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Virginia Woolf’s “lost” words now housed at Sussex

* 9 July 2003 *

Virginia Woolf’s “lost” words now housed at Sussex

Scholars, devotees and relatives of Virginia Woolf will be attending a special seminar this month to celebrate the discovery of a "lost" notebook by the writer, which is now in the safe keeping of the University of Sussex's library. 

The notebook was left forgotten in a desk for 35 years before being found during a house move. It has now been published as Carlyle's House and Other Sketches for the first time by Hesperus Press, with the original copy now joining other Woolf notebooks and manuscripts in the Monks House Papers archive of the university's Special Collections. It is currently on display in the foyer of the university's library.

The seminar will be chaired by Dr Laura Marcus. Speakers include the book's editor Dr David Bradshaw and University of Sussex scholars, and it will take place in The Meeting House on campus on July 22, from 2.30-5.30pm. Invited guests include Victoria Glendening (currently working on a biography of Leonard Woolf), novelist Doris Lessing and Virginia Nicholson, the granddaughter of Woolf's sister, Vanessa Bell.

 "This is such an exciting find," says Sybil Oldfield, reader in English at Sussex and one of the seminar's panellists." With so much already written and known about Virginia Woolf, who would have thought there could have been an undiscovered notebook? It was written in 1909, when she was still an unmarried, unpublished author, and helps to fill out the portrait we have had of her so far."

Oldfield, who has written extensively on Woolf and is currently editing a book of letters written in response to her suicide in 1941, points out that the 60-pages of script demonstrate the young writer's efforts to hone her skills of description, particularly of people. It also reveals her growing interest in radical feminism and pacifism - themes to which she would return in her novels.

After Woolf's death, the notebook passed to her husband. In 1968, while having all of her notebooks transcribed, he sent it to Wales for a young married student, Teresa Davies, to type up. But Leonard died the following year and the notebook was left in a drawer until a recent house move.

Dorothy Sheridan, head of Special Collections, said the notebook was a highly valuable addition to the original material from Leonard Woolf's estate already in the care of the university. "We are honoured and delighted by this gift," she said.

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