WOOLF Virginia - Autograph Letter Signed giving gardening advice
Virginia WOOLF (1882-1941)Autograph Letter Signed (“V.W.”) to “Dear Enid” [the writer Enid Bagnold] discussing dew ponds and the various types of water lilies suitable for them.
2 pages 4to, Monks House, Rodmell, 29 August n.y.
“Leonard, who is the authority on dewpond and lilies was away – thats why I didn’t write. But here he is, with the following information:
“Ours is not a real dewpond. It was made by an out of work man in the village, in the first place as a semi-philanthropic action which as usual led to disaster, because he made it so that it leaked. This pond is made of cement which is perfectly satisfactory if properly made, & in fact many of the town dew ponds are simply made of cement. But once they are not properly made & leak, there is absolutely nothing to do but what we did here, namely to have them asphalted. Any competent builder will make you a satisfactory pond in cement. [crossed out: It is quite easy to grow water lilies in them.] If you want it asphalted (which makes it certainly leak proof) you must go to the Ragusa asphalting Co. which I believe is in Brighton.
It is quite easy to grow water lilies. If the pond is asphalted or cement you have to put them in a box or basket filled with earth & sink it in that. My pond outside is 5 ft. deep in the middle when full. For a deep pond you cannot get a better water lily than Nymphea Escarboucle; it is the dark red one in my pond, & is a very vigorous grower. For a shallow pool Nymphea Odorata Alta in various varieties is very good. For a moderate Size & moderate deep water Nymphea Virginale is very lovely.” If you want any more information he will be delighted to give it you: & I hope I have taken down his words correctly. Why marriage bed? Nothing of the sort – only a rubber cushion price 12/6 at Selfridge.”
Leonard and Virginia Woolf purchased Monks House in 1919, and the deciding factor for them was the garden. Virginia loved the garden, which gave her the sense of peace and tranquillity so important to her, but it was Leonard who soon turned into an enthusiastic gardener, looking after the orchard, the vegetable garden, the flowers, the Italian Garden and, of course the dew pond. Many years later, Leonard Woolf founded the Rodmell Horticultural Society.
While Virginia wrote in the garden room at Monks House, enjoying the garden, her sister Vanessa, at Charleston and sometimes lover Vita Sackville-West at Sissinghurst, both relatively nearby, actively created remarkable gardens.
Enid Bagnold, author of The Chalk Garden and National Velvet, also lived nearby, at Rottingdean, and was a great friend of Vita Sackville-West. Married to Sir Roderick Jones, Bagnold’s life was, on the surface, more conventional the Woolf’s, although she had led a bohemian life in her youth. Bagnold’s works, however, with their sharp observations of the minutiae of upper middle class English life were unlikely to appeal to Woolf.
There is some very slight, light foxing, not affecting the legibility, and someone has written the name “Virginia Woolf” in red biro at the top left of the letter.
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