Archive for the ‘bloomsbury group’ Tag

Triangulating History


The river ouse at rodmell sussex virgina woolf

This I reckon is the spot (River Ouse, Rodmell)

I went to visit Monk’s House, Virginia & Leonard Woolf’s cottage in the quiet East Sussex village of Rodmell. I was here years ago with Una and it left an impression, I was happy to return. Because I arrived before opening time (the cottage is now looked after by the National Trust) I sat reading for an hour in the nearby local churchyard, St Peter’s. At noon I had a look around the gardens with its view of the South Downs and then had a look around Virginia’s bedroom, with its monk-like single bed and set of Shakespeare beautifully bound by her, and a wander through the ground floor rooms of the cottage, with paintings by Leonard’s shared woman (post-Virginia), Trekkie Parsons, who split her week between Leonard and her husband at the marital home nearby. All par for the Bloomsbury course.

st peters church rodmell east sussex

St Peter’s churchyard, Rodmell

Of course Bloomsbury is rich in colourful tales, none less fascinating than the one the National Trust volunteer at the entrance to the cottage reminded me of, the way she eventually killed herself by walking from the cottage to the river Ouse, just beyond Monk’s House’s grounds, put stones in her pockets and walked in, drowning in what a local told me is a river with strong tidal currents. Not that day – in the midst of a heatwave there was barely enough water to immerse yourself in, the level less than half-way to the line marked by green vestiges of the high water mark.

IMG_4340 garden of monks house rodmell virginia woolf

Leonard & Virginia’s beloved garden, Monk’s House, Rodmell – St Peter’s in the background

I decided to go find the spot, mainly because I wanted to walk by the river which I really love, rather than for ghoulish motivations. That no-one seemed to know where the actual spot was was more of a prompt.

view from St Peters church rodmell sussex

view from Rodmell (St Peter’s churchyard)

I’ve done this kind of triangulation of history before. Two memorable ones include figuring out where Patrick Pearse read the Proclamation of Irish Independence in 1916 and standing there exactly 100 years to the minute after that momentous event. And working out where Tony Visconti and his lover kissed by the Berlin Wall, a moment immortalised in David Bowie’s Heroes. In the latter case, my estimation was subsequently confirmed as correct.

thistles at southease east sussex by river ouse

The start of the river path at Southease

For this one I went down to Southease, the adjacent hamlet, and walked down to the river under the blazing summer sun. I walked along the raised embankment back in the direction of Rodmell. By using the spire of St Peter’s I was able to align myself with the garden of Monk’s House and there is only one natural path to that spot along the edge of a field which must have been pretty much adjoining the Woolf’s land. On the basis that Virginia would have wanted to just get to the river and do the deed the place where she walked into the river is the spot shown in the first picture above.

A very resonant and tragic act in a very beautiful and peaceful place.

river ouse at rodmell sussex southease

Brynhild Olivier

Bryn Olivier

The first picture of Brynhild Olivier on the web

Although I’ve kicked off various articles in Wikipedia including the ones on User-Generated Content (in 2005 when UGC was still quite new and shiny) and on Bryn’s sister Daphne, I’m having a bit of trouble with the Wikinazis with this one so I’ll just stick it here for now and the self-appointed UGC You Next Tuesdays can spend their time on some other self-important pedantry. In the meantime the upside of this article is that I’ve met two charming, very interesting women through it – a novelist and a movie producer, the latter a direct descendant of Bryn.

”’Brynhild Olivier”’ (1887 – 13th January 1935, known as Bryn) was the second daughter of [[Sydney Haldane Olivier]], 1st Baron Olivier, and Margaret Cox; she was sister of Margery (1886-1974), Daphne (1889-1950) and [[Noel Olivier|Noel]] (1893-1969). She was a member of [[Rupert Brooke]]’s circle before the First World War and associated with the [[Bloomsbury Group]]. She was a prominent member of the group of young, socialist youth dubbed ‘the Neo-Pagans’ by [[Virginia Woolf]] and as such significantly influenced the development of Brooke.

She was usually the manager of the Neo-Pagan camps where the circle gathered for outdoor pursuits like climbing, bathing and hiking. Campers included the likes of [[Lytton Strachey]], [[John Maynard Keynes]], [[Geoffrey Keynes]] and [[Gerald Shove]]. The camp at Clifford Bridge in Dartmoor in August 1911 was referred to as ‘Bloomsbury under canvas’.

Although Brooke was in love with herPaul Delany. ”The Neo-Pagans – Friendship and Love in the Rupert Brooke Circle”. (1987 Macmillan London) p.173., she ended up marrying art historian [[A. E. Popham]] (Arthur Ewart Hugh Popham, known as Hugh) in 1912 (becoming Brynhild Popham). Hugh Popham was a friend of Rupert Brooke and worked in the Prints Department of the British Museum.[ The Papers of Hugh and Brynhild (Olivier) Popham]They were divorced in 1924. She married F. R. N. Sherrard in 1924 (becoming Brynhild Sherrard).[ The Peerage]

She was the mother of Anne Olivier Popham, who became the wife of art historian and writer [[Quentin Bell]]. She was also the mother of the poet, translator and theologian [[Philip Sherrard|Philip Owen Arnould Sherrard]] (born 23 September 1922, Oxford). She had six children in all – three with each husband. Her first child Hugh Anthony was born in March 1914, followed by daughter Anne Olivier and son Tristram.

Brynhild was the first of the four Olivier sisters the poet Rupert Brooke met[ Caesar, Adrian. ”Taking it like a man: suffering, sexuality, and the war poets.”(1993 Manchester University Press) p.25.]. Although she was reputedly the most beautiful, it was her sister Noel Olivier for whom Brooke fell. [[Jacques Raverat]] described her as having ‘the startled beauty of a nymph taken by surprise’.

Brynhild trained as a jeweller. She was first cousin of the actor [[Laurence Olivier]].


==Further reading==
*Delany, Paul. ”The Neo-Pagans – Friendship and Love in the Rupert Brooke Circle.” Macmillan. London. 1987. ISBN 0-333-44572-4 (hc)
*Caesar, Adrian. ”Taking it like a man: suffering, sexuality, and the war poets.” Manchester University Press. Manchester. 1993. ISBN 0-7190-3834-0

==External links==
*[ W.H. Auden – ‘Family Ghosts’]
*[ Papers in the National Archives]

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