Gallery: Visit to Wren Library, Trinity College

Virginia Woolf and Politics course 2018
We spent a fascinating afternoon at the Wren Library on 5 July 2018. Librarian Dr Nicolas Bell told us something of the history of the library, and showed us materials connected with Virginia Woolf and Leonard Woolf. Leonard Woolf had studied at Trinity 1899-1904. His Cambridge friends included Lytton Strachey, Thoby Stephen, Clive Bell, John Maynard Keynes, and others in Virginia Stephen's circle. Virginia Stephen and Leonard Woolf married in 1912.

The Woolfs were close friends with the poet R. C. Trevelyan (brother of Trinity historian G. M. Trevelyan), and the library holds correspondence between them, as well as other Woolf letters, first editions of her novels, and other interesting material. There is a display about the Pethick-Lawrences and the women's suffrage movement.

Woolf mockingly cursed the library in A Room of One's Own (1929), yet her attitude to Trinity is quite ambiguous, mixing fact and fiction (calling a Porter a Beadle; exaggerating the college rules), mixing comedy and anger in quite subtle ways. Do we read the book too literally today? What does the fiction mean?

After our visit to the library, Claire Nicholson gave a marvellous talk about the women's suffrage movement. 

A fascinating day, giving us a lot to think about. We will visit again in 2019 on our Fictions of Home course. Our sincere thanks to Nicolas Bell and Trinity for their kind hospitality, and to Claire Nicholson for her talk.

Further reading
Hermione Lee, Virginia Woolf (biography, 1995)
Christine Kenyon Jones and Anna Snaith, '"Tilting at Universities": Woolf at King's College London, Woolf Studies Annual, 16 (2010), 1–44

Photos by Jeremy Peters

Literature Cambridge