Another visit to the literary south coast of England finds us at Monk’s House at Rodmell in East Sussex, the home of Leonard and Virginia Woolf. We start at Virginia’s Writing Lodge, essentially a superior garden shed, completed in 1934.
Inside the lodge, on the table, are Virginia’s glasses, folders, papers and writing materials, all reportedly neater and tidier than it would be in the lodge’s heyday; elsewhere a typewriter is at hand, and spare deckchairs and rackets are available for fine weather pursuits.
However, Virginia’s preference was to write in an armchair with a board across her knees. In her bedroom at Monk’s House an armchair with a Chinese embroidered shawl draped over it is where she’s said to have done a lot of her composing. Behind, on the bookshelves, are the set of Shakespeare volumes she hand-covered as a form of therapy.
Her bedroom, with its lovely parquet flooring, was an addition to the old cottage, and featured (naturally) her bed, a fire, a porcelain washbasin and … more bookshelves. By the bed she would keep writing materials as she suffered from insomnia.
IN the older part of the house, in the sitting room, books are everywhere in evidence, along with artwork by Virginia’s sister Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant and other Bloomsbury artists.
One of the joys of the Woolfs’ country retreat was the garden, with secluded areas and contrasting ‘rooms’ (though less formal than those of their friends at Sissinghurst). Above is a shepherdess — minus her crook — in the sheltered side garden fronting the road; below is a glimpse of the church, the graveyard of which backed onto the grounds of Monk’s House.
Finally, here’s the view from the writing lodge over the East Sussex countryside, an aspect of the calm and serenity she desperately sought when things were getting black.