Orlando book cover

THIS IGNITES ME...


Orlando and the inspiration of love

Cressida Holmes-Smith, the managing director of Lucky Generals, admires Virginia Woolf 's feminist audacity

By Cressida Holmes-Smith

Everything about the Bloomsbury Group inspires me. I think it's the mixture of confidence and romance. Take Charleston for instance; the aplomb to draw and paint on every single surface of your house. Or the Hogarth Press; the ultimate start-up, a husband and wife team self-publishing from their dining room table. And ultimately, the pursuit of love, in all its varied forms, because what’s more inspiring than love, right?

The fact that the group were supposedly ‘late developers’ and found fame later in life, also keeps me inspired, most likely mistakenly, for my own - very much still-to-be developed and found - artistic acclaim.

But if I had to choose one thing from within the group, it would be Virginia Woolf’s time-bending, gender-transcending ‘biography’ Orlando - the story of a hopeless romantic who switches sex and lives for 400 years. I’m inspired by the feminist audacity of the writing, the blurring of fiction and reality, and the insouciance in the face of change. It feels like it was written yesterday rather than in 1928, and we could still learn a lot.

And of course, it was also inspired by love, that ultimate inspiration. It’s often cited as the longest love letter in history, having been written for and about Woolf’s lover, Vita Sackville-West. I’ve just read the letters between the pair, recently reissued by Vintage, and the description in Woolf’s diary of her moment of inspiration is like something that she has no choice but to abandon herself to. That to me is how inspiration, and love, feels. ‘I make it up in bed at night, as I walk the streets, everywhere. I abandon myself to the pure delight of it’.

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