Turkey, pudding, tips, waits, holly, good wishes, presents, sweets...

Christmas with Virginia Woolf

Before I hand over to Virginia Woolf: In a few days I won’t be able to guarantee delivery of the Letters of Note Special Editions this side of Christmas. If you fancy one, you should order soon. Thanks.


It is Christmas evening, and we are all soporific from the effects of a Christmas tea eaten on top of a Christmas turkey. Sophie never lets us off on Christmas day at all, and when this letter is finished, I shall have to go down and attack the turkeys legs which were left intact. Thoby had such a large helping that another plate had to receive the overflow, and he ate impartially from both. They spent the afternoon in making Rum Punch, which is made half of rum half of brandy, with sugar and lemon and hot water thrown in: the house smells like a public house in consequence, and we shall have a very merry evening. Isn’t this better than your high and dry aristocrats? We all talk at once, and make such brilliant jokes as never were seen.

Virginia Woolf | Letter to Violet Dickinson, Christmas Day 1904


It has been quite an absurd Christmas day. I was woken by sunlight dancing on my nose, and cursed, and woke and saw the whole pane blue, and then the whole field white, and little birds and modest cottages, and blue smoke, and peaceful trees: I should have saluted the happy morn had I been a Christian. As it was I went and knocked up Adrian and we came down to our letters and parcels. Then in the intervals of eating turkey we have tramped in the forest, which is as a painted wood, all clear sharp tints, and delicate lines, and crisp white spaces.

Virginia Woolf | Letter to Violet Dickinson, Christmas Day 1906


I met an old man on the village green yesterday, lame and frost bitten and ruddy and white haired who told me he had had goose for dinner and “really thought he was the happiest old man in the world.” He looked so convinced of it and so stealthy as though happiness was not altogether respectable that I told him he was a credit to the race and upon which he shambled off to the public house, and I nearly followed.

Virginia Woolf | Letter to Violet Dickinson, 28 December 1906


It is past nine o'clock, and the people still sing carols beneath my window, which is open, owing to the clemency of the night. I am at the crossroads, and at the centre of the gossip of the village. The young men spend most of the day leaning against the wall, and sometimes spitting. Innumerable hymns and carols issue from barns and doorsteps. Several windows, behind which matrons sit, are red and yellow, and a number of couples are wandering up and down the roads, which shine dimly. Then there is the lighthouse, seen as through steamy glass, and a grey flat where the sea is. There is no moon, or stars, but the air is soft as down, and one can see trees on the ridge of the road, and the shapes of everything without any detail. No one seems to have any wish to go to bed. They circle aimlessly. Is this going on in all the villages of England now? After dinner is a very pleasant time. One feels in the mood for phrases, as one sits by the fire, thinking how one staggered up Tren Crom in the mist this afternoon, and sat on a granite tomb on the top, and surveyed the land, with the rain dripping against one's skin. There are—as you may remember—rocks comparable to couchant camels, and granite gate posts, with a smooth turf road between them. Thinking it over is the pleasant thing.

Virginia Woolf | Letter to Clive Bell, Boxing Day 1909


What have you been doing? I meant to buy you a Christmas present, but forgot; the truth is, I was on my way to buy it, when I had the idea of coming to Cornwall, and that took all my money. It shall be now for the new year. I did get you a card, only sent it to Sophie instead. It was of waves, breaking on a promontory.

Virginia Woolf | Letter to Violet Dickinson, 27 December 1909


Breakfast was as bleak as a workhouse today; not one letter, not one parcel; the postman actually passed the door.

Virginia Woolf | Letter to Vanessa Bell, Christmas Day 1910


A great attack was made upon my faith this Christmas, and I am led to think that Atheists are still persecuted. For instance, wishing to read just now, I was dinned crazy by a cracked church bell, which didn't peal, but merely hammered, like an arrogant and bigoted street seller. Then the congregation sings without understanding, and as for the psalms, which all the little news boys and errand boys sing, I never heard anything so senseless in my life. However, I suppose it would be too rash to burn them all. They must have imaginations. I am more charitable about them than they are about me.

Virginia Woolf | Letter to Violet Dickinson, New Years Day 1911


Do not expect wit or sense in this letter, only the affection of a drugged and torpid mind. Oh an English Christmas! We are not Christians; we are not social; we have no part in the fabric of the world, but all the same, Christmas flattens us out like a steam roller; turkey, pudding, tips, waits, holly, good wishes, presents, sweets; so here we sit, on Boxing day, at Rodmell, over a wood fire, and I can only rouse myself by thinking of you. In particular, I want to know 1. how you are. 2. Whether you are getting on with your autobiography; 3. What you are thinking; 4. what feeling; 5. what imagining, criticising, seeing. Do catch that wild woman Gwen and stick a pen in her paw.

Virginia Woolf | Letter to Jacques Raverat, Boxing Day 1924


The necklace is exquisite—like the inside of white grapes—and as my consumption of necklaces is huge, will come in most useful as well as ornamental. Leonard is so enamoured of his caddy that he is making it into a tobacco tin for London. Also, I am finding Angelica’s blotter of immediate use—for one thing, I never have any blotting paper, and as I am writing in bed it is essential to have a hard block. In fact all the presents were entirely on the spot and much in contrast to the hideosities my poor old mother in law sent—for instance a vast sham brass fish slice.

Virginia Woolf | Letter to Vanessa Bell, 29 December 1930


This is a black foggy Christmas week; and the human race is distracted and unlovable. That is, I spent yesterday in Oxford Street buying things like gloves and stockings.

Virginia Woolf | Letter to Quentin Bell, 21 December 1931


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