#96 Water-Lilies



Water -Lilies


In the Waterlily House at Kew

There are three genera of aquatic plants which are commonly called “water-lily”: Nymphaea, which includes the hardy, common, white, European waterlily Nymphaea alba and the giant Victoria Regia water lily (now named Victoria amazonica), which grows up to three meters wide and was brought to Great Britain in 1837,[1] as well as at least seventy other species and numerous modern hybrids; Nuphar, a much smaller group including the yellow waterlily Nuphar lutea that is sometimes called “spatterdock,” also native to temperate regions in Europe including Great Britain; and Nelumbo or lotus, a non-hardy tropical plant found from Iran to India, Japan, and Australia (Hogan 922; see LOTUS ). [2] Nymphaea grow from rhizomes planted in the mud; their long stalks attach to a round, flat leaf or “lily pad” which rests on the water and is often notched or cleft to the stem, creating a characteristic V-shaped opening. The flowers bloom from May to September, and flowers can range in color from white to yellow to a range of pinks verging on red to bluish purple.  Opening either during the day or at night, the flower first appears in its female form with a stigma whose scent attracts insects covered with pollen, then reopens in a male form with pistils that spread pollen to other flowers. According to Judy Kilpatrick’s account of the reproductive process of Nymphae, once the blossom is fertilized “the flower stem of a water lily tightens and spirals with a springlike action, drawing the flower head underwater” where the seeds “grow in the ovary of the flower, producing a spongy berry containing up to 2,000 seeds.” [3]


The history of the growth of water-lilies in England is rather murky.  Although Marilla Mulwane asserts in her on-line essay that “the first water-lily found its way to England in the early 1800’s where it was grown and flourished in many noblemen’s ponds and gardens,”[4] she seems to be leaving out the indigenous, hardy white and yellow water lilies, which according to Anne Pratt’s account, published in 1846, were fairly common in nature, “haunt[ing] the wild recesses of the Highland Lakes” (201). Although never mentioned in Shakespeare,[5] water-lilies are referred to in Milton’s Comus (1634), where the water nymph Sabrina, living “Under the glassy, cool, transparent wave,” is pictured knitting “twisted braids of lilies” into her hair (l. 862).[6] Since Sabrina is a water nymph, I assume, as Rackham did, that it is water lilies that she is weaving into her braids.


Another confirmation of the existence of indigenous water lilies before the nineteenth century comes in a delightful little poem of 1791 by Cowper, called “The Dog and the Water-lily” which locates water-lilies in the river Ouse[7] and tells the story of a dog, Beau, who seems to realize that his master wants one of the floating flowers and swims out to uproot it and bring it to him (Rendall 45).


The successful cultivation of the giant Amazonian water lily by Joseph Paxton, the Duke of Devonshire’s head-gardener at Chatsworth, in 1849 inaugurated a new phase of interest in the tropical varieties of the water-lily. As Joanne Yeomans notes in her blog for Kew Gardens, there was widespread coverage of the gigantic flowers in the penny weeklies, where excitement over pictures of children sitting on the leaves rivaled that produced by Dickens’ serialization of The Pickwick Papers.[8] The popularity of the huge aquatic plant at Kew “along with the new easy omnibus ride bus from the city and people’s desire for fresh air,” caused a significant influx of visitors at Kew -- according to Yeomans, there was an increase from 15,000 a year in 1844 to 240,000 in 1851 -- and led to the building of the Water Lily House next to the Palm House in 1852.


At the same time that John Lindley and Joseph Paxton were creating the conditions necessary to cultivate the giant Amazonian water lilies, they were also experimenting with new, hardier hybrids of smaller water lilies in a wider range of colors. An 1852 article by the two botanists/gardeners announces the breeding of the first hardy hybrid red water lily at Chatsworth.[9]  In her article for the Art Institute of Chicago on Monet’s Water Lilies at Giverny, Gloria Gloom notes that varieties of hardy hybrid water lilies in different colors including red were introduced at the World’s Fair in Paris in 1889 and were bought in bulk by Monet to populate his new water gardens in 1894.[10] 

Preceding these commercial developments, a cluster of poetic references to native white water lilies began to appear towards the end of the eighteenth century. Some of these imagine the water lily as a figure of female chastity similar to the nymph Sabrina in Milton’s Comus, who is described as a “Virgin pure” (l. 824) and acts as a sort of “tutely godmother,” who assists in initiating The Lady into womanhood (Shullenberger 184).[11] This is the version seen in J. J. Grandville’s The Court of Flora -- a set of engravings published in France and England in 1847 depicting personified flowers, often aligned with the then-popular codes of the “language of flowers.”[12] Grandville presents the water lily as a nun, citing the story of a sister in Bruges who resisted all the temptations of the devil.


In “The Land of Dreams,” one of Blake’s Songs of Innocence (1789), the water lily is also associated with a maternal figure:

O Father, I saw my Mother there,
Among the lillies by waters fair. (ll 7-8; cited by Rendall 46)

And in Crabb’s 1810 collection of poems, The Borough, the water lily reigns as a female monarch:

That winding streamlet, limpid, lingering slow,
Where the reeds whisper when the zephyrs blow;
Where in the midst, upon a throne of green,
Sits the large Lily as the water’s queen (ll. 29-32)


Published the same year, Sir Walter Scott’s Lady of the Lake gives the flower an exalted aura of Arthurian mystery: “The water-lily to the light/ Her chalice reared of silver white”  (III, l. 2). The Arthurian connection is also evoked in Keats’s Spenserian fragment “Calidore, written in 1817, about the hero of Book VI of the Faerie Queene.  As in Scott, the emphasis is on the chalice-like shape of the flowers and their white purity:

And now the sharp keel of his little boat

Comes up with ripple, and with easy float,

And glides into a bed of water lillies:

Broad leav’d are they and their white canopies

Are upward turn’d to catch the heavens’ dew.  (19-23)


Written in the early 1820’s, Mary Mitford’s collection of reflections Our Villiage (which was edited in 1893 by Anne Thackery Ritchie, Virginia Woolf’s aunt by Leslie Stephen’s first marriage) returns to the familiar romantic trope of the water lily reigning supreme:


But here we are at the bridge! Here we must alight! 'This is the Loddon, Emily. Is it not a beautiful river? rising level with its banks, so clear, and smooth, and peaceful, giving back the verdant landscape and the bright blue sky, and bearing on its pellucid stream the snowy water-lily, the purest of flowers, which sits enthroned on its own cool leaves, looking chastity itself, like the lady in Comus. That queenly flower becomes the water, and so do the stately swans who are sailing so majestically down the stream. (entry for June 25; partially quoted by Rendall 47)[13]


All these royal lilies appear at least a decade or two before even the discovery of the Amazonian variety later named for the new Queen Victoria, establishing a precedence for its regal attribution.


Other poetic depictions of the flowers are simpler and more realistic.  Shelley’s mention of them in “The Question” concentrates on their similarity to stars in the night sky:

And nearer to the river's trembling edge

There grew broad flag-flowers, purple pranked with white,

And starry river buds among the sedge,

And floating water-lilies, broad and bright (ll. 25-8; mentioned by Rendall 46).


In Tennyson’s “The Lady of Shalott” (1832), the flowers are restored to their Aurthurian context but without much allegorical burden of significance:

And up and down the people go,

Gazing where the lilies blow

Round an island there below (ll. 6-8)


When they reappear in The Princess in 1847, their natural growth habits are used to create a metaphor for the character of Cyril, of one of the men who invades the women’s college:

He has a solid base of temperament:   

But as the waterlily starts and slides   

Upon the level in little puffs of wind,   

Though anchored to the bottom, such is he.' (book VI)


By the end of the nineteenth century, water-lilies had also become an increasingly popular subject for the visual arts. The pre-Raphaelite follower, John William Waterhouse painted them frequently, although in his hands they begin to take on a slightly sinister aura. As Debra Mancoff remarks in her study of The Pre-Raphaelite Language of Flowers, it is as if the flowers became tainted with the “stagnant water that nurtured the blossoms,” because the water nymphs they are named for “embodied the male horror of female sexuality” that began to emerge in fin-de-siècle art (58). Taking many of their subjects from vaguely medieval literary sources, the Pre-Raphelites were particularly fond of portraying Tennyson’s “Lady of Shalot,” a character which Bram Dijikstra in his study of Idols of Perversity: Fantasies of Feminine Evil in Fin-de-Siècle Culture notes presented a titillating combination of “incipient madness, self-destructive, passive yearning, and a beautiful dead woman floating downstream” (39).  In Waterhouse’s first rendition of the lady, bought in 1894 as part of the founding collection of the Tate Musuem and usually on display there,[14] the water-lilies are naturalistic, as in Tennyson, merely part of the scenery.




When water-lilies next appear, in Waterhouse’s portrayal of Shakespeare’s similarly mad, suicidal, and soon-to-be floating Ophelia (1894), both the water lilies and the nymph-like sexuality are a good deal more prominent.

Waterhouse’s last portrayal of water-lilies is his most decadent.  In Hylas and the Water Nymphs, purchased for the Manchester Art gallery in 1896, it is the male figure who is at risk of being seduced and drowned by the sexual temptresses who surround him, the visual embodiments of flowers of evil.


        The year after this painting was purchased, however, Claude Monet began what was to become the most famous series of portrayals of water lilies ever created.  Having first seen the new, hardier hybrid lilies at the Paris Exhibition of 1889, he began ordering varieties for his proposed water-garden at Giverny as soon as it was built in 1894, with additional purchases almost every year including, in 1904, an entire order devoted to red varieties.[15] The resulting paintings were so popular that by 1927, the government of France had built two new oval rooms at the Musée de l'Orangerie in order to display water-lily murals by Monet.[16]  Emphasizing the delicate colors of the floating blossoms in different conditions of light, Monet’s works largely replaced the various mythic and poetic connotations of chastity and decadence conjured by Victorian paintings with a more modern, aesthetic appreciation of the flower’s appearance.


Virginia Woolf mentions water-lilies or lilies which can be deduced to be water-lilies a total of thirty times—twenty five times in her fiction, three times in letters, and twice in non-fictional writings. Her earliest associations with water lilies often retain some of the literary, fairytale atmosphere characteristic of pre-Raphaelite renditions, but after the installation of various lily pools at Monk’s House beginning in 1929, her references become increasingly domesticated.  The first time she mentions water-lilies, in her inaugural novel, The Voyage Out (1915), is a literary reference to Milton’s Comus and the nymph Sabrina under the sea, knitting “twisted braids of lilies” into her “amber dropping hair” (VO 327, 329). This passage is quoted twice near the end of the book, at the beginning of Chapter 25, a chapter in which Rachel’s intended fiancé Terence reads Milton to her as she lies in bed, gradually slipping into the mysterious fever that leads to her death.  While Sabrina is a rescue figure who saves The Lady, there is no saving of Rachael who instead seems identified with Sabrina, both as a virgin and as a denizen of the deep. As she slips further away from consciousness, she attempts to remember the line about Sabrina and begins to sink into a hallucinatory state: “The glassy translucent wave was almost visible before her, curling up at the end of the bed” (329). Later, the water nymphs become diminished and rather sinister as she imagines “walking through a tunnel under the Thames, where there were little deformed women sitting in archways playing cards” (331). Her slide into a coma is also pictured in undersea terms: “She saw nothing and heard nothing but a faint booming sound which was the sound of the sea rolling over her head” (341). Having withdrawn under the water like an actual lily, she returns briefly to consciousness, floating aimlessly on the surface of her bed: “She had come to the surface of the dark, sticky pool, and a wave seemed to bear her up and down with it; she had ceased to have any will of her own” (346).


This first reference to water lilies has several characteristics which resonate with other appearances of the floating flowers in Woolf.  Associated with an uneasy sense of melancholy or imminent death, they are sometimes seen from an unexpected, underwater perspective as in Woolf’s short story “The Mark on the Wall,” written two years later, in which the narrator imagines a ”quiet spacious world. . . . A world where one could slice with one’s thought as a fish slices the water, grazing the stems of the water-lilies hanging suspended over nests of white sea eggs,” an image which seems to suggest that Woolf knew something of the flower’s reproductive cycle (CSF 87).  This alliance of water lilies with the sub-conscious mind is also expressed in metaphors which link water-lilies to moments of solitary contemplation as in the 1922 short piece “A Woman’s College from the Outside” where the reflection of the female student Angela’s face in the mirror is briefly compared to “this lily floating flawless upon Time’s pool” (CSF 145).  Five years later in a 1927 letter to Ethyl Smyth, Woolf evokes a similar metaphor in describing her own mind: “My mind, this floating glove, or lily or whatever I called it, wants to drift off into some obscure pool, and be shaded by weeds” (L4 196).  As late as 1935, in “The Captain’s Death Bed,” Woolf continues to evoke the association between death and water lilies as she quotes a prayer for the recovery of Jacob, the eponymous hero of Frederick Marryat’s novel Jacob Faithful, that once again makes a metaphorical connection between a water lily and a person: “Earth, lay light upon the lighter-boy—the lotus, the water-lily, that hath been cast on shore to die”  (E6 69).


Woolf is also aware of the spectacle of water-lilies, their role as fashionable garden displays, especially at Kew Gardens. When Katherine and Ralph explore Kew in Woolf’s 1919 novel Night and Day their itinerary includes the lily houses built to accommodate the giant Amazonian lilies, though there is no emphasis on their imperial size: “They wandered in and out of glass-houses, saw lilies swimming in tanks, breathed in the scent of thousands of carnations, and compared their respective tastes in the matter of trees and lakes” (359). Written the same year, the short story “Kew Gardens” features the red water lilies Monet was making famous in France in the scene set by the outdoor lily pond where both Simon and Eleanor have faintly erotic memories associated with the flower.  Simon remembers watching a dragonfly circling a leaf “with the red flower in the middle of it,” fantasizing that if the dragonfly settles, the girl he is with, named Lily, will say yes to him, but the glittering insect “never settled anywhere” (CSS 91). Eleanor, the woman he married, has a parallel memory of being “down by the side of a lake, painting the water-lilies, the first red water lilies I’d ever seen” where she is kissed on the back of her neck by “an old grey-haired woman with a wart on her nose” (CSS 91). This anointing by the fairytale figure of a witch is not fearsome but is instead “the mother of all my kisses all my life,” making the grey-haired woman a kind of female guardian figure somewhat like Sabrina, benignly initiating The Lady into sexuality.[17]


Nearly a decade later, the role of water lilies as spectacle is suggested in a reference to them in Orlando (1926) where they are part of the excess of a banquet laid out in Constantinople while Orlando is ambassador: “jellies made to represent His Majesty's ships . . . swans made to represent water lilies . . . birds in golden cages” (96).  The year Orlando was published, in an August letter to Saxon Sydney Turner, Woolf includes water lilies as possible decorative elements to be incorporated in far-reaching plans to enlarge the garden at Monk’s House. She and Leonard had just purchased a large adjacent plot called “the Terrace” that extended their property on the north side to a drop-off marking the edge of the marshes, and in a typical example of mounting hyperbole sheproclaims that “we are making all sorts of ambitious schemes for terraces, gazebos, ponds, water lilies, fountains, carp, goldfish, statues of naked ladies, and figureheads of battleships reflected in shadowy lakes” (L3 516). 


Woolf’s attitude to water lilies undergoes a fundamental shift in 1929 when this forecast of coming attractions is fulfilled by the financial success of Orlando, allowing the Woolfs to undertake a whole series of renovations at Monk’s House, including the installation of a two-foot deep fish pond. In August Leonard ordered water-lilies for the fish pond and began to stock it with goldfish and carp.[18]  As Caroline Zoob points out, the grassy verge surrounding the pond became a favorite spot for socializing in the early thirties (64), and there are several photographs available of Virginia sitting on the bench next to the pond, including this one of Woolf and John Lehman in 1931 in the Monk’s House Album at Harvard:


Perhaps in response to the building of the pond, in May of 1929, Woolf wrote a short story “The Fascination of the Pool,” which muses on all the different memories contained in the depths of a pool.  Although water lilies are not mentioned (they hadn’t been ordered yet), the story does seem to anticipate aspects of the lily pool commemorated in Between the Acts, Woolf’s last novel.


            Leonard seems to have had something of a passion for ponds and pools.  In August 1932, Virginia notes that Leonard was staking out a shallow, round Dew Pond to be installed on the northern Terrace (D4 121). Photos and paintings of the Dew Pond such as this undated landscape by Vanessa Bell show it was planted with water lilies.


The next year, in 1933, an area to the right side of the house as you enter from the street was paved, complete with another lily pond.  In September, Woolf wrote Vita Sackville-West, asking for advice on where to by Italian pots and statues for decoration, her contribution to the hardscape of the new garden (L5 229).  The following year Leonard recorded buying more fish, and in 1936, he bought a pamphlet on water plants, Water-Lilies, Aquatics, Bog, and Moisture-Loving Plants, Fish, Amphibia Etc, from Perry’s Hardy Plant farm.[19]  The animal population of the ponds was increased in June 1937 when Leonard bought two tortoises, whose wanderlust caused Virginia to complain about “perpetually being sent up the road” in pursuit of them (L6 134).


Side terrace in 2003

Water-lilies were also popular at the homes and gardens of Woolf’s friends.  Writing her biography of Roger Fry, Woolf quotes a passage where he describes his garden at Guilford around 1913, revealing that Fry was growing water lilies long before they appeared at Monk’s House: “It’s a mass of blue anchusas and red poppies and yellow and pink water lilies” (199). When Roger drew up the plans for the inner walled garden at Charleston in 1917, he included what looks like the predecessor to the fishpond at Monk’s House, a rectangular pool the perfect depth for water-lilies:




            This personal domestication of water-lilies seems to have resulted in at least a partial demystification of the floating blooms in Woolf’s fiction.  When they surface in The Waves, associated with each of the female characters, they have become features of the landscape. Since they appear in a meditation evoking Shelley’s floral offerings in “The Question,” Rhoda’s water-lilies still retain some literary resonances.  Her desire to “sit by the river’s trembling edge and look at the water-lilies broad and bright, which lit the oak that overhung the hedge with moonlight beams of their own watery light” comes word-for word from Shelley’s poem (ll. 28-30; TW 40) and retains some of the flowers’ mysterious moonlit aura of magic. But for Susan, water-lilies are features of ponds with no apparent ulterior meaning that she has, like Leonard, built in her own garden and stocked with fish who lurk under the leaves: “I have made ponds in which goldfish hide under the broad-leaved lilies” (138). For Susan the lilies and the fish are signs of “security, possession, familiarity,” netted under her protection like her strawberry and lettuce beds (138).  Jinny barely notices the water-lilies at Hampton Court. When the six friends couple-up and stroll off after dinner, she walks with Neville and simply points “with her gloved hand, [and] pretends to notice the water-lilies.”  Their significance has become so insubstantial that they are barely worth her attention.


            The densest collection of water-lilies in all of Woolf’s work occurs in her last novel, the posthumously published Between the Acts, where a lily pool somewhat like those at Monk’s House and Charleston is a prominent feature of the landscape mentioned a dozen times in the course of the book. Located like Leonard’s Dew Pond on a dip in the spacious terrace to the side of the house -- “Nature had provided a stretch of turf half a mile in length and level, till it suddenly dipped to the lily pool” (8) -- this pool is surrounded by bushes: “”in that dip of the ground, bushes and brambles had mobbed themselves together” (39). Adding to its mystery is the fact that it is deeper than the pools at either Monk’s House or Charleston: “four or five feet deep over a black cushion of mud” (30). The lilies that float on it are twice described as red and white in color, recalling the red water-lilies at Kew and paralleling the red and white paper roses which festoon the Barn (30, 138).[20]


Despite these differences, the lily pond in Between the Acts retains crucial elements of Woolf’s previous lily ponds as a place of meditation and mediation, especially for female characters who, like Eleanor in “Kew Gardens” and Rhoda in The Waves, sit beside it to gather their thoughts: the young scullery maid comes to cool her cheeks, “before the plates came out” (30), and late in the novel the elder Lucy Swithin gazes at the pool, looking for fish and watching the lilies shut (138-9). The description of Lucy’s encounter makes it particularly clear that the pool is a liminal space: “Above, the air rushed; beneath was water. She stood between two fluidities” (139), and it serves a similar purpose throughout the novel, being for the maid a space to rest between the acts before the teatime rush, as well as the place where the actors transform themselves by changing their costumes for the pageant (137).  


One aspect of the water-lily pond as a transitional zone is the plant’s existence in two realms -- the bright flower above, the dark roots below. In Between the Acts, as in The Voyage Out, the emphasis is often focused on the world below the flower. The shadow aspect of the lily pool is initially evoked by the romantic legend of a drowned woman perpetuated by the servants who believe that the pool is haunted by a ghost, a lady “who had drowned herself for love” (31).  The fact that dredging the tank produces only the thigh-bone of a sheep is a fairly explicit demystification of the water-lily’s associations with a romantic Ophelian figure, announcing as it does the death of the pastoral (31). However, as in “The Mark on the Wall,” the underworld beneath the lily leaves retains a mysterious, psychologically fertile aura of enchantment, populated by jeweled fish “gold, splashed with white, streaked with black or silver” (30), reminiscent of several passages throughout Woolf’s writing in which fish seem to flash through the unconscious mind like darting thoughts.[21] These are particularly attractive to the visionary crone figure Lucy Swithin who gazes at the pool near the end of the novel, and sees “her favorite fantail,” and “the golden orfe,” before glimpsing the silver flash of the “great carp himself,”  identifying the variety of the fish – “speckled, streaked, and blotched”—with “Ourselves” (139). However, her faith in the “beauty, power, and glory” of these representatives of the human remains at least partially blocked by the internal voice of reason represented by her brother Bart, who most unromantically haunts the depths of her meditations: “It was always ‘my brother. . . my brother’ who rose from the depths of her lily pool” (140).


Even deeper in the pool lies a layer of mud which, being repeatedly associated with the artist figure Miss La Trobe, escapes patriarchal authority. Lucy’s brother Bart—who typically underestimates his sister, thinking she just skims the surface of life’s pool and ignores “the battle in the mud” (138)-- is the first to articulate this connection, when he surmises that Miss Latrobe is like the great old carp in the bottom of the pool who only desires “darkness in the mud,” in her case “whiskey and soda in the club and coarse words descending like maggots through the waters” (138). And indeed, that is just the refuge La Trobe seeks in the village pub where she goes to drink and listen and where “words of one syllable sank down into the mud. . . . The mud became fertile. Words rose above the intolerably laded dumb oxen plodding through the mud” (144). Ceasing to be surface ornamentation and eschewing their earlier romantic purity, the water-lilies now have roots that stretch down into the fertile mud of the creative imagination.





[1] The tropical lily was successfully cultivated for the Duke of Devonshire; Joseph Paxton, in charge of the greenhouses at Chatsworth, apparently used the grid-like under-structure supporting the pads in the design of the Crystal Place in 1851.  The following year, a water-lily house was built at Kew to house the giant plant (they are now housed in the Princess of Wales Conservatory).  See https://www.kew.org/plants/giant-waterlily

 Accessed November 19, 2022.


[2] The most noticeable differences between water-lilies and lotus are their leaves and placement of flowers. In the lotus the flower rises above the surface of the leaf, which is typically rippled and round with no cleft.


[3] “How Water-Lilies Make Seeds” by Judy Kilpatrick presents a particularly clear account of this relatively complicated process: https://homeguides.sfgate.com/water-lilies-make-seeds-65567.html Accessed December 20, 2022.


[5] Rendall makes this claim (45), and I have not been able to locate any mention of water lilies in my reference works on flowers in Shakespeare.


[6] The complete text of Comus is available on-line at: https://milton.host.dartmouth.edu/reading_room/comus/text.shtml  Accessed December 20, 2022.


[7] Probably not the Ouse running behind the water meadows at Monk’s House.  There are several rivers bearing that name in Britain, including one in Yorkshire and one which runs through Cambridgeshire and Norfolk and was the most likely location for Cowper’s flower-retriever.


[8] See “Victoria amazonica – inspiring a nation” (November 14, 2014) https://www.kew.org/read-and-watch/victoria-amazonica-inspiring-a-nation

Accessed November 24, 2022.


[11] William Shullenberger’s informative essay “Girl, Interrupted: Spenserian Bondage and Release in Milton’s Ludlow Mask.” Milton Quarterly 37.4 (September 2003) analyses the poem as an interrupted initiation story in terms that are quite helpful to an analysis of The Voyage Out.


[12] For more on Grandville, see: https://library.missouri.edu/specialcollections/exhibits/show/kindred/flora  Accessed November 24, 2022.


[13] Full text available at https://www.gutenberg.org/files/2496/2496-h/2496-h.htm#link2H_4_0011  Accessed November 24, 2022.


[14] See the Tate Museum’s description of the painting at: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/waterhouse-the-lady-of-shalott-n01543

Accessed November 17, 2022.


[15] Gloria Groom has written a very helpful article on “The Real Water Lilies of Giverny” for the Art Institute of Chicago. See https://www.artic.edu/articles/886/the-real-water-lilies-of-giverny  Accessed November 29, 2022.


[16] There is a Wikipedia site on Monet’s water-lilies which has an extensive, illustrated, chronological list of most of the 250 water-lily paintings Monet produced between 1897 and 1926. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_Lilies_(Monet_series) Accessed Decemeber 21, 2022.


[17] That the young Eleanor is painting the water lilies on the pond could be a reference to Monet. In the account of Roger Fry’s development as a painter attached to Woolf ‘s 1940 biography, Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant assert that Fry saw Monet as the epitome of Impressionism which he judged had “led to a cul-de-sac, causing him to largely ignore the work of Renoir, Cezanne and Monet when he first visited Paris in 1892” (Roger Fry, Shakespeare’s Head, ed. Diane Gillespie, 246).


[18] See my article on the history of the garden at Monk’s House in the Virginia Woolf Bulletin  (January 2003).  Details on garden expenses for 1929 are in Leonard’s Garden Account Book at the University of Sussex.


[19] The purchase is recorded in Leonard’s Account Book; two copies of books by Amos Perry are in the Woolf’s library at WSU (King and Miletic-Vejzovic 175).


[20] See my discussion of red and white roses in Between the Acts near the end of my entry on Woolf’s roses in the Herbarium: https://woolfherbarium.blogspot.com/p/78b-woolfs-roses.html. Accessed December 17, 2022.  Woolf’s assertion that the lilies in the pond had been “self-sown from wind-dropped seed” throughout the ages (30), is a typical error, as red lilies are not native to Britain and had been developed only a few decades before.


[21] In Mrs. Dalloway, Peter imagines that the self fish-like inhabits deep seas and plies among obscurities threading her way between the boles of giant weeds, over sun-flickered spaces and on and on into gloom, cold, deep, inscrutable” (157).  Woolf’s most famous use of the fishing metaphor is probably at the beginning of A Room of One’s Own, where she elaborates the description of her meditative process:  “Thought. . . had let its line down into the stream. It swayed, minute after minute, hither and thither among the reflections and the weeds, letting the water lift it and sink it until—you know the little tug—the sudden conglomeration of an idea at the end of one’s line: and then the cautious hauling of it in, and the careful laying of it out? (ROO 5). However, her “little fish” is soon sent into hiding by the arrival of a territorial Beadle (6). A similar description of thought, also being blocked by male authority, shows up two years later in her closely aligned essay “Professions for Women” where Woolf recounts the experience of a young woman writer whose imagination sweeps  “unchecked round every rock and cranny of the world that lies submerged in the depths of our unconscious being,” seeking “the pools, the depths, the dark places where the largest fish slumber” until “there was a smash” as her thoughts run aground: “To speak without figure she had thought of something, something about the body, about the passions which it was unfitting for her as a woman to say. Men, her reason told her, would be shocked” (E6 482).


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