WOOLF (VIRGINIA) Godrevy lighthouse visitors book

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Lot 87

Sold for £ 5,520 (US$ 6,916) inc. premium
Trinity House Visitors Book for Godrevy Lighthouse, St Ives, including autograph entries by the ten-year-old Virginia Stephen, William Holman Hunt and others of their party, undated but made on 12 September 1892: "Mr Holman Hunt London/ J.B. Etherington Smith London/ J.T. Stephen London/ A.V. Stephen London/ H L Holman Hunt London", and a subsequent entry in the hand of her father, Sir Leslie Stephen, recording one further visit on 17 September 1894, when she was twelve: "Virginia Thoby Adrian Leslie} Stephen"; with an earlier entry for 24 August 1887, recording a visit by her father and members of his family, made by the respective members of the party: "J.W. Hills Balliol Oxford/ Gerald de l'E'-Duckworth Eton Coll./ Julian Thoby Stephen Talland Ho. St Ives/ Leslie Stephen 22 Hyde Pk Gate, London"; and many other entries by members of the public, nearly 150 pages on blue paper with printed red rules in columns under 'Date', 'Name', and 'Residence', plus blanks, original half calf cloth boards stamped 'Visitors Book' beneath the Trinity House arms, printed label on inner cover signed by the Trinity House Secretary, 19 November 1850 ('The Light-keepers are directed to request all Visitors to enter their Names and Residences in this Book'), minor spotting, dust-staining etc., boards scuffed, but overall in good sound condition, folio, Godrevy Lighthouse, St Ives, 1859-1934


  • THE TEN-YEAR-OLD VIRGINIA WOOLF GOES TO THE LIGHTHOUSE, accompanied by her mother's admirer, the painter William Holman Hunt. Unlike most of the entries in this book, that made by the young Virginia, Holman Hunt and their party is not dated, occurring between entries for 18 August 1892 and 26 June 1893. It can nevertheless be pinned down precisely from an entry for 12 September 1892 in the Hyde Park Gate News, the newspaper she kept as a child: "On Saturday morning Master Hilary Hunt and Master Basil Smith came up to Talland House and asked Master Thoby and Miss Virginia Stephen to accompany them to the light-house as Freeman the boatman said that there was a perfect tide and wind for going there. Master Adrian Stephen was much disappointed at not being allowed to go". This entry prompted Quentin Bell to observe: "the literary historian may, if he so wishes, find in this report what Henry James calls the donné of one of Virginia's most celebrated works. The point is not one that can be proved; but certainly St Ives provided a treasury of reminiscent gold from which Virginia drew again and again; we find it not only in To the Lighthouse, but in Jacob's Room and, I think, in The Waves. For her, Cornwall was the Eden of her youth, an unforgettable paradise, and she was always grateful to her parents for having fixed on that spot" (Virginia Woolf, 1982 edition, i, p.32).

    Leslie Stephen had first hired Talland House, just outside St Ives, in the spring of 1882, soon after her birth: "There was no furniture in the upstairs rooms nor did the cold water tap work, but there was a perfect view across the sea to Godrevy lighthouse. So each year from mid-July to mid-September, for the following ten years, the Stephen family moved to that large square house with its terraced gardens, divided by hedges of escallonia, descending the slope towards the sea. An entry in Virginia's diary for 22 March 1921 looks back to an ordinary summer day in August 1890, to the sound of the sea and the children in the garden, and concludes that all her life was 'built on that, permeated by that: how much so I could never explain'" (ODNB). The idyll was to end with her mother's death in May 1895. And our visitors book records a last visit - one, surely, that must in later life have taken on an extra burden of poignancy - on 17 September 1894, when she was twelve. Unlike that earlier visit, it does not seem otherwise to have left a trace on the extensive record that surrounds her life and works.

    The Lighthouse, erected three-and-a-half miles across the Bay of St Ives on Godrevy Island, had been opened on 1 March 1859. The first member of the public to inscribe his name in this book was John Newman Tremearne, then staying with his family in St Ives, on 17 May 1859. In the 1861 Census, he was to be described as a timber and general merchant, agent for Lloyds and Vice Consul for Portugal, aged 56. Beneath he has entered his wife as "Mrs Tremearne". In the 1861 Census her name is given as Matilda, aged 49. Their daughter, also Matilda, has carefully written in her own name. In 1861 she was to be styled a scholar, aged 13. In all there were thirty-four visitors that first day. By the 1920s the number of visitors had begun to thin out, the last entry being made by R.H. Humphreys on 7 August 1934.
WOOLF (VIRGINIA) Godrevy lighthouse visitors book
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