Monks House Papers
One of the twentieth century’s most brilliant and innovative writers, Virginia Woolf (1882–1941) remains a subject of literary and cultural scholarship world wide. Her contribution to modernism, which includes the novels Mrs Dalloway (1925) and To the Lighthouse (1927), is impossible to overstate. The archive of her papers at the University of Sussex is known as the Monks House Papers, named after the Woolfs’ house at nearby Rodmell in East Sussex.
The papers at Sussex are those which Leonard Woolf made available to Virginia’s nephew Quentin Bell for the purpose of writing her official biography. They complement both the Leonard Woolf Archive at Sussex and the holdings of Virginia Woolf manuscripts in the New York Public Library and the British Library.
The Monks House Papers fall into three groups: letters, manuscripts and press-cuttings. There is documentation of Woolf’s career from her earliest journalism to what was possibly her final short fiction, ‘The Watering Place’, a two-page manuscript which draws on a diary entry of 1941 written shortly before her suicide.
The correspondence between Leonard and Virginia both before and after their marriage is included and spans the years 1912–35. Further correspondence between Leonard and others gives insight into his wife’s nature; there are letters from doctors (1913–14) about Virginia’s health, for example. Virginia Woolf’s personal correspondence is populated by a pre-eminent cast including Elizabeth Bowen, Noël Coward, Rosamond Lehmann and Katherine Mansfield. T S Eliot is especially well represented, through typescript copies of his correspondence; there are 78 letters to Virginia from 1918 to 1941. There are also communications from editors, and three folders of fan mail.
Woolf’s fiction and essays are well represented, with an emphasis on lesser-known works. Much manuscript material relates to unpublished or posthumously published work and includes fragments, drafts and re-workings. There are biographical sketches of childhood and contributions to Molly MacCarthy’s Memoir Club (members would meet to read their reminiscences aloud). A sizeable collection of notebooks includes Woolf’s notes for Pointz Hall (later Between the Acts), Mrs Dalloway and A Room of One’s Own, and fragments of stories. Unpublished essays include a typescript chapter of Reading, an unfinished book. Better-known works are represented by notes for and related to Three Guineas, and drafts of Woolf’s biography of the artist and art critic Roger Fry.
Additions continue to be made to the collection, both further correspondence of Leonard and Virginia Woolf, and material relating specifically to Virginia. Her reading diary of 1935–36 is available and there is a draft of Quentin Bell’s Virginia Woolf: A biography (1972) with tape-recorded interviews with Leonard Woolf, David and Angelica Garnett and Duncan Grant in which they reminisce about Virginia and the Bloomsbury Group to aid Bell’s research. One of our most recent acquisitions has been the purchase of eight of Virginia Woolf’s engagement diaries dating between 1930 and 1941.