Book Reviews Literature Penwith St Ives West Cornwall (and local history)

Außerhalb Lilly Schönauer und Rosamunde Pilcher (1) Virginia Woolf

Außerhalb Lilly Schönauer und Rosamunde Pilcher (1) Virginia Woolf

The Cornish Review Edited by Denys Val Baker
The Cornish Review Edited by Denys Val Baker


West Cornwall has many literary connections and famous writers have been attracted to its scenery and its people. In an idle moment I was thinking about how useful it might be to give an account of some of the significant figures that are associated with the Penwith peninsula. In her magical notes, “Moments of Being” Virginia Woolf writes of the evocative inspiration which waking in Talland House gave to her. Not only was it a source of inspiration for her great modernist novel,“To the Lighthouse” but to remember that once Henry James took tea on the lawn recalls once again the long Edwardian summer and the echoes of the conversations between him and Virginia’s father, the formidable Leslie Stephen. Links include


Books about Virginia and her sister in St Ives include “Virginia Woolf, Vanessa Bell and Remembering St Ives” by Marion Whybrow (currently unavailable on Amazon) and the novel “Virginia and Vanessa” said to be;”…a chronicle of love and revenge, madness, genius, and the compulsion to create beauty in the face of relentless difficulty and deep grief”. In addition there is Dell, Marion. Peering Through the Escallonia: Virginia Woolf, Talland House and St. Ives. No. 23. 1999. ISBN 1-897967-47-0. Price £7.00VW

There are more websites to peruse and pursue, should you have the time. Namely,


It is interesting, though unsurprising, how Woolf keeps turning up as a factional character in novels. My personal favourite as I have mentioned on here before is “House of Exile” by Evelyn Juers –mostly about Thomas Mann-which contains an interesting and memorable incident where Virginia and Leonard visit a restaurant in the Funkturm in Berlin and loses her elegant scarf which is recovered by another leading character.” Some moments of exhilarating coincidence in these pages are reminiscent of Stoppard’s Travesties.” According to the reviewer, Robert McCrum at Although not associated with St Ives, Virginia Woolf turns fictional in the film “The Hours” based on the novel by Michael Cunningham, which came out in 2002 directed by Stephen Daldry (who also filmed The Reader). Her bent-nosed appearance, which some critics found rather hilarious, won Nicole Kidman the best actress award that year. Recently I came across Alison Macleod at this year’s Jewish Book Week, where she was talking about her haunting and remarkable novel, “Unexploded”. She is Professor of Contemporary Fiction at the University of Chichester and a lively and engaging speaker who talked about her research into the background of the novel which is set in Brighton, where she herself lives, during the hazardous summer of 1940. The novel was long-listed for the Man Booker Prize in 2013 and deals with, among other sensitive issues, anti-Semitism in wartime Britain. Virginia Woolf lectured in Brighton during this period and she and her novels turn up as one leitmotiv in this persuasively constructed story. Many of the issues are based on a thoroughgoing examination of the archives. http:/


Returning along the coast in a westerly direction to West Penwith, a glance at A Literary Atlas and Gazeteer reveals that many fascinating littérateurs lived or visited from Truro and to the west.  Here are a list of just ten whose connections may not be very well known. At Zennor at Higher Tregarthen from 1916-1917, D.H.Lawrence, J.Middleton Murray and Katherine Mansfield. In Truro, Samuel Foote (1720-1777 became celebrated as much for his acting as his didactic diatribes)-his story has just been magnificently told by Ian Kelly see- Sir William Golding lived nearby at Perranaworthal from 1985 until his death in 1993-where he became a great friend of the controversial novelist and translator of Russian Poetry, D.M.Thomas. He has recently published a poetry collection, Light and Smoke.

Samuel Foote
Samuel Foote

In St Ives, Mrs Havelock Ellis wrote Cornish Idyll in 1898. Much later, after the War in 1945 Norman Levine found the town conducive to his stories, poetry and travel writing. At Madron, the inspirational poet’s poet, penned his charmed verses:-

Listen. Put on morning.
Waken into falling light.
A man's imagining
Suddenly may inherit
The handclapping centuries
Of his one minute on earth.
And hear the virgin juries
Talk with his own breath
To the corner boys of his street.
And hear the Black Maria
Searching the town at night.

]Daphne Du Maurier arrived here in Penwith before her time at Menabilly -for more details see





By penwithlit

Freelance writer and radio presenter

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