Virginia Woolf’s short story Kew Gardens was first published in 1919 by the novelist and her husband, Leonard, at the Hogarth Press. Set over the course of a hot July afternoon in a flower bed, the story moves from descriptions of plant and insect life to snatches of overhead conversations.
Printing and creating Kew Gardens by hand
Work began on the printing of Kew Gardens in 1918, just a year after the Woolfs’ impulsive purchase of a printing press.
Aspects of the first edition highlight that the Woolfs were in the early stages of learning their craft as printers and publishers. The small print run of 150 copies was circulated to private subscribers. Inside the slim pamphlet, we see how the Woolfs have made use of everyday materials – the hand-marbled cover has been printed on the back of peach-pink art-deco-esque wallpaper. Simple methods have been used: the pages, for instance, are hand-sewn together with white thread at four points. Originally the Woolfs printed their full names on the final page, but the finished book reveals how they changed their decision. Presumably hoping to appear more professional, the names are pasted over with the more formal ‘V and L S Woolf’, printed on a small slip of paper.
By virtue of being handmade, each copy of Kew Gardens is different from the other.
Vanessa Bell’s illustrations
Vanessa Bell’s two woodcut illustrations feature solid, heavy monochrome lines that offset the mild-sounding title. In the first, Bell flattens perspective to merge the two hatted women with a background of flowers. In the second, Bell again plays with focus and perspective, moving to a close-up of the flower bed. The caterpillar and butterfly look as if we are viewing them under a magnifying glass.
- Full title:
- Kew Gardens
- 1919, Paradise Road, Richmond, London
- Hogarth Press
- Pamphlet / Illustration / Image
- Virginia Woolf, Bell Vanessa
- Usage terms
Virginia Woolf: This material is in the Public Domain.
Vanessa Bell: © Estate of Vanessa Bell, courtesy of Henrietta Garnett. Except as otherwise permitted by your national copyright laws this material may not be copied or distributed further.
- Held by
- British Library
- Article by:
- Elaine Showalter
- Exploring identity, Literature 1900–1950, Capturing and creating the modern
Elaine Showalter describes how, in Mrs Dalloway, Virginia Woolf uses stream of consciousness to enter the minds of her characters and portray cultural and individual change in the period following the First World War.
- Article by:
- David Bradshaw
- Capturing and creating the modern, Literature 1900–1950
Virginia Woolf loved London, and her novel Mrs Dalloway famously begins with Clarissa Dalloway walking through the city. David Bradshaw investigates how the excitement, beauty and inequalities of London influenced Woolf's writing.
- Article by:
- Will Hodgkinson
- Art, music and popular culture, European influence
Will Hodgkinson looks at the art exhibition which radically changed the course of art and culture in Britain.