I spent the afternoon at the Chicago Public Library, reading through the one-sided yet delightful letter conversations of Virginia Woolf to her friend and lover, V. Sackville-West in the Vol.3 of The Letters of Virginia Woolf (1923-1928).
Reading someone else’s letters is like living vicariously through them–guilty little pleasures that one indulges in to discover more about their object of interest. It isn’t news that Virigina Woolf had a romantic relationship with Vita–I think the pleasure for me is in digging a bit deeper each time.
Here, I have shared my favourite two letters from the book in which Woolf writes to Vita of P.E.N’s interest in inducting her as a member and her subsequent refusal. The letters are delightful and interspersed with obvious affection towards Vita. At this rate, I might after all manage to complete the huge volume of letters.
1375: To V. SACKVILLE-WEST Hotel Ingles, Madrid
Good Friday [30 March 1923]
Dear Mrs Nicolson,
(But I wish you could be induced to call me Virginia). I got your letter as we left Richmond. I am much flattered that the P.E.N. should ask me to become a member.
I would do so with pleasure, except that I don’t know what being a member means. Does it commit one to make speeches, or to come regularly, or to read paper or what? Living so far out, dinners are apt to be difficult, and I cant speak. But we shall be back the first week in May, and if you would then enlighten me I would at once let you know. It was very good of you to propose me, and I shouldn’t be cautious at al if I didn’t remember some reason that made it seem, when I was asked before, difficult to manage.
We have been tramping round Madrid after the figure of Christ in a purple dressing gown, The Last Supper, The Crucifixion and so on, and are half dazed with noise, but it is all very exciting, –the country as we came through Spain yesterday was incredibly beautiful. Tomorrow we are off to Granada.
Yours very sincerely
1379: To V. SACKVILLE-WEST Murcia, Spain
April 15th 1923
Dear Mrs Nicolson
The secretary of the P.E.N. club has written to me to to say that I have been elected a member. Very regretfully I have had to decline –since I see from the club papers that it is wholly a dining club, and my experience is that I can’t, living at Richmond, belong to dining clubs. I’ve tried two dining clubs, with complete disaster. But I’m very sorry, as I should like to know the members, and see you also.
But this last I hope can be managed in other ways.
I’m sitting in a Cafe with a band, ten million Spaniards playing dominoes, and old men trying to sell lottery tickers, so forgive this scrawl. We’ve had a splendid time up in the Sierra Nevada, staying with a mad Englishman [Brenan], who does nothing but read French and eat grapes.
There never was such a lovely country.
Yours very sincerely