The only known recording of Virginia Woolf
August 11, 2016 1:26 PM   Subscribe

The splendid word "incarnadine" for example, who can use that without remembering "multitudinous seas?" "In the Only Surviving Recording of Her Voice, Virginia Woolf Explains Why Writing Isn’t a “Craft” (1937)"
posted by OmieWise (15 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
 
incarnadine
posted by naju at 1:43 PM on August 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


Thank you very much for this, OmieWise; I've read most of her diaries and scores of letters, all with a nagging awareness of how much I must be missing because I couldn't hear them in her voice.

I wasn't planning to dig those out again anytime soon (or ever, honestly), but now I'll have to.
posted by jamjam at 2:04 PM on August 11, 2016


It really is a terrific word. In the Shakespearean context Woolf alludes to, it means "to pinken:"

MACBETH:
Whence is that knocking?
How is't with me, when every noise appalls me?
What hands are here? Hah! They pluck out mine eyes.
Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood
Clean from my hand? No; this my hand will rather
The multitudinous seas incarnadine,
Making the green one red.

posted by Iridic at 2:13 PM on August 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


Oops, sorry for the typo. I asked a mod to fix it.
posted by OmieWise at 2:24 PM on August 11, 2016


A noble's hand empinkens the largest sea.
posted by HeroZero at 2:26 PM on August 11, 2016 [6 favorites]


Mod note: Amended!
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:27 PM on August 11, 2016


I'm in love, hearing that voice. I mean, I loved her already. But my love has a new dimension.
posted by Modest House at 3:47 PM on August 11, 2016


There is a single recording of Walt Whitman, as well. It's available as part of the Poetry Speaks book and CD. I was surprised when I listened to it by how moving it was to hear this scratchy fragment of his voice.

I re-read quite a bit of Woolf last year, jamjam, which I hadn't done since I was a much younger woman. I saw that, on the one hand, I had been unable to fully appreciate her in my 20s, and it was a great pleasure to go back to her. As with much great literature, I had missed a great deal of the humor in Orlando, for instance. I was also struck anew by what a tremendous snob she was. Listening to her, I can hear a bit more of the snob than of the glorious bohemian feminist. But what a tremendous mind she had. What a pleasure to be reminded to enjoy it again.
posted by not that girl at 3:55 PM on August 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


There is some disagreement on this, but among historical recordings experts the Whitman recording is considered likely fake.
posted by in278s at 4:28 PM on August 11, 2016


I was also struck anew by what a tremendous snob she was. Listening to her, I can hear a bit more of the snob than of the glorious bohemian feminist. But what a tremendous mind she had. What a pleasure to be reminded to enjoy it again.

I'm with you on all counts, not that girl; In one of her diaries there's an account of a visit from May Sarton -- for Sarton it was obviously more of a pilgrimage to the shrine of a living saint than a mere visit -- and it is one of the most withering, excoriating, ruthless and viciously contemptuous denunciations of the work and very being of one writer by another that I have ever read. And Woolf was fully aware that Sarton worshipped her!

And yet the prose of The Waves is an incandescent glory from the first sentence to the last; I don't think any other novel in English comes all that close -- not even the best passages in Lolita or Gravity's Rainbow (and speaking of the "tremendous mind she had" -- I couldn't agree more -- in one later diary entry she describes The Waves as "the greatest stretch of mind I ever knew").
posted by jamjam at 5:04 PM on August 11, 2016


oh my lard she sounds exactly like my Nana


this is simultaneously amazing and freaking me out
posted by zinful at 5:25 PM on August 11, 2016


WB Yeats reads The Lake Isle of Innisfree

I like how he keeps rolling his Rs
posted by postcommunism at 5:36 PM on August 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


Gorgeous. I so wish it were still respectable to believe sincerely in Truth and Beauty, the way writers in her day were allowed to. Those ideas make the whole enterprise of writing and art-making in general seem so much less petty and grubby...
posted by saulgoodman at 5:37 PM on August 11, 2016


Truth and Beauty

You want to believe in that stuff, do so. You get to live once. I can't stand seeing people wandering through this world under some sense of obligation to respect postmodernism. You'll lose only the respect of people clinging to the garments of professors.
posted by thelonius at 4:13 AM on August 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


That's wonderful, and as I wrote to the people I sent the link to: "Spoiler — she sounds frightfully posh." She was indeed a horrible snob; as I said in my review of To the Lighthouse (what a wonderful book!), "She found Joyce… vulgar." (A commenter said "I believe she called him a vulgar little man, which I find much worse.") But all writers, like all humans, have faults, and many of them are pretty horrible people; what are you going to do? As Stalin is alleged to have said to the Party functionary responsible for wrangling the Union of Writers and complaining about their behavior: "At the present moment, Comrade Polikarpov, we have no other writers to offer you."

> I so wish it were still respectable to believe sincerely in Truth and Beauty, the way writers in her day were allowed to.

What thelonius said. Who cares what's "respectable"?
posted by languagehat at 9:02 AM on August 12, 2016


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