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Nigel Nicolson, Letters of Virginia Woolf

British writer, publisher, and politician Nigel Nicolson talks about his publishing of Virginia Woolf’s letters. Woolf was a constant enigma in his life growing up and continued to be so as an adult. As the editor of her letters, Nicolson discusses how these fragmented samples of her writing allowed him to know her on a deeper, more intimate level.

He and Charles Ruas discuss her madness, as well as society’s changing perception of mental illness as a means of dealing with pathological behavior. Nicolson recalls Woolf’s various periods of psychosis and affirms the fact that her points of madness were always without precedent and were often met with attempts of suicide. Very little of Woolf’s literary works are discusses, rather Ruas and Nicholson focus on her personal biography and the relations that she kept through post.

Her yearning to recapture the innocence of childhood and her eccentric love affairs are recounted. The latter of which is of particular interest to Nicolson, as his mother was one of Woolf’s lovers. He explains her intellectual community’s seemingly unconventional lifestyle and their disdain for “smart” societal pressures. While Virginia Woolf’s implicit passions were hardly the cause for her bouts of hysteria, they were far from her personal, social perceptions amidst the cultural norms of the 1940s.

Nigel Nicolson (1917-2004) was a scholar and a member of British parliament. He was the son of famed writers, Sir. Harold Nicolson and Vita Sackville-West. His parents inspired his book, Portrait of a Marriage, of which he is best known. Along with Joanne Trautmann, Nicolson published Woolf’s letters in six volumes. Included among the letters are notes to her lovers and snippets of what would be later added to her novels.


Historic Audio from the Archives of Charles Ruas


An unparalleled collection of recovered and restored programs from the seventies produced by Charles Ruas, and featuring Allen Ginsberg, John Giorno, Anaïs Nin, William Boroughs, Buckminster Fuller, Sylvia Plath, Pablo Neruda, and Jorge Luis Borges, among numerous others.