Recollections of Virginia Woolf edited by Joan Russell Noble (Penguin, 1976)
“I remember once coming home from Eton to find her at Sissinghurst. She asked me what had happened to me that day.
I replied, ‘Well, nothing has happened. I’ve just come home from school and here I am.’
She said, ‘Oh ! That won’t do, start at the beginning. What woke you up?’
I said, ‘It was the sun, the sun coming through the window of my room at Eton.’
Then she said, leaning forward very intently, ‘What sort of Sun was it? Was it a cheerful sun or an angry sun?’
In this sort of way we continued to retrace my day minute by minute …”
Oh the joy of being Nigel Nicholson and being opened up by Virginia Woolf as a schoolboy. Maybe she was collecting copy but I don’t think so I think she was trying to show Nigel that no human experience needed to be trivial or mundane.
As he writes, ‘Virginia had this way of magnifying one’s simple words and experiences. One would hand her a bit of information as dull as a lump of lead. She would hand it back glittering like diamonds. I always felt on leaving her that I had drunk two glasses of excellent champagne. She was a life enhancer.”
This volume is a delight for all lovers of Woolf. It is good to hear she sang in the bath and baked her own bread, but for me hearing her voice through those that met her is like the best Christmas present. She divided people into two groups – those that enhanced life and those that diminished it.