Peter Fullagar on Virginia Woolf and Her Richmond Legacy

Aurora Metro Arts & Media have recently launched a campaign to raise funds to install a lifesize bronze statue of Virginia Woolf in Richmond, her once residence and origin on the pivotal Hogarth Press. To coincide with the campaign, a new book titled Virginia Woolf in Richmond presents a selection of the author's letters and diary entries written from and about Richmond.

Virginia Woolf in Richmond is published by Aurora Metro and is edited by Peter Fullagar. Our editor Amy McLean talks with Fullagar to find out more about the book and the campaign for the statue of Woolf.

Virginia Woolf in Richmond looks at Woolf's time spent living in Richmond. What can readers expect from the content of the book?

The book does indeed focus on Virginia’s life in Richmond, and the aim of the book is to demonstrate that Virginia did enjoy living there and that the town influenced her significantly.

Each chapter is devoted to a different area of her life. Of course there are chapters on her writing, the Hogarth Press, and her health, but I also wanted to include the every day, so I look at the people who came to visit her and Leonard, the effect of her servants, her leisure time and her involvements around the town, which included volunteering at the Women’s Co-Operative.

How important was Woolf's time spent in Richmond, for shaping both her life and her writing?

I believe living in Richmond was incredibly important for Virginia. The main reason for the move to Richmond from Central London was so that she would not be so distracted by a social life, but could instead focus on her recovery and writing. Leonard and Virginia moved to Richmond in 1914, and from 1913 Virginia had been suffering terribly with her mental illness, so Richmond was seen as a quieter place for Virginia to recover.

Richmond featured in her writing, even before the couple moved there, and Richmond continued to be mentioned long after the couple moved away, in novels such as Orlando. I believe that living in Richmond saved Virginia, but it was possible that she didn’t recognise that at the time.

A major part of that was the Hogarth Press. She was prolific during her time in Richmond, finishing Night and Day and Jacob’s Room and starting work on Mrs Dalloway and The Common Reader. As well as these publications, she also wrote numerous short stories and essays, including Kew Gardens, which is not far from Richmond. 

Hogarth House is notable for its origins as the Hogarth Press, and therefore plays a pivotal role in expanding the involvement of members of the Bloomsbury Group with Woolf's work (e.g. Dora Carrington providing woodcuts, and cover designs from Vanessa Bell). What did the Press mean to Woolf, and particularly her mental health?

Hogarth Press meant a great deal to both Leonard and Virginia. The couple had talked about starting a press years before, but by the end of 1916 Leonard thought it a good idea that Virginia have some hobby or activity to keep her occupied.

Virginia was quite traumatised by the process of sending her work to prospective publishers and receiving criticism, but having their own press meant that Virginia had the freedom to publish whatever she wanted and to keep control of her work.

As well as Virginia’s work, Leonard could also publish his own work, as he was also an author in his own right. Although the Press was trying, the couple seemed to enjoy being busy, and Virginia even humanises the Press as if it were her own child. Being childless, it appears through her personal writing that she personified certain things in her life, including the Press and Hogarth House itself. 

Virginia Woolf in Richmond is part of the campaign for a bronze lifesize statue of Woolf, the first of its kind, to be erected in Richmond. Can you tell me a little about that project?

The Virginia Woolf Statue campaign is an extremely important one. Currently, there is a bust of Virginia near Tavistock Square, where the couple moved after Richmond, and also in the garden at Monk’s House, which the couple bought in 1919. However, even though Virginia lived in Richmond for ten years during the turbulent First World War, there is nothing except a blue plaque to commemorate her connection to the town, and this needs to be rectified.

The statue will be created by acclaimed artist Laury Dizengremel, who has had sculptures commissioned over the world as well as here in London. The statue will be of Virginia sitting on a bench looking happy, because, contrary to what many people think, she was happy living in Richmond. I think the bench is a great idea, because then people will be able to sit next to her and look out to the River Thames, which she once called ‘her river’.

Arguably a price cannot be put on Woolf's legacy, but the statue is going to cost £50,000, and there's a deadline of July 2019 for the funds, isn't there? What will happen if  the target isn't met?

I am quite sure the target will be met if we keep raising awareness of the literary legacy she has left in Richmond. I also think that Virginia Woolf in Richmond will help to boost the campaign, as it really demonstrates why Richmond is deserving of a statue of Virginia Woolf.

People can donate to the cause by visiting the Aurora Metro charity page, as well as reading Virginia Woolf in Richmond to see how she really felt about the town in her own words.

Head on over to Aurora Metro to find out more about Virginia Woolf in Richmond, You can help bring the statue to life via the Aurora Metro charity page, and you can find out more about Peter Fullagar and his projects on his website and over on Twitter.

Amy McLean was talking to Peter Fullagar about Virginia Woolf in Richmond and the campaign

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