wife “go out together, walk together, read together, and perhaps, if they are very advanced, even work together” (Married Love, 32). Given that Stopes deplores modern life as too urban, artificial, and destructive, her description valorizes the couple as a productive unit, as in the days of yore. The Woolfs might be seen as a throwback to an earlier era; their work and lives remained tied to the domestic sphere, and their influential Hogarth Press operated out of their basement. And for all their evident embrace of modernity, the Woolfs share with many modernists a nostalgia about past systems. Thus Leonard relied upon an antiquated medical model in his management of Virginia’s health, and Virginia, who was motivated by financial autonomy, gave Leonard control over the family finances. Both members of this indefatigable couple supported writers whose work pushed the bounds of literary form and content, but there resides a vestige of censoriousness in their editorial approach.59 This same fear of public opinion no doubt impinged on Woolf’s rewriting of menopause in Mrs. Dalloway. The Woolfs appear most consistently liberated when socializing, which frees them from the petty pruderies they share to some degree with T. S. Eliot. Virginia was aware of this affiliation. At the conclusion of her 1924 letter to Mary Hutchinson, the admission of her own squeamishness leads, not coincidentally, to a mockery of Eliot’s: “Tom’s dining tomorrow, and I shall be very curious to observe whether rouge on the lips, quickens his marmoreal heart.” Anticipating a social interaction, Virginia envisions an otherwise unthinkable flirtation with Tom Eliot, one predicated on her consumption of products marketed for the female body.60 [End Page 169]

Critics have been eager to align Virginia Woolf’s approach to modernist markets with narratives of anxiety and incompetence. Alternately, it has been suggested that Woolf was interested in the market as “an aesthetic phenomenon” (Wicke, “Mrs. Dalloway Goes to Market,” 11).61 But the Woolfs’ engagement diaries succinctly expose how Leonard and Virginia were aligned in generating pragmatic, systematic approaches to their domestic economy, painstakingly recording their cycles, activities, and expenditures, be they physical, individual, or social. Partly this recording was a response to the many demands on their selves and time; in this regard, these diaries further Shari Benstock’s well-known argument that autobiography need not be the conscious work of an author in control of a coherent personal narrative. These engagement diaries offer a constant reminder of externalities that co-opt the supposedly autonomous self: health concerns, appointments made and canceled, familial and social obligations. Engagement diaries attempt to systematize time; they also illustrate the failures of those attempts. The long spates of empty pages and columns in Virginia’s engagement diaries in particular literalize Benstock’s claim that “the self that would reside at the textual center is decentered—often absent altogether—in women’s autobiographical texts.”62 Nowhere is this absence more poignant than in the empty pages that follow March 28 in Virginia Woolf’s 1941 engagement diary.

Together, Leonard and Virginia’s engagement diaries communicate a fantastic intimacy between this famous couple; that said, the records they hold can feel dogmatic, prescribed. Iconoclastic modernists should appear to eschew overt system, and in this spirit, the Woolfs’ economic fastidiousness—and Leonard’s in particular—has the potential to become as comically reductive as the tally of Leopold Bloom’s expenditure in the “Ithaca” episode of Joyce’s Ulysses. But the Woolfs were not the only modernists with a firm hand on their domestic economy. Describing a trip he took with Eliot to Europe after World War I, Wyndham Lewis divulges how the canonical poet shared more than primness with the Woolfs:

I hope I shall not be destroying some sentimental illusion if I record that to my surprise I remarked that my companion entered most scrupulously in a small notebook the day’s expenses. This he would do every evening at a café table when we had had our nightcap. There was not much more he could spend before he got into bed.63

Stephen Dedalus has just left 7 Eccles Street when Bloom’s sums are reckoned; having finished socializing, Bloom too is about to go to bed. Eliot might have liked to conduct his daily accounts away from Lewis’s scornful eye, but in the absence of the privilege that privacy becomes when traveling, he integrated the process into the socializing at the end of each day. At stake in Joyce’s and Lewis’s accounts of accounting is a satire of exactness about money, in part because that very care suggests an attentiveness to trivial domestic detail that muddies the waters of so-called heroic protagonist or great man. Virginia Woolf too engages in this satire of the too-economical male in Night and Day, where Ralph Denham gives an account of himself—“exactly how many pounds stood in his name at the bank [and] … how much of [his family’s] income went on [End Page 170] rent”—in a great rush in order to prove that he is a viable match for Katharine Hilbery. Unbeknownst to Ralph, as he speaks, Katharine only thinks about “pages all speckled with dots and dashes and twisted bars.”64 The granddaughter of a famous poet, Katharine is a marriageable young woman who

was, from her childhood even, put in charge of household affairs. She had the reputation, which nothing in her manner contradicted, of being the most practical of people.

Ordering meals, directing servants, paying bills, and so contriving that every clock ticked more or less accurately in time, and a number of vases were always full of fresh flowers was supposed to be a natural endowment of hers, and, indeed, Mrs. Hilbery often observed that it was poetry the wrong side out.


For Katharine’s mother, likening management to poetry is the highest possible compliment, but Katharine detests the demands of domesticity. Instead, she wants to employ her energies in exploring “the exactitude, the star-like impersonality” of numerical figures; alone at night she works away at mathematics, keeping her sums secretly stored in a Greek dictionary (42). Katharine believes that marriage will give her more time to work on numbers, but at the other end of Woolf’s oeuvre is Isa Oliver, the married woman Katharine could become. As we learn early on in Between the Acts, Isa is bogged down by precisely the same sorts of chores that define young Katharine’s day. And Isa, too, thinks often of dots and dashes and twisted bars, albeit alphabetical in nature rather than numerical; Isa secretly writes poetry “in the book bound like an account book in case [her husband] Giles suspected.”65 These female protagonists disguise their intellectual endeavors in response to the paternalistic expectations and limitations that determine their daily lives and the demands—domestic, social, economic—placed on their female selves. While paternalism is evoked by Leonard Woolf’s cyphered diaries about Virginia’s body, Katharine’s and Isa’s encrypted accounts signal another version of Virginia’s exalted, impossible immunity. These women escape domesticity by pursuing the pleasures figures provide, even as Katharine’s very love of mathematics and Isa’s account book speak to the inevitable necessity of tallying. As for Virginia and Leonard, the domestic sphere engages these characters in every sense of the word: an engaged self is entangled, pledged, bargained for, and formally bound. But an engaged self can also be attracted, charmed, and fascinated, or, as in the French word engagé, an artist at one with his or her work. And in this latter regard, the engagements of the body, social, physical, and intellectual, facilitated the means by which the Woolfs, and some of Virginia Woolf’s female characters, broke and realigned themselves with the bounds of propriety, and with their own foundational domestic economies.

Sara Crangle

Sara Crangle is a Reader in English at the University of Sussex, where she co-directs the Centre for Modernist Studies. In addition to articles on James Joyce, Wyndham Lewis, Dada, and affective states such as sulking, she is the author of Prosaic Desires: Modernist Knowledge, Boredom, Laughter, and Anticipation (2010). She edited Stories and Essays of Mina Loy (2011) and edited, with Peter Nicholls, On Bathos: Literature, Art, Music (2010; 2012). She is currently completing a book on Mina Loy and satire.


This essay began life as a public lecture, by invitation of the vice chancellor, Michael Farthing, in honor of the University of Sussex purchase of the Virginia Woolf engagement diaries. The manager of Sussex Special Collections, Fiona Courage, has been particularly helpful in untangling the history of Sussex’s acquisition of the Leonard Woolf Papers, much of which remains anecdotal. Stuart Robinson has skillfully and generously supplied the images. Thanks also to Rachel Bowlby and Margaretta Jolly [End Page 171] for insightful readings of an early draft and to my two anonymous readers whose suggestions have improved it considerably. Lastly, I thank Sam Ladkin for his assistance with the final stages and for sustenance throughout. I would very much like to dedicate this essay to my parents, Elizabeth and Brian Crangle, who celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of their own domestic economy on July 31, 2015.

1. Virginia Woolf, The Letters of Virginia Woolf, 6 vols., ed. Nigel Nicolson and Joanne Trautmann (London: Hogarth Press, 1975–80), 6:505.

2. In a letter written seven years earlier, Virginia extols her decision to make these towels as a way of “sav[ing] at least 2/6 a month.” Both explanations are rooted in the exigencies of the marketplace. See Letters of Virginia Woolf, 2:146.

3. Hermione Lee, Virginia Woolf (London: Vintage, 1997), 382, 469.

4. According to Fiona Courage, manager of University of Sussex Special Collections, Trekkie Parsons, Leonard’s companion of later years, is believed to have sold Virginia Woolf’s engagement diaries into the private sector in the early eighties. The engagement diaries were owned by the family until that point and remained with unknown collectors for about thirty years. They are now listed as Virginia Woolf Engagement Diaries (1930–1941), Monk’s House Papers, Papers of Virginia Woolf and Related Papers of Leonard Woolf, Special Collections, University of Sussex, SxMs–18/4/41.

5. All photographs were taken by University of Sussex photographer Stuart Robinson at the author’s request; further permission to use these images has been secured from Special Collections at the University of Sussex.

6. Another example of affect-laden naming includes Virginia’s recordings of her meetings with the suffragette and composer Ethel Smyth, who is recorded on February 18, 1930, as “Mrs. Smyth.” On March 10 of that same year, Smyth is severely crossed out of the diary; by April 7, she is listed as “Ethel,” a notation long overdue, given that in their first meeting that February, Woolf states in her writing diaries that the pair had immediately decided to use each other’s first names. But by June 13, Ethel is again relegated to “Ethel Smyth.” The full stop is quite determined. A turn to the writing diary explains this change: on June 16, Virginia writes, scabrously, about Ethel: “I daresay the old fires of Sapphism are blazing for the last time. In her heyday she must have been formidable.” To this Virginia adds that Ethel “qualifies her conversation so as to drive L.[eonard] almost frantic. One speech of hers lasted 20 minutes unbroken, he says, the other night.” The writing diary later recounts how Ethel ingratiates herself and becomes an integral part of the Woolfian domestic economy. As “Ethel” she reappears in the pocket diary on October 22, 1930, and “Ethel” she remains thereafter. See Diary of Virginia Woolf, 5 vols., ed. Anne Olivier Bell with Andrew McNeillie (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1977–84), 3:291, 306.

7. Likewise, some of the engagements listed in the longhand diary do not make their way into the pocket diaries, as family or close friends—Vanessa Bell or Roger Fry, for instance—did not always plan visits in advance.

8. Leonard Woolf, An Autobiography, 4 vols. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980), 2:106.

9. Another example: on July 14, 1931, Virginia tabulates a “Waves account” to see how much time she has spent on that novel, and how much more she can expect to spend; come October, she is reporting both the sales (“beaten all my books”) and her friends’ responses to her most experimental novel. See Woolf, Diary, 4:5, 35, 47–48.

10. Virginia Woolf, “The Journal of Mistress Joan Martyn,” in The Complete Shorter Fiction of Virginia Woolf, ed. Susan Dick (San Diego: Harcourt, 1989), 42–33. Virginia traveled with her siblings to Greece and Turkey in the same year that this story was written, and her expenses are carefully tallied at the end of her notebook. This precise set of figures includes medicine, tips, and Turkish delight, and is rendered not with a domestic economy in view but a foreign one. Perhaps outside of her comfort zone, Virginia is forced to be more fastidious in her accounting. See Virginia Woolf, A Passionate Apprentice, ed. Mitchell A. Leaska (London: Pimlico, 2004), 358–62.

11. Both Leonard and Virginia endeavored to put their aesthetic ideals before income. In 1932, Virginia describes how Vita Sackville-West’s need for money prompted her to scribble out literary works, adding that she hopes that she personally may “never fall into the money trap” (Diary, 4:63–64, 66). Leonard counseled against personal and societal excess. In his autobiography, he describes the role of publisher as that of a “not very competent business man, wobbling between profits and art [End Page 172] for art’s sake,” and explicitly takes issue with capitalism because it encourages consumption beyond need (Autobiography, 2:304, 248).

12. Paul Delaney, “A Little Capital: The Financial Affairs of Leonard and Virginia Woolf,” Charleston Magazine 7 (1993): 8.

13. Leonard remains well known in Britain for his preeminent and forward-thinking work on international relations, International Government (1916), as well as numerous tracts on economic issues. He considered capitalism a “contaminant” and took issue with prevailing leftist critiques of capitalism—Marxism included—because he felt that they had unduly imbibed capitalist tenets. Consumer cooperation was the key to overturning a system that privileged the producer over the consumer; the masses, Leonard believed, did not want competition or war and could be pressed into spending part of each year doing menial tasks for the greater good. See Peter Wilson, The International Theory of Leonard Woolf: A Study in Twentieth-Century Idealism (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), 153, 155–58.

14. According to Paul Delaney, Leonard was unlike fellow Bloomsbury member E. M. Forster, who volubly interrogated the ethical consequences of his investments, both in Howards End and in his personal writings. Delaney argues that although Leonard denounces the ravages of empire in his Economic Imperialism (1920), he “invested more than forty percent of his and Virginia’s capital in imperial ventures like Shell Oil” (“A Little Capital,” 6).

15. Jennifer Wicke, “Mrs. Dalloway Goes to Market: Woolf, Keynes, and Modern Markets,” NOVEL: A Forum on Fiction 28, no. 1 (1994): 14.

16. The 1911 references are from Leonard Woolf Papers (1894–1995), Diaries and Other Notebooks, Special Collections, University of Sussex, SxMs-13/2/R/A/3. All 1912 references are from the same archive, SxMs- 13/2/R/A/4. Some of the decryption is Leonard’s (as discussed in what follows); some decryption is in an unmarked, uncatalogued file contained in that archive compiled by Anne Olivier Bell, who used the Tamil and Sinhalese alphabets to decode portions of Leonard’s encryption. Fiona Courage at Sussex Special Collections confirmed the source of these decoded writings.

17. The 1912 desk diary is located in the Leonard Woolf Papers (1894–1995), Sussex, SxMs-13/2/R/A/4; desk diaries from 1913 to 1917 are listed as Sussex, SxMs-13/2/R/A/5, SxMs-13/2/R/A/6, SxMs-13/2/R/A/7, SxMs-13/2/R/A/8, and SxMs-13/2/R/A/9.

18. See Virginia Woolf, “1897,” in A Passionate Apprentice, 5–134, especially 6n12.

19. Leonard bequeathed his papers and property to his next partner, Trekkie Parsons, who became his executor and donated his papers to the University of Sussex in 1972. See Victoria Glendinning, Leonard Woolf: A Life (London: Simon and Schuster, 2006), 494.

20. Roger Poole’s The Unknown Virginia Woolf (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996) pits Leonard as a willfully uncomprehending rationalist against Virginia as a creative intuitionist. Poole usefully deconstructs misinterpretations of Virginia’s “madness” but is unduly hard on Leonard, contradicting Virginia’s autobiographical writings. Lee echoes Poole to some degree in Virginia Woolf when she notes that “Leonard’s drive for control and her need for care fell into a consistent life-long shape because of her illness” (Virginia Woolf, 319). For an example of Virginia’s worry about reporting illness to Leonard, see the entry dated February 10, 1930 in Diary 3: 286.

21. Further instances appear on February 28 and October 18 of Virginia’s 1933 engagement diary.

22. Virginia’s illnesses significantly impacted the couple’s domestic finances; a separate section for doctor’s bills is located in the “Cash Accounts” pages at the back of Leonard’s diaries over these difficult years, 1915 and 1917 inclusive. See Leonard Woolf Papers (1894–1995), Sussex, SxMs-13/2/R/A/7–9.

23. With a like productivity in mind, ill guests can be a cause for celebration. On November 21, 1934, Virginia records a series of social engagements, which is followed by “we’ve done our duty as party givers, & today heave a heavenly sigh of gladness because [our anticipated guest] has a cold & puts our dinner with him off.” See Diary, 4:129, 133, 262.

24. Similarly, on October 7, 1939—the day after Hitler gave a final ultimatum to the allied forces—Virginia Woolf records a visit with T. S. Eliot in her engagement diary. There are no further entries for 1939, although her writing diaries recount endless engagements, including, on November 1, the telling summation that “society … is fairly brisk.” Virginia kept many appointments in this period [End Page 173] but doesn’t note or anticipate them in her engagement diaries; it is as if to record them would be to assume a future that, with the onset of war, she is no longer willing to take for granted (Diary, 5:244).

25. Leonard Woolf, “Account of Virginia Woolf’s Fainting Attack on 11 August 1932,” Monk’s House Papers, Special Collections, University of Sussex, SxMs–13/2/D/9/A/1.

26. George Spater and Ian Parsons, A Marriage of True Minds: An Intimate Portrait of Leonard and Virginia Woolf (London: Jonathan Cape, 1977), 69.

27. Julie-Marie Strange, “‘I Believe It to Be a Case Depending on Menstruation’: Madness and Menstrual Taboo in British Medical Practice, c. 1840–1930,” in Menstruation: A Cultural History, ed. Andrew Shail and Gillian Howie (Houndmills, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), 102–16.

28. Leonard Woolf’s desk and pocket diaries from 1913–23 are housed in the Leonard Woolf Papers (1894–1995), Sussex, SxMs–13/2/R/A/5–17. In 1919 and 1921, he used both a desk and a pocket diary.

29. For examples of this claim by Marie Carmichael Stopes, see Married Love: A New Contribution to the Solution of Sex Difficulties (London: Hogarth Press, 1955), 49, and The Change of Life in Men and Women (London: Putnam., 1947), 149. See also Jane Goldman’s argument that Stopes appears in A Room of One’s Own in The Cambridge Introduction to Virginia Woolf (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 97, and Christina Alt’s consideration of Stopes’s and Virginia’s relationship in Virginia Woolf and the Study of Nature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011).

30. James King, Virginia Woolf (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1994), 58.

31. Sharra L. Vostral discusses American menstrual products in her essay “Masking Menstruation: The Emergence of Menstrual Hygiene Products in the United States,” in Menstruation, 242. Rosemary Hawthorne discusses British menstrual products in “From Rags to Riches,” Journal of the Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Women’s Health 104 (2009): 34–37.

32. See for instance, King, who in Virginia Woolf uses Virginia’s letter to Hutchinson as evidence of her inability to cope with her menstrual cycle (58).

33. In Carried Away: The Invention of Modern Shopping (London: Faber and Faber, 2000), 105–6, Rachel Bowlby describes how, in 1937, Lilia, a British napkin brand, strove to generate an “anti-package”—one that called attention to the company’s product in the store but was not noticeable outside of it. Bowlby further asserts that as late as the sixties, U.S. advertisements for menstrual products show women hesitating over their purchase.

34. Virginia Woolf, The Years (London: Hogarth Press, 1992), 291.

35. In “Virginia Woolf’s Evasion: Critical Cosmopolitanism and British Modernism,” Rebecca Walkowitz uses this passage in The Years to discuss Woolf’s vexed relationship with the monumental. See Bad Modernisms, ed. Douglas Mao and Rebecca L. Walkowitz (Durham: Duke University Press, 2006), 141. Sue Malvern points out that the Cavell statue is the only British WWI monument dedicated to a woman and speculates that Cavell’s famous phrase, “patriotism is not enough” must have influenced the inception of Woolf’s Three Guineas. See “‘For King and Country’: Frampton’s Edith Cavell (1915–20) and the Writing of Gender in Memorials to the Great War,” in Sculpture and the Pursuit of a Modern Ideal in Britain, c. 1880–1930, ed. David J. Getsy (Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2004), 228.

36. In “‘For King and Country,’” Malvern interprets this conflation as rooted in the postwar struggle to redefine gender roles; she suggests that the Cavell monument is “a complex image of a nurse as an authoritarian, omnipotent, and castrating figure, who infantalises the disempowered soldiers in her charge” (233).

37. In “From Rags to Riches,” Hawthorne details how Southall’s, founded in 1820, expanded its surgical supplies to include menstrual products in the 1880s, as did Sasheena Ltd., producer of Lilia, in 1927. This same essay argues that the very earliest ads for menstrual products could be found in the British Medical Journal (35–36). Curiously, in the Cavell monument that still stands in Trafalgar Square, it is not Cavell who holds out her hand but “Humanity” figured as a mother protecting a child atop the statue proper. Further, it is not this masculine, austere figure but a highly feminine one similar to the surmounting statuary that features in the earliest Southall’s ads for sanitary napkins, one of which shows a woman in nurse’s uniform with an arm outstretched round an infant. A good sample of early British and American menstrual product advertisements—including this Southall’s ad—can be found on “The Museum of Menstruation and Women’s Health” (mum.org), the delightful website edited by Harry Finley. [End Page 174]

38. Strange makes no mention of the connection between Sir George and Virginia Woolf.

39. Savage was a late proponent of an ill–defined eighteenth-century concept, “moral insanity,” that confused unethical behavior with biological processes beyond an individual’s control. Savage cultivated a public role extolling rationality and normative behavior while denouncing education for women and the lower classes. He directed an asylum for the insane until 1888, when he was forced to resign due to public outcry about his excessive use of force on his patients. See Stephen Trombley, “The Morality of Madness: Sir George Henry Savage,” in All That Summer She Was Mad: Virginia Woolf and Her Doctors (London: Junction Books, 1981), 107–57.

40. George Savage, Lancet, October 31, 1903, 1210.

41. Leonard was “was enormously impressed” by the Women’s Co-operative Guild, which he described as an “unofficial parliament of 650 working class women. … They were much more unemotional, stable, quiet, matter of fact than any similar male assembly” (Autobiography, 2:75). And he later describes Virginia’s feminism as “immaculate,” adding that although “Three Guineas [was] castigated by many male critics, … I personally feel [that it was] eminently right.” On the next page, he adds: “The struggle to end the subjection of women has been bitter and prolonged; it was not by any means over in 1940, nor in 1968 either” (Autobiography, 2:423–4).

42. Woolf suggests that she is recumbent “owing to the usual circumstances” (Diary, 1:66). It is not clear if by “usual” she is referring to the cycle itself or the pain associated with it. Her justification of her need to lie down, however, may well be an aspect of what she herself acknowledged as her social snobbery. From the early modern period onward in England, it was believed that peasant women menstruated more easily than aristocratic women; to suggest that menstruation did not impede one’s daily life was to risk aligning oneself with the lower classes. See Michael Stolberg, “Menstruation and Sexual Difference in Early Modern Medicine,” in Menstruation, 96.

43. Virginia Woolf, “Mrs. Dalloway in Bond Street,” in The Complete Shorter Fiction of Virginia Woolf, ed. Susan Dick (San Diego: Harcourt, 1989), 153.

44. Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 7.

45. A “P” is also noted on November 3, 1932, but it does not tally, as the December date does, with Virginia’s “P1” pocket diary entry. Given the regularity of Virginia’s periods, this notation is likely inaccurate, although it does suggest that Leonard considered returning to recording Virginia’s cycles as early as November of that year.

46. Slight disparities occur in September (Virginia notes her first day as September 28, Leonard as 27) and October (Virginia’s “P1” on the 25th is countered by Leonard’s “x” on the 26th).

47. Throughout 1934–35, date variations occur in April, May, and June, but as in 1933, these are only twenty-four hours out of alignment.

48. In 1930, Virginia experiences a 30-32 day cycle, excepting April and July, where she seems to have forgotten to record “PI”. She notes the first date of her cycle on March 15 and May 17 of that year, as well as June 14 and August 12. In 1933, she returns to this cycle, excepting in July; here she does seem to have skipped a cycle, as her “PI” dates occur on 15 June and 2 August. Quotes from Leonard Woolf’s 1932–35 diaries are drawn from the Leonard Woolf Papers (1894–1995), Sussex, SxMs–13/2/R/A/26–29.

49. Virginia Woolf, “On Being Ill,” in The Essays of Virginia Woolf, 6 vols., ed. Andrew McNeillie (London: Hogarth Press, 1994), 4:317–29, 317–18.

50. T. S. Eliot, Collected Poems, 1909–1962 (London: Faber and Faber, 1974), 15.

51. For instance, in February 1932, Virginia recounts a gathering at Clive Bell’s, where a debate ensued over the possible publication of Lytton Strachey’s letters. Virginia was in favor of publishing because Strachey’s homosexuality couldn’t possibly offend contemporary readers. Or, as she claims to have put it, “Oh buggery’s exploded—nobody could mind that now” (Diary, 4: 71).

52. Woolf offers the following description of Eliot: “A religious soul: an unhappy man: a lonely very sensitive man, all wrapt up in fibres of self torture, doubt, conceit, desire for warmth & intimacy” (Diary, 4: 277).

53. On October 22, 1922, Virginia wrote to Roger Fry to express her amazement at Eliot’s inability to speak openly about an annuity arranged on his behalf by his peers: “There he has let us all go on writing and appealing for the past 6 months, and at last steps out and says he will take nothing less [End Page 175] than £500—very sensible, but why not say so at first; and why twist and anguish and almost suffocate with humiliation at the mere mention of money?” (Diary, 2: 572).

54. J. Hillis Miller, “The Critic as Host,” Critical Inquiry 3, no. 3 (1977): 442.

55. Jacques Derrida and Anne Dufourmantelle, Of Hospitality, trans. Rachel Bowlby (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2000), 83.

56. Lee points out the importance of the passage quoted here, and of this word, to Virginia in her later years, although she aligns “immunity” with indifference, elitism, and privacy (635). Lee’s appears to be a misreading, in that Woolf’s immunity is passionately rendered, and is less elitist than an impossible (and very modernist) desire for personal power and autonomy.

57. Like Virginia, Leonard too describes being occasionally overwhelmed by the need for solitude. See, for example, Autobiography, 2:290.

58. Max Weber, Economy and Society: An Outline of Interpretive Sociology, vols. 1 and 2, ed. Guenther Roth and Claus Wittich (New York: Bedminster Press, 1968), 358–89.

59. For instance, in considering Vita Sackville-West’s novel The Dark Island (1934), Virginia notes: “She has a joke about the prostate gland which we are asking her to reconsider” (Diary, 4:226).

60. While Eliot’s heart may be like cold marble, Virginia too has her limits: the use of the definite article, rather than a possessive pronoun, in relation to her own lips in this quote suggests she can’t quite see her indiscretion through.

61. Jennifer Wicke’s argument is compelling. “Like consciousness,” she writes, “the [modernist] market has come to defy description, in that it is no longer equitable with realist or entirely rational modes of representation. This puts the modernist economic theorist like Keynes in the position the modernist writer like Woolf also confronts—a position where the imperative is to re-present what is acknowledged beforehand to be resistant to interpretation, at least by traditional (realist, rationalist) means” (“Mrs. Dalloway Goes to Market,” 11). Wicke further suggests that art and economics are inseparable for Woolf, as for Keynes, and indeed, for the self-styled “coterie consumption” of Bloomsbury proper (12, 10). Where Wicke demonstrates how narratives of consumption and production weave their way through Woolf’s fictions, Delaney simply asserts that for Virginia Woolf, the disinterestedness crucial to good art could only be achieved via economic independence (6).

62. Shari Benstock, “The Female Self Engendered: Autobiographical Writing and Theories of Selfhood,” Women’s Studies: An Inter-disciplinary Journal 20, no. 1 (1991): 11.

63. Wyndham Lewis, “Early London Environment,” in T. S. Eliot: A Collection of Critical Essays, ed. Hugh Kenner (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1962), 33.

64. Virginia Woolf, Night and Day, ed. Suzanne Raitt (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 314.

65. Virginia Woolf, Between the Acts (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1972), 15. [End Page 176]