Monday, November 7, 2011

In which Virginia Woolf describes Ruth Manning-Sanders

Virginia Woolf, the famed author, essayist, publisher and subject of an Indigo Girls song, was an acquaintance of Ruth Manning-Sanders during the 1920s.

Woolf and her husband, Leonard, ran Hogarth Press together from 1917 to 1938 and among the works they published were a pair of long-form poems by Manning-Sanders -- "Karn" in 1922 and "Martha Wish-You-Ill" by 1926.1

In the five-volume "The Diary of Virginia Woolf," which spans her experiences from 1915 to 1941, there are a handful of references to Manning-Sanders. Here are a couple of those excerpts, plucked from Volume 2 of the diaries.
February 4, 1922 (a Saturday)
"Mrs Manning Sanders forges ahead.2 She has reached the printing off stage, which means that Ralph works in the basement, & leaves the machine dirty."

February 6, 1922 (a Monday)
"Mrs Manning Sanders is a bob haired, wide mouthed woman, dressed in a velvet dressing gown, plump, sandy-haired with canine-brown eyes far apart. We liked her. But to Ralph her Fitzroy St3 origin was against her -- this is his rule of thumb measure -- for God knows, he said nothing, & is hard & angular as a block of wood. However, we had Mrs M.S. from 5 to 7.15"

Manning-Sanders was 35 during the aforementioned 1922 meeting, while Woolf had just turned 40 the previous month. The meeting likely would have taken place at the Woolfs' house in London Borough of Richmond upon Thames.

Here's one more excerpt from this volume of Woolf's diary that mentions Manning-Sanders' "Karn," but is more notable for the other literary figures who are mentioned:
June 23, 1922 (a Friday)
"Now I have little time for anything else. We have seen a great many people. ... Eliot dined last Sunday & read his poem. He sang it & chanted it rhythmed it. It has great beauty & force of phrase: symmetry; & tensity. What connects it together, I'm not so sure. But he read till he had to rush -- letters to write about the London Magazine -- & discussion thus was curtailed. One was left, however, with some strong emotion. The Waste Land, it is called... Morgan, who is now out & about again, thanks to Leonard's advice, very calm, serene, like a kettle boiling point by some private fire, a fire at Weybridge, spent the night here after the Dinner, & then we sat round the table & discussed his book. Our list grows more & more distinguished, but why is there no boom in Tolstoi? No one buys Karn, or Fredegond; but Bunin sells now fairly well."
1. For an example of Manning-Sanders' poetry from this era, see this Papergreat post.
2. The following isn't my footnote. It's the footnote that appears at this spot in Woolf's published diary, as edited by Anne Olivier Bell: "Karn, 'a new long poem by a short fat poetess' (II VW Letters, no. 1213), Ruth Manning Sanders, was printed by the Hogarth Press and published in May 1922 (HP Checklist 23)."
3. "Fitzroy St" might be a reference to the Fitzrovia neighborhood, but this is decidedly not my area of expertise.

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