Samuel Pepys’ Diary by Himself

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Samuel Pepys was a scoundrel! The way he went about seducing every woman he saw makes me think he had some sort of undiagnosed sex addiction. One woman had to threaten to poke him with her pin in church if he touched her again! 😆 .

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But it is a very good thing we have this diary, because this man, as arrogant as he was, had the mind to record ten years of really important British history. It is a wonderful little window into the English Restoration period by a middle to upper class parliament member. He records detailed accounts of the Black Plague, the London Fire, the trials of Oliver Cromwell, as well as the Dutch War. He describes heads on spikes and mundane things like his diet, the weather, the untidiness of his house, mites in his wigs, etc. Truly we are lucky to have such an honest account of a real life never to be lived again. .

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Pictured is the modern library edition from 1961? Among an old account book from 1880’s, a vintage print of a man seducing two women, and a cat’s skull my kids dug up in our backyard. .

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#bookish #bibliophile #bookstagram #book #reading #readingnook #reads #british #history #library #bookphotography #stillphotography #photography #vintage #bookshelf #readersofinstagram #writersofinstagram #diary #journaling #journal

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The Voyage Out by Virginia Woolf

⭐️⭐️⭐️ Finally finished this! Took me two months!! 🙄 Mostly because every time I picked it up I fell asleep. It didn’t help that I had Ennio Morricone film scores circling in my mind, as I’ve been listening to his arrangements with Yo-Yo Ma on repeat for two weeks. So that music perpetually in my head coupled with excessive imagery and a lack of stimuli completely relaxed me to dozing off in the middle of every chapter. I LOVE Virginia Woolf but this, being her first novel, just wasn’t as compelling as her other work though there were hints of her brilliant style throughout. .

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Pictured is the 1975 London Edition from Hogarth Press—her husband’s press that he owned until 1946. .

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#bookish #bookphotography #stilllife #reading #readingnook #booknerdigans #bookgeek #booknerd #enniomorricone #yoyoma #music #filmscore #composers #bookshelf #bookstagram #readersofinstagram #writersofinstagram #write #sleep #usedbooks #bookshop #bookobsessed #nerd #geek #bibliophile

The Life of St. Teresa of Avila by Herself

Just started reading this. The Life of St. Teresa of Avila by Herself. Heard she was very hardcore—visions and mystical occurrences. She was born in 1515 in Spain. She was a Christian mystic, like the monk Luis de Leon (I reviewed his work about a month ago), a category of Christianity under which my own theology falls. The definition has changed some since the sixteenth century. So here goes nothing. ✍️🧐 I’ll review it when finished!! .

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#bookstagram #bibliophile #booknerdigans #amreading #amwriting #reading #readersofinstagram #library #bookphotography #booknerd #bookgeek #christianmysticism #christianity #god #stteresaofavila #spain #history #episcopal #church

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Beautiful in its simplicity is The Old Man and The Sea. I really enjoyed this book! Nothing really going on yet questions are raised and answers are given in a short span of time. A book about an old man’s perseverance holding on to the biggest catch of his life. He is painted as a humble man, a simple man, yet determined to make meaning out of his life. I want to be this man! It’s a short book only 118 pages.

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Pictured is an artful 1965 paperback which I stole (borrowed) from my brother’s collection unbeknownst to him. Hi Brad! It’s set against my weird art, Sea Creatures made with driftwood and a strange creation of mine, Red Sky At Night.

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My Summer in a Garden by Charles Dudley Warner

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ As the summer draws to a close I’m compelled to remember the stages of my garden with Mr. Charles Dudley Warner. In 1870 he documented one summer in his garden recording every week. He talks about women voting, his neighbor Harriet Beecher Stowe, the visit to his garden by Ulysses S. Grant, and the curious life of his pet cat, Calvin. I read this on a road trip to Cleveland where I visited the most beautiful cemetery I had ever seen. (Pics of family crypts posted below)

Reaching the end of this book, with my kids and husband in the car, all restless, hyper, and obnoxious, I began to cry because Warner’s beloved cat was dying. He described his passing in such beautiful detail while granting the animal humility and grace. My family saw I was crying and made fun, of course, but I couldn’t stop and continued shedding my tears—laughing at myself also—as we checked into our hotel. .

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Pictured is the 1888 edition. Some weathering with inscription: Lizzie W. Nothe (?) from Parents—Xmas 1889 .

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Days of Wrath by Andre Malraux

🇺🇸 On a day just like today,

though the sky was bright,

clear, and blue,

I present to you this

truth in one, Andre Malraux.

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⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️A story about a communist prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp in the days leading up to World War II. Mostly it contains the protagonist’s rambling thoughts and efforts to not to go mad. Though I read it a couple years ago I remember enjoying it.

Pictured is the 1936 edition. The inscription indicates a brother giving this as a gift to his brother, or perhaps he’s a theologian, who seems to be going on a long journey. “Come back sober,” he writes.

Yes, I think we should all come back sober, like we did that day. We came back sober to our homes, to our radios, and television sets, but today as we do so, we come back with gratitude. .

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In memory of the 9/11 victims. 💕 🇺🇸 #usa

Examining The Garden of Love…

Today as I was driving down Oxford Street I saw a woman on a refuge,  carrying the Lighthouse.*  She was an unknown woman, – up from the country, I should think, and just been to Mudie’s or the Times, – and as the policeman held me up with his white glove I saw your name staring at me, Virginia Woolf, against the moving red buses, in Vanessa’s paraph of lettering.  Then as I stayed there (with my foot pressing down the clutch and my hand on the brake, as you will appreciate,) I got an intense dizzying vision of you: you in your basement, writing; you in your shed at Rodmell, writing; writing those words which that woman was carrying home to read.  How had she got the book? Had she stalked in, purposeful, and said “I want To the Lighthouse”? or had she strayed idly up to the counter and said “I want a novel please, to read in the train,-a new novel,-anything’ll do”?
Anyhow there it was, one of the eight thousand, in the hands of the Public.

-Vita Sackville-West
July 27th, 1927
The Letters of Vita Sackville-West to Virginia Woolf

*To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf was published in 1927

 

For a moment let us take a break from the garden.  Like our beloved plants, we too need winter’s snooze to renew our energies.  Let us shed some old leaves in order to gain new, healthier ones- read some garden books.  For me, this includes books involving one of the greatest gardeners I know: Vita Sackville-West.

As this blog is also about Vita Sackville-West I thought I would dive into her personal life a moment…

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I’m reading the letters of Vita to Virginia Woolf.  The letters themselves are interesting but do not pay much attention to the introduction.  Written by Mitchell A. Leaska, it rambles for forty pages, and is nothing short of nonsense.  It is not my style to criticize other writers.  His writing is fine.  There is some valuable, straight information – but I think some of his content is…unfair.  Mostly, it feels as though the editor struggles to make sense of their relationship (whether he does or not)- it is in his tone.  Written in 1984, homosexual love wasn’t commonplace or openly acceptable.  The tone of his writing is as though he felt they were drawn to each other because each had something for which the other yearned-not mere attraction, but rather control and perhaps a little competition on Vita’s end, and a certain neediness on Virginia’s.  In my experience, twenty-year relationships are not usually built on egotistical motives.

Perhaps the editor would not have spent so much time trying to analyze the dynamics of a man and a woman?  Must the reader be tortured for forty pages while he tries to roll it around on the end of his pen?  He seemed himself quite confused to say the lest-which is odd because upon researching his work, it seems he spent nearly a lifetime on the relationship between these two woman.  For example, he makes assumptions that seemed a bit lazy in explanation:

With the same pen she used to write her letters to Virginia, Vita would in a few years write a novel in which her sadistic hero would say to his lover:  “I should like to chain you  up … naked and beat you and beat you till you screamed.””

Then he goes on to explain that this must have been a fantasy to Vita (who did have an aggressive personality), that she would have liked to do this to Virginia.  What!  An author does not tell its character what to do, it is quite the opposite.  The character tells the author what to write, it has nothing to do with the author personally – at least it shouldn’t, not literally anyway.   If this man were a novelist, he would have been able to imagine that was the case-unless I have misunderstood him which I hope I have.

So while my eyes scanned the pages of this introduction, my mind rambled with objections.  Rather than being on a sort of aggressive competition, which the editor insinuates-I would argue these two women (1) Were physically, mentally and emotionally attracted to one another.  (2) Felt deep respect and admiration for the other’s accomplishments.  (3) Acted as muse for one another (Virginia would write Orlando in which Vita represents the protagonist and the story represents her life).  (4) They were also each other’s sounding board.   It is quite a thing for one to be admired for one’s talent by a friend in the same field, and yet feel safe to feed off that person’s knowledge at the same time because neither is preparing for a competitive rift.

Both were open about their flaws in writing and in life.  Virginia, ill much of the time, did not like to write long letters, but the little she wrote is to the point and entertaining to read.  She was a keen observer of people, a quality which made her writing so superb.   She pinpoints Vita’s secret flaw almost immediately when she writes,

“…And isn’t there something obscure in you?  There’s something that doesn’t vibrate in you: It may be purposely-you don’t let it: but I see it with other people, as well as with me: something reserved, muted- God knows what… It’s in your writing too, by the bye.  The thing I call central transparency- sometimes fails you there too…” -Virginia Woolf; November 19, 1926

I would say this translates to Vita’s aloofness.  She seemed present but only giving half of herself- thinking of other things, never focused on present life- mind always floating back to her little desk and her pen…then later her garden…perhaps?  Like an over-energetic squirrel- secretly pining over their nuts while they look you in the eye and “listen” to conversation.  I’ve met many of them.  From what I gather, she did not feel she belonged to the tribal, communal world of the human race- rather, she would have liked to have peace and quiet alone in the woods or her garden.  However, that image paints her as soft and angelic-she could play that part, yes.  But she was also aggressive and raw.  She was incredibly independent and loved her solitude (she would go on to write an expansive poem about it.)

Vita is very open about her disinterest in the human condition and human relationships which is perhaps why she was so good a gardener.  She examines this flaw in herself, calling Virginia a sort of witch for figuring her out so correctly in the quote above.  This is one, I think, major difference between them.  The editor points this out in his intro and I agree with him here, that it is perhaps the difference which drew them together.
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Photo taken from The New Yorker.

In 1930 Vita moved to Sissinghurst and began creating the gardens which would one day be world famous and stamp her name solidly onto history’s plate.  Virginia and she continued writing and seeing each other despite the petrol rationing of World War II.  Then suddenly at fifty-nine years old in 1941, six days after Vita had seen her healthy and fine, Virginia killed herself.  Fearful of going mad again and putting her husband through the hell of it, Virginia drowned herself in the River Ouse.

For the rest of her life Vita wondered if she could have saved her friend’s life had she been there.  It was a pang of unending regret that coiled itself into the very soil at Sissinghurst.  It is where Vita dug out all the suppressed hurt and pain of the past and planted instead not only a garden, but the best version of herself.

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