Virginia Woolf’s The Waves St Ives weekend study

Course NameLocationDurationDateTime
Woolf's Waves in St Ives Weekend studySt Ives CornwallWeekend (Friday- Sunday)April 5th-7th 2019Eight hours over the weekend

Thus when I come to shape here at this table between my hands the story of my life and set it before you as a complete thing, I have to recall things gone far, gone deep, sunk into this life or that and become part of it; dreams, too, things surrounding me, and the inmates, those old half-articulate ghosts who keep up their hauntings by day and night; who turn over in their sleep, who utter their confused cries, who put out their phantom fingers and clutch at me as I try to escape—shadows of people one might have been; unborn selves.

Reading Virginia Woolf requires a releasing of the faculty we have so carefully trained to be grounded in time and fact. Her fluid and probing prose allows such a deep and troubling glimpse in to the human heart that one comes away wiser and broader than before. This is not my first floating into The Waves– what I have already tasted makes me want to swim far out into her embracing world of character and reflection.


Salon Details

  • Facilitated by Toby Brothers
  • Weekend April 5th-7th (arrive in St Ives by 17:30 on Friday; we will finish our work mid-day Sunday)
  • Eight-hour study  £135
  • Recommended edition: The Waves by Virginia Woolf, introduction by Kate Flint; Penguin edition (2000); ISBN-13: 978-0141182711   OR Vintage Classics Ed. Oct. 2016) with intro by Jeanette Winterson; ISBN-13: 978-1784870843


To register for this weekend study,  please use the PayPal button below to pay £135 for the Salon study. Once I have received your registration, I will send along opening notes and reading strategies.

  • As of January 29th, there are only two spaces available for this study…..

Please pay for the  room directly to No4St Ives once your registration has been confirmed.

 This is something I have dreamed of doing since I first read Woolf’s magical book To the Lighthouse– it has haunted me always. The opportunity to study this work with a keen group of minds in the place that is so crucial to the writing is simply delicious…HUGE thanks to Sharon for being the organisational force here. 


Virginia Woolf:  “If life has a base that it stands upon, if it is a bowl that one fills and fills and fills – then my bowl without doubt stands upon this memory.  It is of lying in bed, half-asleep, haf awake, in bed in the nursery at St Ives.  It is of hearing the waves breaking, one, two, one, two, and sending a splash of water over the beach; and then breaking, one, two, one two, behind a yellow blind […}.  If I were a painter I should paint these impressions in pale yellow, silver, and green.  There was the pale yellow blind; the green sea; and the silver of the passion flowers.”

“Here is the past and all its inhabitants miraculously sealed as in a magic tank.”

“The past only comes back when the present runs so smoothly that it is like the sliding surace of a deep river.  Then one sees through the surface to the depths.  The past sometimes presses so close that you can feel nothing else.”

—“Sketch of the Past,” begun in June 1939.


Virginia Woolf spent much of her childhood in St. Ives.  The London Literary Salon invites you to join us in St Ives to explore this lovely coastal town and have it serve as a prism through which we will explore Woolf’s perspectives on landscape, domesticity and identity in her novel “To The Lighthouse.” We have already completed two magical weekends in this book in the environment that inspired it– this is an incredible experience!

You will have the opportunity to  visit the iconic Tate St Ives gallery overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, built between 1988 and 1993 on the site of an old gasworks, and there will be an optional boat trip to Godrevy Lighthouse.

Lighthouse from Salon trip 9.18

We may also look at Talland House, now privately owned, her childhood summer home.  For several months of the year the elegant house overlooking St Ives Bay would be the Stephens’ family home until 1895 when Virginia’s mother Julia Stephen died.  Although the complete family never returned to St Ives following their mother’s death, her children travellled back in 1905 following the death of their father in 1904.

Salonsitas going to the Lighthouse

Accommodation:  We are working with No4 St Ives which is just steps from Talland House and has an elevated position overloooking St Ives Bay.  It is a 5 minute walk from the beach and St Ives Town Centre.

Approximate cost: 

 Rooms at No4 St Ives range from £110-£140 per night– if the room is shared, the cost is halved; breakfast included. Some of us plan to stay Sunday night as well to be able to enjoy an extra day in this beautiful site. The entire cost is to be paid upfront. If for some reason you are unable to attend, we will work to find someone to replace you & reimburse you for the room but can not guarantee that is possible. The Salon cost may be applied to a later study. 

Train cost is approx.  £70  each way(cheaper if bought earlier) 

Salon cost is  £140– this includes a two-hour meeting Monday May 13th to start the study before the trip — as well as copious notes & critical resources. We will meet around eight hours over the weekend. The first meeting starts at 5:45 Friday evening; the last meeting is scheduled for 9:30-11:30 Sunday morning. 

We will enjoy dinner out on Friday and Saturday…other costs will include the optional boat trip & visit to the St Ives gallery. 

Getting there:  The train from London takes just over five hours, with one change at St Erth for the branch line to St Ives.

More on the study:   

As one of the primary modernist works, TtL demonstrates Woolf at play with language; testing the ability of language to truly reflect human experience by recording the life of the mind not just action…one of the characteristics of Modernist writing is a shifting centre of narrative perspective reflecting a questioning of ultimate and moral authority that characterized the time with the dissolution of Imperialism and absolute values.

Writing from the edge of the violent shift from Victorian to Modernist era, Woolf’s ambivalence is demonstrated in work. She struggles against the boundaries and structures of the Victorian era while holding a great longing and nostalgia for the noble traditions of the time. Her model, Mrs. Ramsey, (Queen-like) holds her daughters to the awe of the noble men that surround her and allows them to “sport with infidel ideas…of a life different…in Paris perhaps; …for there was in all their minds a mute questioning of deference and chivalry…though to them all there was something in this of the essence of beauty, which called out the manliness in their girlish hearts…” (TtL, pgs. 10-11)


This quote also demonstrates the Modernist reworking of absolute truth…it is not a question of either this (a male-dominated world) or that (a world of female emancipation): the apparently rigid gender roles borrow from each other—“manliness in their girlish hearts” , “Indeed, she had the whole of the other sex under her protection…”: there is another Imperialism her, an intimate Imperialism of female over male. The truth in this work is not rigid (although Mr. R would like it to be) but can be permeated, blended…seen from another view.

If you have any questions about this study, please contact us.

I loved this review from a GoodReads reader– sounds perfect for the  Salon!!

My umpteenth reading of The Waves and it still floors me. There’s not a wasted word here: Woolf’s attention to rhythm—she was listening to Beethoven’s String Quartet in B-flat Minor, Opus 130 while writing this novel, and Beethoven’s nuances are found in her prose at all turns—and the ways in which she questions subjectivity, interpersonal relations, the ways in which we are connected and yet disparate from those around us are on display here more so than in any of her other fictional works.

The last section is sadly not as famous as the last section in Joyce’s Ulysses, but it may well be even more gut-wrenchingly brutal in its philosophical underpinnings and the ways in which Woolf engages with poetics to sustain the flow of her inquiries into what it means to be human. On each reading there is something more to be found here, something more to be learned, something to relish and treasure, some keen diamond-edged truth that slices just as much as it illuminates.