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Dr Jane Goldman Talk: With You in the Hebrides: Virginia Woolf and Scotland

Dr Jane Goldman: Talk
Saturday 27 April, 12 noon
Free to Members ( Guests £5.00)

Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) was in England when she was writing To the Lighthouse,

her only novel to be set in Scotland. ‘Here I’m sitting’, she wrote ‘from the heart of

London’ in 1926 to her lover Vita Sackville-West, ‘thinking how to manage the

passage of ten years, up in the Hebrides: then the telephone rings; then a charming

bony pink cheeked Don called Lucas comes to tea: well, am I here [...] or in a

bedroom up in the Hebrides? I know which I like best – the Hebrides. I should like to

be with you in the Hebrides at this moment’. The earliest critics of this novel were

quick to query or discount its Skye setting, and little attention has been paid to it

since. Although Woolf did not reach the Hebrides in person until 1938, well after the

publication of her Hebridean novel, she had much earlier, in 1913, travelled

physically as far north into Scotland as Glasgow; and she was all her reading life a

mental traveller north of the border courtesy of her voracious appetite for writers

such as Walter Scott, Daniel Defoe, Robert Burns (with whom Woolf shares a

birthday), James Boswell and anonymous Scottish balladeers whose works loomed

large in her father’s library.

The talk draws on her book With You in the Hebrides: Virginia Woolf and Scotland

which brings together and expands on some of her diverse attempts to follow Woolf

’s Scottish trails. It begins to chart and think through Woolf’s physical and mental

forays into Scotland, examining her first visit on a political tour with Leonard Woolf in

1913 and their later Hebridean tour in 1938, following in the footsteps of Boswell and

Johnson and the Young Pretender before them. It explores too Woolf ’s rich record

of reading and writing on and her many fictional allusions to Scotland and Scottish

culture, not only in her Scottish novel, To the Lighthouse, which is the main focus,

but also in her manifesto, A Room of One’s Own, itself voiced by characters from a

famous Scottish ballad. It closes with reflections on more personal creative links

between Scotland and Bloomsbury.

Biography:

Jane Goldman is a Reader in English Literature at the University of Glasgow and a

General Editor of the Cambridge University Press edition of the works of Virginia

Woolf. Her books include The Feminist Aesthetics of Virginia Woolf (1998), The

Cambridge Introduction to Virginia Woolf  (2006), With you in the Hebrides: Virginia

Woolf and Scotland (2013), and Modernism, 1910-1945: Image to

Apocalypse  (Palgrave, 2004). She is editor of Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, and co-

editor of A Room of One’s Own and Flush: A Biography for Cambridge, and is

currently writing a book, Virginia Woolf and the Signifying Dog. She is also a poet,

and her poems have appeared in Gutter, Scree, Blackbox Manifold, Tender and

other magazines, and her first slim volume is Border Thoughts (2014).