Selected Letters of Vanessa Bell

Selected Letters of Vanessa Bell

5.0 1
by Regina Marler

View All Available Formats & Editions

The daughter of eminent Victorian writer Sir Leslie Stephen and older sister of Virginia Woolf, Vanessa Bell was a well-known avant-garde painterand decorator, and a central figure in the Bloomsbury group. The collection, including many of Vanessa daily letters to her children, sister, and her lovers, takes readers from 1885 to 1961 - through more than seventy

…  See more details below


The daughter of eminent Victorian writer Sir Leslie Stephen and older sister of Virginia Woolf, Vanessa Bell was a well-known avant-garde painterand decorator, and a central figure in the Bloomsbury group. The collection, including many of Vanessa daily letters to her children, sister, and her lovers, takes readers from 1885 to 1961 - through more than seventy years and two world wars. Together they document Vanessa's fascinating and often romantic relationship with her sister; her domestic and aesthetic life at various houses including Gordon Square, Asheham, Cassis and Charleston; and her passionate involvements with Rodger Fry and Duncan Grant - who himself would have had an affair with the writer David "Bunny" Garnett, future husband of Duncan and Vanessa daughter, Angelica.

Editorial Reviews

Margot Peters
...Expertly is as conscious of the pain of a liberated woman's life as as of its pleasures....Vanessa's letters have none of Virginia Woolf's subtle reasoning, sly innuendo, skittish rhythms and divine wit...but they have little of Viginia's snobbery, arch self-consciousnes and teasing cruelty.
The New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Painter Vanessa Bell (1879-1961) conducted an intimate correspondence with fellow members of the circle of English artists and writers known as the Bloomsbury group. Published here for the first time in this collection edited by Marler, literary editor of the journal Aleh-zon , are more than 300 of Bell's letters, written between 1885 and 1961, accompanied by biographical essays and a foreword by Bell's son, Quentin. Included are her letters written to husband Clive Bell, to friends Lytton Strachey and Maynard Keynes, and to her lovers, art critic Roger Fry and painter Duncan Grant. The letters testify to Bell's passion for painting and to her commitment to an unconventional life. Those written to her sister, the writer Virginia Woolf, express both love and concern for Woolf's precarious mental health. Bell also wrote about the devastation she experienced over the death of her son, Duncan, during World War II, and Virginia's suicide in 1941. This is a valuable addition to Bloomsbury studies. Illustrations. (Sept.)
Daughter of eminent Victorian writer Sir Leslie Stephen and older sister of Virginia Woolf, Vanessa Bell was a well-known avant-garde painter and decorator, and a central figure in the Bloomsbury group. This collection of her letters to family and friends spans 1885 to 1961, documenting her relationship with her sister, her domestic and aesthetic life, and her passionate involvements with her husband and lovers. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.

Product Details

Moyer Bell
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.10(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


Few of Vanessa's earliest letters survive. There are some to her parents, so early that they constituted writing lessons; several to Thoby, away at school; none to Adrian; none to her Fisher, Vaughan, or Stephen cousins. If she kept a childhood diary (Virginia suggested as much at the beginning of her own 1897 diary), it too is lost. All but a handful of her twenty-five hundred or so extant letters were written in adulthood. This gives us a curious image of Vanessa, who seems to emerge from a brief childhood fully developed: capable, sardonic, resolute. At age eighteen Vanessa was responsible enough to assume her half-sister Stella's duties as woman of the house, in charge of servants, ordering meals, keeping accounts, presiding every afternoon at the tea table. In between these tasks she carved out hours for sketching and study, defending her time as best she could from the well-meaning persistence of George Duckworth and his society matrons.

    But in fact, as she herself noted, Stephens were late developers. The letters in this chapter show an ambitious art student, beginning to voice her ideas, though still dependent on her teachers' praise. She may quote the Victorian painter G. F. Watts with amusement, but she quotes John Singer Sargent with reverence. Her closest relationship was with her sister Virginia. Their correspondence in these years is amorous and unguarded. And when, after Sir Leslie's death in 1904, Vanessa organized the move from respectable Kensington to a then unfashionable Bloomsbury address, her motivation was largely aesthetic. She longed forwhite walls. Dark, cluttered Victorian decor was the principal enemy; only later did her moral sense rebel.

    Changes came slowly. At 46 Gordon Square, Bloomsbury, Vanessa's closest friends were Thoby's Cambridge colleagues, writers and civil servants, all male. The etiquette of the Victorian drawing room remained crisply intact: when Vanessa declined Clive's second marriage proposal, she addressed him as "Mr Bell." Margery Snowden, her friend from the Royal Academy Schools, was her only intimate beyond Old Bloomsbury. Gradually, Vanessa sought the company of other artists, and started the Friday Club in 1905 to break the stranglehold of literature and philosophy over her social life. Though the group overlapped a little with Thoby's Thursday Evening crowd, it was still an occasion set aside for the discussion of Vanessa's own great passion--art--rather than, say, the nature of Good. She began to exhibit her work. She accepted fewer invitations from her aunts and cousins.

    These were not uproarious years, however. Vanessa remained a respectable young woman, silent in company, conventionally (though often untidily) dressed, and still very much Virginia's caretaker.

    Thoby Stephen died of typhoid on November 30, 1906. Two days later Vanessa accepted Clive's third proposal. Like the move to Gordon Square, this was partly an instinctive decision--flight from pain--and partly a measured step into a new life.


I-1. To Leslie Stephen

[Summer c. 1885] [Brighton]

Dear Father,

    Ginia and Thoby rode in a goat carriage. I rode on a donkey called Black Bess, Thoby's was Polly, Ginia's was Topsy. I went down on the beach and picked up a shell and got a white bit of glass I found, But Georgie took me nearly right into the sea, he did; and I got up on a wall and Georgie went round to see if he could try and get up but he couldn't, and Georgie lifted me up on the wall, and thats how I got up, and I tried to pull Georgie up, but I couldn't because he was too heavy, of course. Granny has given us some chocolates, and we got some airballs ourselves first Ginia's was busted, then Thoby's was busted and then Ginia busted mine. I had some Mutton for dinner and some very hot potatoes and some Tapioca pudding.

    We can see the see as well as when we're at the lodgings. I told Georgie I thought Ginia had a nice 'spectatle ride this morning. I say that Adrian's a nice pretty little boy. Georgie and Gerald are very agravaking boys. Goodbye I send you a kiss. I send my love to Rob and to Spot and to Spot's puppy. I like him.

Vanessa Stephen Butterfly


I-2. To Thoby Stephen

Monday [November 1896] 22, Hyde Park Gate, S.W.

My dear Tobs,

    I meant to write to you when we were at Boulogne' but somehow I never did. We got back yesterday after a beastly crossing. I dare say you wouldn't have minded it, but Georgie and I thought it horrible. It's very nice to hear English spoken by everyone and to be able to be rude again. French people are dreadfully polite. You have to take off your hat and make a little bow if you go into a shop or railway carriage! We went to Amiens one day and saw the Cathedral there. An old woman took us right up to the top of it and it was rather giddy climbing about on narrow ledges and looking down on the roofs of houses. We took a lot of photographs, but we haven't had time to develop any yet. We had chocolate and rolls in our rooms at about 8.30, luncheon at 12 of about 6 courses, and dinner at 7. On Saturday we went to a very improper French play. The ladies looked as if they were almost entirely naked with only thin muslin skirts, though they really had on tights of course. On Sunday we went to mass. The French are most disgusting people I think. They never seem to wash and they spit everywhere and always.

    I don't know if you will have got your caramels yet. I hope they won't all have stuck together, but I expect they will have.

Your loving


I-3. To Thoby Stephen

Feb. 6th, 1901 22, Hyde Park Gate, S.W.

My dear Thobs,

    I couldn't write to you last night as I meant to, as we all went off to the pantomime. I had a very uncomfortable journey home, sustained by your muffins. They really were most comforting. You might send a line to say how you are. Don't go and get pneumonia now. I'm afraid this shows that you ought to be very careful always about catching cold. I hope you had some amusing visitors after I left.

    It is most disappointing that none of the photographs of the Funeral that I took have come out. The Frena went wrong somehow and they were not even taken.

    I have been at the studio all today where I am drawing my Academy figure. It's very dull and I'm doing it very badly, so I don't expect I shall even get my first drawings accepted. I don't know where I shall hide my head then.

    Boo has gone to the play with Gerald tonight. Tomorrow I rather hope she will go. Poor Gerald's horror you can imagine when he found she was taking her lizard to the play under her dress! It always comes out too when it hears music--and its habits are disgusting.

    I must stop as the letters are going.

Your loving


I-4. To Clive Bells

Sep. 10th, 1902 Fritham House, Lyndburst [Hampshire]

Dear Mr Bell,

    I hope you are able to imagine the excitement and joy that your partridges have caused here, as I am quite unable to describe it. Thank you very much indeed for them. It is most kind of you to have provided both such delicious food and such a splendid topic of conversation.

    I really ought to thank you too for your Collins, which was received with great applause and which ought to be shown as a model to all our other visitors. I hope you will prove its sincerity by coming here again some day, in spite of the probabilities of sudden death in the pony cart and the certainty of endless discussion of one subject.

    Thank you again for the partridges.

Yours sincerely,
Vanessa Stephen


I-5. To Margery Snowden

Sunday [March 15, 1903] [Limnerslease, Guildford]

My dearest Margery,

    I have just been having a long lecture upon Art, and I think I had better write it down before I forget it all. After breakfast I went into the studio. Mr Watts is painting a huge tree trunk covered with ivy. "That's going to be sent to the Academy as a protest against Impressionism. You see every leaf is cleanly painted. There's no smearing, and cleanness is a great quality. Now what do you mean by style?" I gibbered feebly something about its being one's individual expression. "No. Now I'll tell you what it is. If you look at the lines around any form in nature you will see that they all tend to return on themselves, and those which make the smallest circle are poor and those which suggest the largest are fine. Look here at the Venus of Milo and the Theseus and Ilyssus. You see how the lines stretch out into space, and in this cast of an arm, though it is a fine arm, the forms are rounder and therefore not so grand. They won't teach you that in the schools, but I found it out for myself years ago and now I always follow it up in my paintings. You will find it a rule for deciding whether a thing has style or not. Now Rubens, though he has great vigour and movement and is admirable for those things, has not that quality at all, his forms are all rounded and like bubbles. Colour one can give no rule for--it's a matter of taste. Now look at this"--he showed me a painting of a bit of wood with brilliant green trees and grass--"Do you think it's beautiful? Well, there's no warm colour in it at all, it's all cold and I think that's the most difficult thing to make harmonious. Now this sunset makes it look crude and of course it's much easier to make these warm colours into a picture. Perhaps there's some reason for it. They suggest warmth and the blood circulating and all that sort of thing. If flesh were cold and like alabaster it would give one no pleasure, but when one sees a rosy child one wants to take it in one's arms and cuddle it." He showed me a portrait of a woman with an armful of roses. "There you see what I mean about movement. All the movement I have tried to suggest is in the thing itself, in the circulation of the blood beneath the skin and the sort of indefiniteness that makes you wonder after looking at it for a time whether it really is quite still or not. Of course Sargent's portraits are much greater in technical ability, and this makes no direct appeal to you as they do, but with him the movement is always in the attitude, and though his people jump you feel that they are quite incapable of jumping. They have no blood in them. Still I admire him for his great ability. The great mistake of modern art is that they try to make things too real. As soon as the Greeks began to imitate nature exactly they began to go down--and yet nothing can be finer than their finest work.

    ... When I paint a picture I want to give a message and I care comparatively little about how good the art is--but only comparatively little because after caring for art all my life I can't say I don't care for it. I have known all the great men of my time--Tennyson, Browning, Carlyle, Rossetti, Fred Walker, Burne-Jones--and I think Rossetti was the greatest genius of them all. Millais was more loved than anyone--he was so hearty and kind. Once at a dinner party he was heard to say in a loud voice (with Lady Millais there) `I don't suppose any married man exists who hasn't at one time wished his wife dead!'"

    I really think I have put down all I can remember of his sayings about Art. I don't know that they really come to much and perhaps they will only bore you. Still you told me to write. He's a very kind old gentleman and has quite a sense of humour. I haven't had much real talk with him since this morning as we went out this afternoon, but I have put in scraps of what he said at meals. I daresay I shall remember a lot more when I see you. He has long--and I think most comical--talks with Georgie on the future of the Empire, as I don't think either of them know much about it, and he has given him notes on Education to put in order, written chiefly as he is getting out of his bath, and which G[eorgie] says explains the sort of thing they are.

    I'm afraid you won't have a letter on Monday morning, as I couldn't get my other sent off today and shall have to post them both in London tomorrow. But I daresay it will excite the Milmans even more to see two bulky envelopes arriving together, especially as I shall see you before you can get them!

Your loving


I-6. To Margery Snowden

[October-November, 1903] [22, Hyde Park Gate, S.W.]

[First page missing] ... Sargent is teaching most astonishingly well at the R.A. How I wish you were there. He gives lessons as you said he did, that would apply to any painting. They're chiefly about tone. He insists upon thick paint and makes one try to get the right tone at once. Apparently the drawing is to be got entirely by painting thickly the different tones, which doesn't sound very clear. He generally tells me that my things are too grey. The one thing he is down upon is when he thinks anyone is trying for an effect regardless of truth. He squashed Miss Roxby and Miss Clague--or however she's spelt--for it the other day. He told Miss Clague she was simply trying to paint a pot-boiler, which was unnecessary as she wasn't going to sell her painting, but she didn't seem to mind at all. He told Miss Everett he couldn't see the use of painting as she did, with thin half-tones and a ridge of thick paint for the light. Of course there are many minor lights whom he squashes. I am only trying to think of the more prominent ones, to please you! Miss Ouless is working in another room so I never hear her lessons. I don't think anyone has had any praise, though at first he seemed to take a good deal of interest in Miss Price-Edwards, but I believe it quickly went off. She always does begin very well and then seems to spoil her work. I told you how he squashed Miss Wolford, didn't I? She was quite subdued by it.

    I have just remembered. Do you want to send up anything for the medal? If so, write at once, as they have to go up on Saturday. If I don't hear from you I will give in the things you sent up for 2nd term. I am sending one figure and Sylvia [Milman] one head. You needn't fear either of us as competitors!

Your loving


I-7. To Margery Snowden

Wednesday [April 6, 1904] Grand Hotel, Venice

My dearest Margery,

    It does seem ages since I saw you off at the station. So much has happened since then that I don't know where to begin. However the longer I wait the harder it will be, so I will write to you now. We had a fairly uneventful journey here, straight through, and arrived at Venice at about 12 on Saturday night, very dirty and tired and wondering where we should sleep, as Gerald had had no answer to his letter to the manager of this hotel. You can imagine our feelings when a man from the hotel met us and said there were no rooms to be had and that Venice was crowded. We telephoned to the other large hotels-no rooms anywhere. At last we were told that we might get some of a sort at a small hotel and we set off in a gondola in the hope. It was a moonlight [sic] night luckily, as except for the moon, the canals were practically in complete darkness. There were no lights in any windows and only an occasional gas lamp. It was quite an alarming journey really. We none of us had ever been to Venice before or could speak a word of Italian, and there we were in the middle of the night on a dark canal with all our valuables beside us, gliding along in dead silence, with no other noise to be heard but the occasional splash of an oar. The gondolas are all painted black and looked very mysterious and funereal. Do you appreciate the situation? I thoroughly enjoyed it, and expected a dark figure to jump out from some doorway or our gondolier to shoot down a side canal and demand money--but when one came to think of it Thoby and Adrian would be more than a match for most gondoliers. We did get to a hotel at last and got very small and uncomfortable rooms, but we were quite glad of any place that we could sleep by that time. We had to stay there for two nights as Venice is crowded and it was with great difficulty that we did in the end get rooms here. The Goat [Virginia] and I are now at the top of the hotel, which is rather nice, as there is a lift, and we look out over nice tiled roofs to the mountains, and we also get the sunset.

    We are hard at work seeing pictures and churches, but of course we haven't seen very many yet. There are simply heaps to be seen, and every street and canal seems to have dozens of things that one wants to stop and look at ...

    I really don't know how to describe the pictures here. They are simply gorgeous. Tintoretto is the greatest. One gets no idea of him in London or anywhere else that I have been to, but here all the churches and galleries are full of him. His finest pictures are enormous things. There's a huge crucifixion which takes up the whole of one wall and is quite splendid, and there are several others.: I shall bring back some photographs to show you as its useless to try to describe them.

    We spend our mornings seeing pictures, and the afternoons churches. Most of the churches are full of pictures too. I expect I shall get new ideas of painting. The worst of it is that all the pictures in the churches and some in the galleries are in such a bad light. Of course there is nothing by Velasquez here--I wish I could see him [beside] the Venetians. They have much more idea of decoration and seem to think nothing of personal character, or hardly anything. Tintoretto's portraits are dull and he doesn't seem to have taken any interest in them, but his large pictures are simply splendid in colour and composition, and there's a tremendous sort of force about them. Titian's large paintings here are very fine too, but they don't seem to be quite as great as Tintoretto's. There are beauties by Bellini and Carpaccio. Ruskin raves about them, but I don't think he's any good at all as a critic, though he's generally amusing. He never cares for anything unless it is a symbol or has several deep meanings, which doesn't seem to me to be what one wants.

    Mr Crofts sent me quite a nice letter and also a grand notice signed by Poynter and Mr Eaton to say that I was fit to profit by the use of foreign galleries, but it's no good at all apparently. I suppose it is meant to use if one wants to copy. Anyhow I have to pay my franc.

    How I wish you were here. Write and tell me what you're doing. I have done no painting. When do you go back to London? Has W. appeared again? I want to know everything that is happening to you.

    I hope you won't have to pay for this letter but I have written sheets.

Your loving


I-8. To Margery Snowden

[April 25?, 1904] Palace Hotel, Florence

My dearest Margery,

    This is only to tell you that we go on Wednesday to Siena for two nights, then to Genoa for one night and then to Paris. We haven't time here as long as we meant to. Violet Dickinson has been here with us for the last week, and she had to get back to London the week after next, so we are going with her as far as Paris. It seems rather a pity not to stay here longer, but on the other hand it is a chance to get Violet to travel with, as I don't think the Goat and I should manage very well alone. It's such a long journey and we can't talk the language, and have a good deal of small baggage which makes travelling difficult. So we shall go to Paris, getting there on the 1st of May and staying there I think till about the middle of May. Write to me there, c/o Cooks Office, 1 Place de l'Opera, Paris, and write soon. I don't know why you haven't before. In fact you have really been rather bad about it.

    We have been confining a great deal of our attention to shopping lately. One can get lovely old frames and such things here are very cheap. When one thinks of what one has to pay for a new frame in London and how much nicer these old ones are it seems absurd not to get these when one can. So I have got one or two, but of course there is the difficulty of carting them home. I have also got some very nice drawing-books with vellum covers, and real old paper, which is much nicer than any modern paper and quite cheap. I have done no painting at all. It's hopeless to try to.

    I shall have such heaps to tell you when I see you about all the places here. It has been rather rainy lately, but we have managed to do a good deal. There is one of the finest portraits here that I have ever seen by Titian, of a man in black. It's quite splendid. We went one day to see Miss Paget who writes under the name of Vernon Lee--I expect you have heard of her. She's very clever, but what interested me is that she has got a portrait of herself by Sargent, and several other sketches by him. The portrait is extraordinarily like, and it was interesting to see her beside it, as I hardly know any of the people he has painted. Certainly this was very like, though done when she was much younger, and she's rather ugly but very clever looking.

    Do write quickly.

Your loving


I-9. To Margery Snowden

Monday night [May 2, 1904] Hotel du Quai d'Orsay, Paris

My dearest Margery,

    I am going to see you so soon that I feel that I must write to you. Isn't that a good reason? I think we shall be at home in a week now. Thoby and our lady courier leave on Wednesday. I think George is probably coming here for next Sunday and if he does we shall go back with him on Monday. I think anyhow we shan't stay longer than that, so I shall really see you very soon.

    I got your letter today. I do understand so well all you say, and I even know what you mean when you say that you really thought I didn't care. I have felt exactly the same thing myself. I can remember very clearly once at Cope's--about 6 years ago I suppose--being quite wretched and wishing that I could be Miss Bulley or Miss Cholmley or anyone in the world except such a wretched being as I was, not because I was so unhappy especially, but I felt so utterly mean and despicable. I looked around the room and thought that any one of the people working there must despise me. The feeling goes off, but I have had it again and quite lately, and I have come to think that one must really treat it as a sort of physical thing. I think one must simply force oneself to turn one's mind to other things, and in time it becomes very easy to and one gets rid of such ideas. After all they are quite unreasonable and so one must fight against them, but I know it's very difficult to. It's very nice of you, dear old beast, to say that I am sensible and cheer you up, but you don't know what a fool I feel. I only wish I could be of any use. What a blessing it will be to see you again. Don't think of your depressions again for another week and then we will talk them all out.

    One thing I see you and I must do some day. We must come and work here. Your little friend Bell is here. Thoby is staying with him, as he lives in rooms here, and he knows a lot of the young artists and tells us of all the latest geniuses. I went today to see one of them called Kelly. He is only 24 and has 5 pictures in the Salon--but somehow it didn't depress me! He is very clever and just now is evidently entirely under the influence of Whistler. It amuses me to see these things. He paints much better than I could, but I don't mind. I think I am beginning to know what I want to do, and as it's not the same quite as what I think I can see that these other people are trying to do, I don't mind how well they succeed! In fact I am quite pleased when they do.

    Good Lord, it is awful work seeing people's pictures. I never know what to say. Mr Kelly was very shy, and his shyness took the form of talking abruptly and fast and making rather bad jokes and praising his own things extravagantly, so I didn't know what to say. His father was there, a nice old clergyman. I talked to him and left Thoby and Bell and the Goat to talk to his son. The father turned out to have known Father at Cambridge, and was very nice indeed about him, so I liked talking to him. What an odd world it is. In the end he asked his son if I might come and watch him paint tomorrow morning. The poor wretch couldn't say no and I had to pretend that I should be delighted, as I am going, but I don't know what on earth I shall do or say. However he is going to paint the father, which will make it easier. Anyhow it is very interesting to see a Paris studio. I want to go over Julian's or some such place. I have been to the Salon, which is much the same as the R.A., though I think the average is higher. But much the best thing is the Lord Ribblesdale by Sargent, and there are some beautiful Whistlers. Furse seems to be getting more praise than ever. The Sargents sound very good, and I should think the one you describe would give you a lot of hints for Mrs Tatham [older friend of Margery's]. I believe I suggested doing her in that way a long time ago! I think it would be very nice to keep her quiet and black and grey and have a red curtain, but you must get exactly the right red.

    ... I shall be glad to get back and to see you. When shall I? On Tuesday? It sounds so nice to say that as it makes me really feel near. Goodbye my old creature.

Your loving


I-10. To Virginia Stephen

Oct. 25th [1904] 46, Gordon Square, Bloomsbury

Beloved William,

    This paper delights both me and Thoby. Is this the only cheap kind you ordered? as all they have sent besides is some white very thin super-fine paper, and I thought you ordered some cheap small grey. Perhaps it is still to come.

    I had your letter this morning. I must say you do write rather good letters! Violet even calls them "brilliant" but then her taste is peculiar. I went to see her this morning and stayed to lunch with her. We talked of you a good deal as you might guess and she was very charming. She is longing to visit you, but may not be able to come early next week, as Ozzy has not yet returned and she wants to be at home when he does, but she is writing herself. Thoby and I went to tea with Sir Herbert where we met Harry and Barbara N. She looked quite pretty, but I think it was because she had on a large hat and the light being above, her face was in shade. She was quite nice and is a great friend of Miss Cake's, with much the same views I should think of Art. She admires Charles Shannon very much and is going to be painted by him. I can't imagine how she will survive Stephen furniture, etc. As it was today, Harry asked her if she liked some tea cups--of which he has 30 in India. They were hideous and she said so--and it turned out that they were his own special choice. Everything else will be to match. Harry has not changed. He is coming to see me tomorrow morning, but we shall have nothing to say to each other.

    I will do my best to bring all you ask for tomorrow. Fred sounds charming and I am glad you think he will do the Life well. It must be a great help to him to have you to talk to. Of course you understood Father better than anyone else did and I hope you will write something that Fred can quote or even put in entirely. I am sure you could.

    Now I am going to give you a sort of lecture as usual, poor little beast, but I want you to have time to think it over before I see you. I went to see Savage this morning to ask about your sleeping. I hadn't expected to see him, but I did. He has given me a medicine which I shall bring. He was quite charming and I had a long talk about you. I do think he understands you very well and not many people do. I told him about your writing something to help Fred and he quite approved of it. The one thing he said which I want you to think about is that he thought you ought to stay out of London and preferably at Cambridge for 2 months. I know this will horrify you, but I will tell you what he said and you must judge for yourself. He said that your fortnight in London had brought you very near another serious breakdown and had undone a great deal of the good of your time at Teversal, that you were quite clearly not yet strong enough to stand London. He said that even if you keep very quiet, which it is difficult to do, the atmosphere of hurry and noise must affect you. I told him that you got bored and irritated at Cambridge, but he said that that would happen to a certain extent anywhere now and was really partly because you were not well yet. He said that your not being able to sleep showed that you were not right and that you needed all possible quiet and rest to make up for the want of sleep. He told me several details of how your days should be spent, such as resting and lying down before dinner, most of which I think you do, but I can tell you those when I see you. The one important thing was about staying away, and that he did say most strongly. He said that you had told him that you would do anything to get well--and that in his opinion you ought not to be in London yet. He also said that you were not to be forced to do anything, [but] that you must decide for yourself after thinking over his advice. After he had talked to me he said "There is one thing I want to tell you most seriously--I will have no fees." I said he must let us pay him, as we had taken up so much of his time and could do nothing in return, but he then pointed to the photograph he has of Father, and said that he was proud to do anything for his children, and that the only thing he cared about was that you should get well. It was quite extraordinarily nice of him, when one thinks of his being about the greatest man on his subject in England and what his time is worth. He wants to see me again on Friday to hear how you are getting on.

    Now my own beloved monkey--don't go and imagine that I want you to stay away. I am very lonesome without you and miss you terrible bad. At the same time I do think, after Savage's extraordinary kindness, that we ought to consider what he says. I feel that I would willingly spend the next 2 months in a dungeon if at the end of that time we could give up all thought of your having to be specially careful. Unluckily my being dungeoned would do no good.

    Your letter written on a sofa has just come like an answer to this. I know how you long to be here, but all I can say is, think it over well. You must decide these things for yourself now and think of what will happen in the long run. One thing is that if you are going to write something for Fred, surely it would be easier for him and for you if you were near him. You could have regular hours for writing and need see very little of Nun. You know I do think it's very kind of her to have you and to be ready to have you for any length of time. It would be a great bore to me to have a niece of mine in that way! However I won't try to argue or advise you. I only wanted to tell you what Savage said so that you may make up your mind and not decide in a hurry. We can talk it all over when I see you. I shall come by the 3.10, getting in at 4.27, and will come straight to the Porch where I hope you will keep some tea for me ...



I-11. To Virginia Stephen

Sunday [October 30(?), 1904] 46, Gordon Square, Bloomsbury

Beloved Monkey,

    I hope for a letter from you tomorrow morning. I had none yesterday, but perhaps you hardly had had time to write since I saw you. I do long to hear that you are sleeping better. It must make such a difference. I have been most virtuous today. I spent the morning in struggling with the study. One wades through books which seem to get more and more confused. As Thoby is away I can't do more than collect different kinds roughly together, but that takes one all one's time. I suppose some day they will be done. Certainly books are wonderful things. Even I--though you may hook your learned nose at me in disdain--after spending some time grubbing amongst them, get to feel a great affection for the scrubbiest and most backless volume. I suppose it's from living in a book loving family. I feel happy and content sitting on the floor in an ocean of calf.

    ... George did come to tea yesterday! He was looking very well and beaming. He now calls me "Darling" every two minutes--otherwise there is no change. He is still capable of laughing at Margaret and his in-laws, which is a good thing. Margaret seems to spend all her day on the sofa. They have not got a house yet. He thought this [house] quite charming.



I-12. To Virginia Stephen

Oct. 31st [1904] 46, Gordon Square, Bloomsbury

Beloved William,

    I have just had your letter written on the sofa. My poor little monkey, I'm afraid you have been very bad. I do hope you have been keeping quiet. You know it is really important to rest at such times--not only on the day itself but for the first few days. [Nurse] Traill told me it was most necessary that you should. It may have made a difference to your sleep. Perhaps that will get better now it's over, but I am bothered about that.

    I haven't seen Beatrice but I hope I shall soon and shall hear how you seemed. I have just had a letter from Madge--delighted to have you. I wrote to her as I thought it would be more polite if I did too, and I suggested that I should come with you for a day or two just to see them and see that you were comfortable, so perhaps I might. She says we're not to let such delightful plans fall through, that you shall have a kitchen table in your room and do just what you like, play with the children or be a hermit. It all sounds as if it might be what you would like. She says there are no bores! I have just been dining alone with Violet and Ozzy. Violet wants to go to Cambridge on Saturday. They were full of inquisitiveness about you. Ozzy is really very nice--quite simple and friendly. Violet as usual charming.

    I don't at all fear that you and Fred will say too much, though I own that I was a little alarmed by his wanting to have so many family letters. However it's you who read them first and of course it's necessary for him to know everything, even if he makes no use of it. I am glad that I shall never be celebrated enough to have my life written. It wouldn't matter to oneself though. But there's something horrible to me, which I expect the true literary mind does not feel any sympathy with, in any third person's reading what was meant to be only between two. I shall burn all my letters someday.

    I think I shall come by the same train on Wednesday.



Read More

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

The Selected Letters of Vanessa Bell 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago