I like making connections. I make connections between ideas, between people, between books and people, between ideas and people, between lots of things. Making connections is one thing I think I’m reasonably good at. It is a difficult to describe skill in job-hunting though. Just saying.
Today I made a connection, not new to the world at large, but new to me. I am reading (slowly) The Concise Oxford Companion to English Literature (2nd Edition), edited by Margaret Drabble and Jenny Stringer. I’m in the ST- entries. I’m reading this reference work from A-Z because I do not have a degree in English Literature and so am trying to learn a little more than I would just by reading English Literature in itself. Also, it gives me ideas for old books to read. So, the connection made today was between Leslie Stephen, known to me as the editor of the original Dictionary of National Biography, a reference I often consult in my work with women who interpreted the Bible, and Virginia Woolf, 20th Century author of some renown. Stephen was Woolf’s father. This was remarked on incidentally in the entry Stephens, Leslie in the COCtEL. It is, however, the main point made about Stephen in the Wiki article on his life. (Aside: I tend to prefer the COCtEL approach, which gave Stephen his due for his own literary work, rather than just making him the parent of other people.) The Wiki article on Woolf makes a connection between Stephen’s work on the DNB and Woolf’s “experimental biographies.”
In reviewing the wiki articles to link to this paragraph, I’ve also made another connection in my own head. Woolf was the great-neice (through her mother) of Julia Margaret Cameron, a nineteenth-century photographer of some note, whose work I’ve examined with interest because of my research into 19th C women. A comparison of dates indicates that Woolf was born three years after Cameron died.
What do all these connections mean? It isn’t completely obvious to me what they mean, but now I have a sense of Virginia Woolf’s world that I did not have before. I have a sense of her family connections, a sense that a writer of genius did not appear in a vacuum, but came from a family with literary interests (she was a third generation published writer on her father’s side of the family), connected with women who did unconventional artistic things (through her mother). It means I may read her with more sympathy than I might have before. Had I read her before, that is. Maybe now I’ll try? She did write books before 1970, so maybe I’ll go there this year.