Tag Archives: Leonard Woolf

Sister acts

Female collaborations in the Alport Collection

Despite the predominance of male writing circles elsewhere in this exhibition, the Alport Collection also incorporates some fine examples of collaborations between women, and, more specifically, sisters.

Univ’s Domestic Bursary team looking at some of the Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell collaborations in the Alport Collection.

The Cuala Press

Three types of men have made beautiful things…and the artists have made all the rest because Providence has filled them with recklessness – William Butler Yeats (Poetry and Ireland, 1908)

Lolly (Elizabeth) and Lily (Susan) Yeats started their own business together in 1908. They named their embroidery workshop and printing press Cuala Industries after the Old Irish name for Dundrum where they were based.

Title page and text from Poetry and Ireland: Essays by W. B. Yeats and Lionel Johnson. Cuala Press: Churchtown. 1908

Title page and text from an early production by the Cuala Press, Poetry and Ireland: Essays by W. B. Yeats and Lionel Johnson. Churchtown : Cuala Press. 1908

Over the 32 years it ran, the Cuala Press published the work of many contemporary writers, all but two of whom were Irish. This was in contrast to other fine presses of the time which produced beautiful versions of old texts. The Alport Collection offers five of the sixty-six volumes published by Cuala Industries including writing by Lolly and Lily’s brother, William Butler Yeats.

Title page overlaid with the poem "Galway" from Wild Apples: by Oliver Gogarty ; with a preface by William Butler Yeats. Dublin : Cuala Press. 1930

Title page overlaid with the poem “Galway” from Wild Apples by Oliver Gogarty ; with a preface by William Butler Yeats. Dublin : Cuala Press. 1930. Alport’s copy is one of 250 printed.

Lolly Yeats’ work at the Cuala Press was influenced by the styling of the Dove Press, established in 1900. The Cuala books exhibit a uniformity of design corresponding to the ideal of 14 point Caslon old style font printed on high quality rag paper made locally, near Dublin. This design is beautiful in its simplicity which allows the text to be read without distraction.

Title page and opening lines from Seven Winters by Elizabeth Bowen. Dublin : Cuala Press. 1942

Title page and opening lines from Seven Winters by Elizabeth Bowen. Dublin : Cuala Press. 1942

The Stephen Sisters and the Hogarth Press

Brown cliffs with deep green lakes in the hollows, flat blade-like trees that waved from root to tip, round boulders of grey stone, vast crumpled surfaces of a thin crackling texture… – Virginia Woolf (Kew Gardens, 1927)

Across the Irish Sea at around the same time, Vanessa and Virginia Stephen were collaborating to produce modernist texts with arresting cover design and illustrations. These sisters are better known to history as the artist, Vanessa Bell and the writer and printer, Virginia Woolf. Many of Woolf’s works were published by the Hogarth Press which she ran with her husband, Leonard. Bell provided the striking cover designs that gave the Press a distinctive house style. She also illustrated some of Woolf’s work more extensively.

Montage of Vanessa Bell's cover designs for Virginia Woolf's texts

Some of Vanessa Bell’s cover designs for Virginia Woolf’s texts, clockwise from the top left: The Haunted House and Other Stories. London : Hogarth Press. 1943; The Captain’s Death Bed and Other Essays. London : The Hogarth Press. 1950; The Moment and Other Essays. London : The Hogarth Press. 1947; Kew Gardens. London : The Hogarth Press. 1927; A Writer’s Diary. London : The Hogarth Press. 1953; The Waves. London : The Hogarth Press. 1931.

Many artists, writers and critics of the early twentieth century acknowledged the impact on the reader of the design surrounding a text. This put more emphasis on the production of books. Accordingly, it was a period that saw the foundation of many private presses such as the Cuala Press and the Hogarth Press.

Vanessa Bell was greatly influenced by the work of the critic, Roger Fry. His 1927 essay “Book Illustration and a Modern Example” argued that illustrators could provide a visual, critical framework for the reader. Illustration could be marginal notes that did not muddy the waters by introducing words that did not belong to the author.

The opening page of Kew Gardens by Virginia Woolf, with illustrations by Vanessa Bell.

The opening page of Kew Gardens by Virginia Woolf, with illustrations by Vanessa Bell. London : Hogarth Press. 1927. Alport’s copy is number 478 of a limited edition of 500.

This approach is reflected in the 1927 edition of Kew Gardens illustrated by Bell and written by her sister. The margins of each page are decorated with strong black line motifs which do not directly portray the action on each page but do interact with the ideas in the text. On many pages there is a literal interaction between the words and the pictures which in some cases seem to fight for precedence. Sometimes the pictures win. On the other hand, Woolf’s text uses the vocabulary of the visual arts, words describing colour, shape and texture.

On this page the illustrations grow up into the text, pushing it out of the way. Kew Gardens by Virginia Woolf, with illustrations by Vanessa Bell. London : Hogarth Press. 1927.

On this page the illustrations grow up into the text, pushing it out of the way. Kew Gardens by Virginia Woolf, with illustrations by Vanessa Bell. London : Hogarth Press. 1927.

The original 1919 edition of Kew Gardens was an early collaboration between the sisters. Bell provided drawings for the beginning and end of the text but she was not happy with the quality of the Hogarth Press’ production. She threatened not to illustrate any more of Woolf’s work if it did not improve. For the 1927 edition Woolf hired an external printer.

Illustration from Kew Gardens by Virginia Woolf, with illustrations by Vanessa Bell. London : Hogarth Press. 1927.

One of the more literal illustrations in Kew Gardens by Virginia Woolf, with illustrations by Vanessa Bell. London : Hogarth Press. 1927.

If you would like to find out more about Virginia Woolf in the Library browse in class mark YIK/WOO. For the Yeats family go to class mark YIK/YEA.
Other sources used in this post were:

Bowe, Nicola Gordon. “Yeats, Susan Mary [Lily] (1866–1949).” In Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Online ed. Ed. Lawrence Goldman.  OUP : Oxford. Accessed 30 Nov. 2012 <http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/61425&gt;

Gillespie, D. F. The Sisters’ Arts: the writing and painting of Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell. Syracuse University Press : Syracuse, N.Y. 1988. [YIK/WOO,G]

Lee, H. Virginia Woolf. Vintage : London. 1997. [YIK/WOO,L]

Lewis, Gifford. The Yeats Sisters and the Cuala. Irish Academic Press : Dublin. 1994. [YIK/YEA,L]

All images on this page are copyright of University College.

This post is for the curator’s inspiring sister, Mary Herbert.

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‘Contemporary Gothic to read in bed’

Paul Bowles and Erich Alport

The Lemon by Mohammed Mrabet ; translated from the Moghrebi and edited by Paul Bowles. London : Peter Owen. 1969

Rob, from the Univ Development Office, reading The Lemon by Mohammed Mrabet ; translated from the Moghrebi and edited by Paul Bowles. London : Peter Owen. 1969

“For Erich Alport after thirty-nine years of friendship,” wrote Paul Bowles in the last book he gave to Erich Alport just a year before Alport’s death in 1971. Their long friendship is reflected in Alport’s ownership of first editions of nine of Paul Bowles works: novels, short stories and translations.

Up Above the World. London : Peter Owen. 1967.

Cover and extract from Up Above the World. London : Peter Owen. 1967. Inside Bowles wrote, “For Erich (a bit of contemporary Gothic to read in bed.) Paul, Tangier, 5/II/68”. Excerpt from ‘Up Above the World’ by Paul Bowles. Copyright
1967, Paul Bowles. This is used with permission of the Paul Bowles Estate. Not for reuse.

Paul Bowles started writing young. His poem ‘Spire Song’ appeared in the Parisian, Avant-Garde literary journal Transition when he was 17. Born in New York, he later made his base in Morocco and travelled widely. He was a prolific musical composer, collaborating in the theatre with Tennessee Williams among others. He increasingly turned towards writing and inspired authors of the American Beat Movement including William S. Burroughs. Jane Bowles, nee Auer, with whom he shared an unconventional marriage, was also an innovative writer.

Cover and extract from Jane Bowles' Plain Pleasures. London : Peter Owen. 1966

Cover and extract from Jane Bowles’ Plain Pleasures. London : Peter Owen. 1966. Excerpt from ‘Plain Pleasures’ by Jane Bowles. Copyright 1966, Jane Bowles. This is used with permission of Rodrigo Rey Rosa. Not for reuse.

Cutting about Jane and Paul Bowles from The Observer, 12 October 1959.

Cutting from The Observer, 12 October 1959. It is kept in the University College Archives [UC:P110/C6/9].

Bowles and Alport kept up a correspondence, some of which was found in Alport’s books and is now kept in the College Archives. They stayed in touch, despite both being often on the move, and sometimes met on their travels. In his letters, Bowles often mentions his friend, the painter Ahmed Yacoubi, whose work Alport collected.

Letter from Bowles to Alport, undated

Letter from Bowles to Alport. It is undated but probably from the 1950s as it was found with other letters of that date in Alport’s copy of Bowles’ novel, The Sheltering Sky. It is kept in the University College Archives [UC:P110/C6/3]. Materials from the Paul Bowles archive. Copyright 2012, Paul Bowles. This is used with permission of the Paul Bowles Estate. Not for reuse.

Letter from Bowles to Alport dated 26 October 1954

Letter from Bowles to Alport dated 26 October 1954. It is kept in the University College Archives [UC:P110/C6/4]. Materials from the Paul Bowles archive. Copyright 2012, Paul Bowles. This is used with permission of the Paul Bowles Estate. Not for reuse.

 

Paul Bowles and Gertrude Stein

Paul Bowles knew of Gertrude Stein from childhood. In an interview with Florian Vetsch he recalls that in High School his English teacher told his class that they must write properly as they were not James Joyce or Gertrude Stein. This made him wonder who Gertrude Stein might be and led him to her ‘A Wife Has A Cow’ in a second hand copy of Transition magazine. He read it and thought it made no sense. Then he thought, “That’s wonderful. There [in Paris] you can publish things that don’t make sense at all and not even in proper English”.

Text and illustrations from 'As A Wife Has A Cow A Love Story'

Extract and illustration from A Book Concluding With As A Wife Has A Cow A Love Story by Gertrude Stein with artwork by Juan Gris. Paris : Editions De La Galerie Simon. 1926.

 

At twenty Bowles made his second trip to Paris and met Gertrude Stein in person (he didn’t meet anyone on the first visit as he was too shy). This and subsequent interactions with Stein had a great impact on Bowles’ literary career. It was she who suggested that he go to Morocco, a place which was to inspire him.

Bowles was among the young male friends Stein made after WWI with whom she had sexual as well as artistic nonconformity in common.  Others included Virgil Thomson, Bernard Faÿ, and Francis Rose. The National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian has an excellent exhibition of images of Stein which includes more on these friendships.

Gertrude Stein in the Alport Collection

…the creator of the new composition in the arts is an outlaw until he is a classic – Gertrude Stein (Composition as Explanation, 1926)

Biographically speaking, Erich Alport overlapped with Gertrude Stein. Both were from German Jewish backgrounds, both were gay, both collected contemporary art. Perhaps this explains why Alport acquired several of her books. They also had acquaintances, such as Paul Bowles, in common. So perhaps Stein’s work was recommended to Alport by his friends.

Page from A Village Are You Ready Yet Not Ready. Paris : Editions de la Galerie Simon. 1926.

Page from A Village Are You Ready Yet Not Ready. Paris : Editions de la Galerie Simon. 1926. Alport’s copy is 31/100. The lithographs are by Elie Lascaux.

Stein’s work in the Alport Collection includes her experiments with language such as A Book Concluding With As A Wife Has A Cow and A Village Are You Ready Yet Not Yet, both published by Andre Simon in signed, limited editions of c. 100 copies. It also encompasses her bestselling books about herself, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, written by Stein from the point of view of Alice her life companion, and Wars I Have Seen, about her experience of living in occupied France.

Cover and publishers 'blurb' from Wars I Have Seen. London : B. T. Batsford. 1945

Cover and publisher’s ‘blurb’ from Wars I Have Seen. London : B. T. Batsford. 1945. The cover design is by Cecil Beaton who was better known for his society photographs.

In Composition as Explanation, published in 1926 by Virginia and Leonard Woolf at the Hogarth Press, Stein talks about her writing. She touches on the effect of the World War on the reception of literature.

Cover of Composition as Explanation. London : Hogarth Press. 1926

Cover of Composition as Explanation. London : Hogarth Press. 1926. The cover design is by Vanessa Bell, sister of the printers.

Stein posits that War broke the trend that art needs time to become socially acceptable (“classic”). War “made every one not only contemporary in act not only comtemporary in thought  but comtemporary in self-consciousness made every one contemporary with the modern composition” (Composition as Explanation, p. 26). The literary world that Alport and his friends inhabited was one where those “who created the expression of the modern composition were to be recognised before we were even dead some of us quite a long time before we were dead” (Composition as Explanation, p. 26).

You can borrow some of Paul Bowles work from the Library:

The Sheltering Sky (YLM/BOW)

Collected Stories (YLM/BOW)

Other sources used in this post were:

Birch, Dinah (Ed.). The Oxford Companion to English Literature. OUP : Oxford. 2009. (ZC)

The Authorised Paul Bowles Website. Accessed 21 Nov. 2012 http://www.paulbowles.org

Seeing Gertrude Stein: Five Stories. Online exhibition from National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. Accessed 21 Nov. 2012 http://www.npg.si.edu/exhibit/stein/intro.html

All images on this page are copyright of University College.

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