On being ill

Virginia Woolf, 1882-1941

Book - 2012

A literary conversation about illness and care giving between patient and nurse, mother and daughter.

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Location Call Number   Status
2nd Floor 824.912/Woolf Due Jun 3, 2024
Ashfield, Mass. : Paris Press 2012.
Main Author
Virginia Woolf, 1882-1941 (-)
Other Authors
Julia Duckworth Stephen, 1846-1895 (-), Hermione Lee, Mark Hussey, 1956-, Rita Charon
10th anniversary ed
Item Description
With: Notes from sick rooms / by Julia Stephen ; introduction by Mark Hussey ; afterword by Rita Charon.
Physical Description
xxxvi, 122 p. : ill. ; 21 cm
Includes bibliographical references.
Contents unavailable.
Review by Booklist Review

Ten years ago, Paris Press made history publishing Virginia Woolf's forgotten essay, On Being Ill, which Woolf biographer Hermione Lee describes as daring, strange, and original. In this revelatory new edition, Woolf's inquiry into illness and its impact on the mind is paired with her mother's observations about caring for the body. Julia Stephen was famously devoted to nursing loved ones and others in need. She had no professional training but took to heart Florence Nightingale's precept that every woman is a nurse and emulated Nightingale's best-selling Notes on Nursing with her own Notes from Sick Rooms. In this long-overlooked, precise, and piquant little manual, Stephen is compassionate and ironic, observing that everyone deserves to be tenderly nursed while addressing the small evil of crumbs in bed. This unprecedented literary reunion of mother and daughter is stunning on many fronts, but physician and literary scholar Rita Charon focuses on the essentials in her astute afterword, writing that Woolf's perspective as a patient and Stephen's as a nurse together illuminate the goal of care to listen, to recognize, to imagine, to honor.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2010 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

"In illness words seem to possess a mystic quality," writes Woolf, and she proves her observation correct in this essay (originally published in 1930), which leaps from observations of clouds to heaven to Shakespeare in stream-of-consciousness prose that, by design, borders on delirium. Her immersion in this mental state rings all the clearer for its contrast, in this edition, with "Notes from Sick Rooms," an essay written by Woolf's mother, Julia Stephen in 1883. While Woolf believes illness in literature should be no less stirring than war or love, her mother offers gentle instruction on things like pillows, baths, and the omnipresent scourge of crumbs, in what amounts to a nurse's how-to guide. Hermione Lee's introduction provides much appreciated context for Woolf's essay, though at 34 pages to Woolf's 28, it seems unnecessarily long-winded. Separating the two original texts is Mark Hussey's introduction to Stephen's essay, which notes that Stephens died when Woolf was 13, one potential explanation for the profound isolation Woolf experiences in illness. The book closes with a more personal note from internist Rita Charon, founder and director of Columbia University's Program of Narrative Medicine. In the conjunction of the two essays, Charon finds "the necessary equilibrium between knowledge and feeling." The book may have a surplus of commentary, but Woolf and Stephen will certainly change the way readers think of illness. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved