Woolf in the World: A Pen and a Press of Her Own

Hugh Walpole and The Waves

The WavesIn Virginia Woolf’s seventh novel, “each character speaks in soliloquy against the background of the sea.” According to the blurb inside the first edition, “Several lives thus appear as in a pageant detached from the framework of daily life, but they change and grow old as time goes on. In the end one of the characters sums up the effect of their lives as a whole.” When she began the novel, Woolf wrote in her diary: “I think I am about to embody, at last, the exact shapes my brain holds.” Woolf wrote The Waves “to a rhythm, not a plot.”

Virginia Woolf. The Waves. London: Hogarth Press, 1931.
With dust jacket designed by Vanessa Bell.

Woolf letter to Hugh WalpoleAccording to Hugh Walpole’s note inside the page proofs of the novel, Woolf and Walpole discussed “Reality” over tea at Tavistock Square on 26 February 1932. Woolf later inscribed The Waves for him. In her letter accompanying the proofs, she writes: “Here is the Waves, lacking, I am sorry to say, among other things, a fly leaf. But you won’t mind that, I know, since you have put up with many worse deficiencies on the part of your friend Virginia Woolf.” In his note, Walpole says that these proofs “were the very earliest of this book.”

Virginia Woolf. Letter to Hugh Walpole, 3 March 1932.

The Waves (Walpole's copy)
Virginia Woolf. The Waves: page proofs, 6-13 August 1931.
Inscribed by the author to Hugh Walpole.

Hugh WalpoleNovelist Hugh Walpole often visited Northampton, Massachusetts. In his notes for a 27 October 1926 lecture at the Hampshire Bookshop about the modern novel, “Mrs. Virginia Woolf” is grouped with Joyce and Lawrence as examples of modern novelists, whose “remarkable writings” verge “on philosophy and essay.” Many of his thoughts on reality and his criticisms of the modern novel are expressed in his Letter To a Modern Novelist, which was published by the Hogarth Press in 1932 as part of the Hogarth Letters series.

Hugh Walpole at Brackenburn: photograph, 1929.
Hampshire Bookshop Collection.

Hugh Walpole lecture notes Hugh Walpole lecture notes
Hugh Walpole. “The Victorian and Modern Novel Contrasted”:
typed lecture notes, 27 October 1926. Hampshire Bookshop Collection.

Presented by Frances Hooper ’14.
Mortimer Rare Book Room, Smith College

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