From a childhood among the trees of Kensington Gardens to adventures among the cicadas of Spain, Dr Alexandra Harris walks with the spirit of one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century: Virginia Woolf. A century on from the publication of Woolf’s first novel, The Voyage Out, the paths where her feet and mind roamed remain enchanted with the stories of herself and characters.
Beautifully articulated by Dr Harris, Woolf frequently revisited walks throughout her life in an attempt to walk among the past, returning to the simplicities of childhood or reveling in her sense of adventure. With unmissable insight into the impact of memory and place upon Woolf’s writing, A Walk of One’s Own adds wonder and curiosity to the listener’s own surroundings. Beginning with Woolf’s 1923 visit to the Spanish village of Yegen, Harris recalls Woolf’s love of travel and the ramblings in the sweltering heat with her husband, Leonard, and writer Gerald Brenan. Harris also recalls a walk taken around 20,000 times from her home at 22 Hyde Park Gate through Kensington Gardens, where Woolf once played as a child at the Round Pond of The Years, and in later years observed passersby.
The Downs of Sussex upon which Woolf rambled for much of her life complete the four-part sensory feast for admirers of her evocative style. Through light and enduring darkness, a torment now thought to be bipolar disorder, Woolf sought peace through walking. Until eventually driven to end her own life, these walks were her escape and a significant part of her creative process. The series is guided by local and literary experts, including author Chris Stewart, Woolf’s biographer Dame Hermione Lee, writer Michael Bird and UCL’s Dr Scarlett Baron.
The program familiarises listeners with awe-inspiring walks in England and abroad, exploring the inseparability of writing and walking in Woolf’s life. Her profound ability to engage and reflect on these surroundings is unmistakable in the accompanying passages of her work delivered in this literary treat.