VirginiaWoolf1935_crop1Saxon Sydney-Turner cultivated a strange reputation in the Bloomsbury group. At times he spoke non-stop on arcane topics; other times he was completely, enigmatically silent. In this letter, Virginia Woolf writes to Turner with characteristic playfulness—both fawning over and tenderly chiding the notorious neurotic.

To Saxon Sydney-Turner

Hogarth House, Paradise Road, Richmond 
Monday [27 November 1916]

My dear Saxon,

Whatever your state of mind, you must say I’m an obedient creature to sit down and write to you, directly I’ve finished tea—However, I admit I like writing to you very much, though its rather like writing to an elf bathed in moonlight on the top of some hill. And I’ve nothing to say—except that I owe you 5/5 for the chess book, which I will send you tomorrow, if I can remember, as I think I shall.

Probably I ought to insist upon rest and food at this juncture. If you dont sleep or eat, your feelings will become so much of a puzzle that you’ll waste these exquisite days merely scratching your head. For I’m convinced they are exquisite days—more entirely exquisite for you than for most, because all your feelings are so true. Have I ever heard you say an insincere thing? Never. Now I think you can trust yourself because you have made a habit of honesty. And, dear me, one never regrets feeling things in this life; not even if mere disappointment follows, which I think utterly impossible in this particular case. You will say I know nothing about it; and very properly give me one of your slight raps on the nose, but in spite of being in some ways foolish, I am sensible in others. I know, being civilised as we are, we can’t help watching our feelings, and being incredulous of them. But that I believe to be the proper way to feel, and later when things are less new, one loses this self-consciousness, and enjoys the fact that our feelings have been so watched, and are therefore so good—I’ve never had to go back on any of mine for Leonard, or indeed for any of my friends. I dont think this is very well expressed, but no doubt you will see what it means.

How delightful it is to think of you. Are you writing any poetry? I am reading Mendel, which is rather interesting, and makes me think of Barbara, not that she occurs in it, I suppose, but all the young do, and I wonder if they’re so very different from us. I think life for us was more complicated at that sort of age—

We went to a concert on Friday, and met Gertler and Carrington, and Walter Lamb, who came home with us—O dear! But the main point is that I hope you will write to me; and I think you a most adorable and tender hearted sprite? no, spirit.


V. W.


From The Letters of Virginia Woolf. Vol. 2. Edited by Nigel Nicolson. New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1976.



Find a brief biography of Sydney-Turner here.

Here, Leonard Woolf reflects about Sydney-Turner.

comments powered by Disqus
“Against World Literature”: The Debate in Retrospect

What is Emily Apter really against, what is she really for, and why does she invoke world literature to make that case?

9 April (1779): Horace Walpole to Anne Liddell

To bear a hopeless passion for five years, and then murder one’s mistress—I don’t understand it!…I do not love tragic events en pure perte. If they do happen, I would have them historic. This is only of kin to history, and tends to nothing. It is very impertinent…

Writers’ Recipes: Samuel Beckett, Tuna Sandwich

A device perhaps for the incontrovertibility of the one to win credence for the other. That then is the proposition. Perhaps the result is a sandwich. This much being unknown.