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Virginia Woolf was already an accomplished novelist and critic when she was commissioned by the British edition of Good Housekeeping to write a series entitled "Six Articles on London Life." Originally published bimonthly, beginning in December 1931, five of the essays were eventually collected and published in 1981. The sixth essay, "Portrait of a Londoner," had been missing from Woolf's oeuvre until it was rediscovered at the University of Sussex in 2004. Ecco is honored to publish the complete collection in the United States for the first time.
A walking tour of Woolf's beloved hometown, The London Scene begins at the London Docks and follows Woolf as she visits several iconic sites throughout the city, including the Oxford Street shopping strip, John Keats's house on Hampstead Heath, Thomas Carlyle's house in Chelsea, St. Paul's Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, and the Houses of Parliament.
These six essential essays capture Woolf at her best, exploring modern consciousness through the prism of 1930s London while simultaneously painting an intimate, touching portrait of this sprawling metropolis and its fascinating inhabitants.
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As novelist Prose notes in her perceptive introduction, Woolf demonstrates a huge affection for her hometown—like her heroine Clarissa Dalloway, whose stream-of-consciousness litany at the opening of Mrs. Dalloway famously listed London as one of her true loves–in six essays originally commissioned for the British edition of Good Housekeeping magazine in 1931–1932. Woolf takes us to historian Carlyle's Chelsea home, without running water and full of coal smoke, where "two of the most nervous and exacting people of their time" fought "for cleanliness and warmth." Keats's orderly and self-controlled Hampstead abode, says Woolf, belies the poet's youthful, anguished death. The romance of watching ships coming home to harbor contrasts sharply with the decrepitude of the warehouses that line the banks of the Thames, and the cheapness and glitter of Oxford Street attract bargain hunters galore. The voices of the dead poets buried in Westminster Abbey continue to question the meaning of existence, and a salon percolates with the conversations of living artists, writers, actors and politicians. Prose points out that while this mini-guidebook may not list the hottest restaurants, and London's skyline has changed dramatically since the city's bombing in WWII, Woolf is still a charming, relevant companion to the delights of a great metropolis. 6 b&w illus. (July 10)
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“1930s London comes alive in these six evocative essays. . . a discerning, affectionate tour of her beloved city.” (Washington Post Book World)
“Woolf is still a charming, relevant companion to the delights of the great metropolis.” (Publishers Weekly)
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