Table of contents
List of figures
1. Virginia Woolf
2. Hogarth Press
3. Kew Gardens
3.1 First edition of Kew Gardens (1919)
3.2 Third edition of Kew Gardens (1927)
List of figures
Figure 1: first woodcut illustration by Vanessa Bell in the 1919th edition of ‘Kew Gardens’.
Figure 2: second woodcut illustration by Vanessa Bell in the 1919th edition of ‘Kew Gardens’
Figure 3: woodcut illustration of Vanessa Bell on the final page in the 1927th edition of ‘Kew Gardens’.
She was one of the most famous writers of her time and is known as a pioneer for modern literature. Virginia Woolf. From essays, through short stories and letters to novels, she had written innumerable works. Many of them were published in more than one edition. But why? What incites an author to republish a work in a new edition? What kind of changes does a work went through when it is revised and republished? And can a newer edition be denoted as ‘the better one’?
To examine these questions, two editions of one of the most popular short stories of Virginia Woolf will be analysed in the following thesis. Therefore, at first something about Virginia Woolf’s life and her way of becoming a well-known writer will be investigated. After that, the two editions of ‘Kew Gardens’ from 1919 and 1927 will be compared regarding their format, printing, and reception. Finally, the results will be summed up and a conclusion will be drawn, where the thesis question ‘Same work, different editions – Is the 1927th edition better than the 1919th edition of Virginia Woolf’s ‘Kew Gardens’?’ will be answered.
1. Virginia Woolf
Virginia Woolf is “one of the most admired authors of the twentieth century”1. She was born in 1882 as a daughter of an influential writer and therefore got to know a lot of famous writers already in her childhood. Because she grew up in a patchwork family, her mother had a lot of work to do to raise all the children. She died in 1895, which lead to a mental breakdown by Virginia. Her father never got over the death of his wife and hence killed himself nine years later. After that, Virginia and her brother Thoby started the Bloomsbury Group discussions, which “was a collection of young people in London who met to discuss art, politics, and literature”2. Virginia was writing literary reviews and teaching at Morley College. When her brother Thoby died in 1906, she had another depressive period, and the writing was difficult for her. In 1912 she married Leonard Woolf “who had been a friend of older brother Thoby and had participated in the Bloomsbury conversations”3. Together they built their own publishing company, called the Hogarth Press. After many depressive episodes and mental breakdowns throughout her life, Virginia Woolf drowned herself in a river on 28th March 1941, in the middle of the second World War.4 Through her literary works “[…] and in her private letters she explored, questioned and refashioned everything about modern life: cinema, sexuality, shopping, education, feminism, politics and war. Her elegant and startlingly original sentences became a model of modernist prose”5.
2. Hogarth Press
In 1915 Virginia and Leonard Woolf decided to build up their own printing press. Leonard himself said in his autobiography that he wanted to start printing as a distraction for Virginia and her mental breakdowns. Two years later they implemented their plans and founded a new printing press by purchasing a small hand-printing press. They installed this press at their home, called Hogarth House, on a table in their dining room6. Their first publication was a handprint of ‘Two Stories’, which comprised 134 copies7. In the first few years, the Hogarth Press publishes nearly exclusively literature. Then, in 1919, it published next to Virginia Woolf’s short story ‘Kew Gardens’ also its first poetry and began to travelling books more genuinely. In 1920 first advertisements were created for the Hogarth Press, and the Woolfs got their first actual profit. After that, in 1921, the Hogarth Press “establishes a relationship with Harcourt Brace in the USA […] [and] [t]he Woolfs purchase a Minerva platen printing press”8. Also, Virginia Woolf publicized her book ‘Monday or Tuesday’ in this year, which amongst others contains the second edition of ‘Kew Gardens’. It was the first book that was printed by a commercial printer9. In order to increase their activity, the Woolfs “bought a larger printing press and […] [as a result] the Press was transformed from a hobby to a largely commercial publisher”10. Later Virginia Woolf’s first novel published by the Hogarth Press was printed five years after its foundation. The Woolfs also got some merger offers in 1922, which they refused. From 1924 to 1930 Virginia Woolf dominates the Hogarth Press, when she had her largest success and the Hogarth Press its record years. From 1930 onwards the Hogarth Press published an averaging number of 8 titles each year regarding social and political subjects. After the Woolfs at first only reduced the number of handprinted books per year, they finally ceased them completely in 1932 because the Hogarth Press has become a big and established printing Press that produced economically and professionally printed books with a high quality and themes like science, arts, or politics. It publicized works from famous modernist writers and finally became a commercial enterprise that was still operating after Virginia Woolf’s death in 194111. Finally, in 1946, “[t]he association of the Woolfs with the Hogarth Press ended […] by which time they had published 527 titles”12.
3. Kew Gardens
‘Kew Gardens’ is a famous short story written by Virginia Woolf, published by her and her husband Leonard Woolf at the Hogarth Press, and illustrated by her sister Vanessa Bell13. The story takes place on a hot day in July and has its focus on the homonymic gardens in London. The narrator describes four couples, their thoughts, and conversations, while they are passing a colourful flower bed. With its snail, that moves through various coloured flowers, it builds the focus of this short story14. It is described in very much detail, whereas the characters appear to be rather sketchy, since none of their stories is narrated completely15. The narrator is a kind of omniscient narrator, although a “ground-level perspective on the world, focusing on the minutiae and the apparently unromantic and unexciting [is used]”16. Although the setting is limited and fixed, ‘Kew Gardens’ maintained dynamic due to the experimental narrative perspectives Virginia Woolf made use of. This experimentation is “one of the story’s most original and subversive formal features”17. Additionally, ‘Kew Gardens’ differs from other short stories of that period because its characters are not leading to a plot development. The temporal and spatial proximity is instead arbitrary and thus provoked “the traditional assumption that a short story must be unified and provide a sense of closure […]”18.
3.1 First edition of Kew Gardens (1919)
Virginia Woolf’s first edition of ‘Kew Gardens’ was published in 1919 by the Hogarth Press in Richmond19.
Regarding the format, it is important to say that each copy is being handmade and handprinted and therefore no copy is equal20. On the outside of the 1919th edition of ‘Kew Gardens’, there is a hand-painted cover, which the Woolf Family has sourced by Roger Fry, with a paper label on the front cover21. On the inside “the hand-marbled cover has been printed on the back of peach-pink art-deco-esque wallpaper”22. The first page in this slim pamphlet contains the title page and after that a woodcut illustration, created by Vanessa Bell, Virginia Woolf’s sister, can be seen on a whole page, as shown in figure 1.
Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten
Figure 1: first woodcut illustration by Vanessa Bell in the 1919th edition of ‘Kew Gardens’. From Virginia Woolf, Kew Gardens, 1919, 1.
Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten
Figure 2: second woodcut illustration by Vanessa Bell in the 1919th edition of ‘Kew Gardens’. From Virginia Woolf, Kew Gardens, 1919, 11.
In figure 2 another woodcut illustration can be seen. This one is situated on the last page of this short story23. These woodcut illustrations “feature solid, heavy monochrome lines that offset the mild-sounding title”24. The first illustration shows two hatted women which seem to merge with the flowers in the background, whereas the second illustration shows a close-up of the flower bed, that is focused on in the short story. Because Vanessa Bell played with perspective and focus on these woodcut illustrations, they seemed to be viewed under a magnifying glass25. Nonetheless Vanessa Bell was not happy with the result of her own woodcut illustrations. She thought that they were “very bad”26.
Only 150 copies of the 1919th edition of ‘Kew Gardens’ were hand-printed and distributed to private subscribers. The Woolf Family had just built up their own printing press and were therefore “in the early stages of learning their craft as printers and publishers”27. For the printing process simple methods and everyday materials were used. “The pages, for instance, are hand-sewn together with white thread at four points”28. Because the Woolfs merely had a small hand-press in 1919, they were only able to set two pages at the same time and to print only 150 copies29. Furthermore, the Woolf Family changed a characteristic feature of their books. Instead of printing their own full names on the last page of the book, they from this edition onwards, started to print only the initials of their first names in addition to their surname below the last page, to appear more formal and professional30.
The first edition of ‘Kew Gardens’ is nowadays believed to be a testing ground for Virginia Woolf’s early career. She experimented with methods and themes, that she further developed in her following novels. Aside from that many critics denoted ‘Kew Gardens’ as “a kind of ur-text of Woolf’s literary corpus”31. Virginia Woolf has never thought of her short story being so successful. It was the first of their own Press’s publications which was admired by the readers and reviewers and hence this short story is considered to be a key moment for the Hogarth Press. Especially the woodcut illustrations and the marbled paper, which were carefully, as well as individually, sourced by the Woolf family, were adored by their readership32. After the publication of this first edition, the Woolf family
[…] [was] bolstered by a glowing review in the Times Literary Supplement on 29 May 1919: “Here is ‘Kew Gardens’ a work of art, made, ‘created’ as we say, finished, four-square; a thing of original and therefore strange beauty, with its own ‘atmosphere’, its own vital force. Quotation cannot present its beauty, or as we should like to say, its being Perhaps the beginning might be suppler; but the more one gloats over ‘Kew Gardens’ the more beauty shines out of it; and the fitter to it seems this cover that is like no other cover, and carries associations; and the more one likes Mrs. Bell’s ‘Kew Gardens’ woodcuts” (Woolmer, p. xxiv).33
In addition to that Virginia Woolf’s husband, Leonard Woolf, described ‘Kew Gardens’ in his memoirs as “a microcosm of all [Woolf’s] then unwritten novels, from Jacob’s Room to Between the Acts”34. Furthermore, Virginia Woolf’s letters and diaries unfolded her having a passion for visual arts. That is why ‘Kew Gardens’ is said of being an expression of Virginia Woolf’s painterly technique. Her “descriptions are full of interactions between shape, light and colour”35. Moreover, the short story can also be seen from another perspective as an answer to the harrowing experience of the First World War. The original garden at Kew in London is a powerful symbol for the imperial history of England and therefore not a neutral setting. Virginia Woolf chose this setting for her short story, because she wanted to image and criticise a world that had doomed its innocence due to the war. That world, which is described in ‘Kew Gardens’, illustrates the dehumanizing impact of the First World War by characterization through alienation and fragmentation36. Some other critics also established ”links between ‘Kew Gardens’ and Impressionism, the 19th-century French art movement which included artists such as Claude Monet and Paul Cézanne”37.
1 Jennifer Smith, eds, A Study Guide for Virginia Woolf’s “Kew Gardens”: Short Stories for Students (Michigan: Mark Scott, 2017), 2.
2 Smith, Jennifer, A Study Guide for Virginia Woolf’s “Kew Gardens”, 2.
3 Smith, Jennifer, A Study Guide for Virginia Woolf’s “Kew Gardens”, 2.
4 Smith, Jennifer, A Study Guide for Virginia Woolf’s “Kew Gardens”, 3.
5 Jane Goldman, The Cambridge Introduction of Virginia Woolf (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 1 .
6 Duncan Heyes, “The Hogarth Press,” British Library, 25th May 2016.
7 Helen Southworth, Leonard and Virginia Woolf: The Hogarth Press and the Networks of Modernism (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2010), 1-12.
8 Southworth, Helen, Leonard and Virginia Woolf, 1.
9 Southworth, Helen, Leonard and Virginia Woolf, 1-12.
10 Heyes, Duncan, “The Hogarth Press”.
11 Southworth, Helen, Leonard and Virginia Woolf, 1-12.
12 Heyes, Duncan, “The Hogarth Press”.
13 British Library, “Kew Gardens by Virginia Woolf, 1919,” accessed 25th February 2021.
14 Oliver Tearle, “A Summary and Analysis of Virginia Woolf’s Kew Gardens,” Interesting Literature, February 2019.
15 Cheryl Alexander Malcolm and David Malcolm, eds. A Companion to the British and Irish Short Story (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2008), 194.
16 Tearle, “A Summary and Analysis of Virginia Woolf’s Kew Gardens”.
17 Malcolm, C.A. and Malcolm, D., A Companion to the British and Irish Short Story, 195.
18 Malcolm, C.A. and Malcolm, D., A Companion to the British and Irish Short Story, 195.
19 Virginia Woolf, Kew Gardens (Richmond: Hogarth Press, 1919).
20 British Library, “Kew Gardens by Virginia Woolf, 1919”.
21 Sammy Jay, “Woolf Virginia, Kew Gardens, 1919. Peter Harrington Rare Books,” accessed 24th March 2021.
22 British Library, “Kew Gardens by Virginia Woolf, 1919”.
23 Woolf, Virginia, Kew Gardens, 11.
24 British Library, “Kew Gardens by Virginia Woolf, 1919”.
25 British Library, “Kew Gardens by Virginia Woolf, 1919”.
26 British Library, “Kew Gardens by Virginia Woolf, 1927,” accessed 26th February 2021
27 British Library, “Kew Gardens by Virginia Woolf, 1919”.
28 British Library, “Kew Gardens by Virginia Woolf, 1919”.
29 Jay, Sammy, “Woolf Virginia, Kew Gardens, 1919. Peter Harrington Rare Books”.
30 British Library, “Kew Gardens by Virginia Woolf, 1919”.
31 Malcolm, C.A. and Malcolm, D., A Companion to the British and Irish Short Story, 194.
32 Jay, Sammy, “Woolf Virginia, Kew Gardens, 1919. Peter Harrington Rare Books”.
33 Jay, Sammy, “Woolf Virginia, Kew Gardens, 1919. Peter Harrington Rare Books”.
34 Malcolm, C.A. and Malcolm, D., A Companion to the British and Irish Short Story, 194.
35 British Library, “Kew Gardens by Virginia Woolf, 1927”.
36 Malcolm, C.A. and Malcolm, D., A Companion to the British and Irish Short Story, 194-197.
37 British Library, “Kew Gardens by Virginia Woolf, 1927”.