Saturday, January 14, 2012


My Good Woman!

Virginia Woolf, "Miss Janet Case: Classical Scholar and Teacher," The Times (July 22, 1937), rpt. in The Essays of Virginia Woolf, Vol. VI, ed. Stuart N. Clarke (London: The Hogarth Press, 2011), pp. 111-112 (footnotes omitted):
When she left Cambridge she settled in London and for many years earned her living by teaching, in schools and private houses, a great variety of pupils, some seriously to pass examinations, others less seriously to read Greek for their own amusement.

Undoubtedly if the pupil were in earnest Janet Case was a highly competent tutor. She was no dilettante; she could edit a Greek play and win praise from the great Verrall himself. But if the pupil were destined to remain an amateur, Janet Case accepted the fact without concealing the drawbacks and made the best of it. The grammar was shut and the play opened. Somehow the masterpieces of Greek drama were stormed, without grammar, without accents, but somehow, under her compulsion, so sane and yet so stimulating, out they shone, if inaccessible still supremely desirable.


In a pencilled note written a few days before her death she recalled how Lady D. 'used to come to her lesson like a nymph scarcely dry from her bath in a gauze wrap...and used to say "My good woman" in an expostulatory tone when I objected to an adjective not agreeing with its noun or some such trifle.'
The editor (p. 113, n. 6) identifies Lady D. as Lady Diana Cooper (1892-1986).

See Henry M. Alley, "A Rediscovered Eulogy: Virginia Woolf's 'Miss Janet Case: Classical Scholar and Teacher'," Twentieth Century Literature 28.3 (Autumn 1982) 290-301, and Kate Perry, "Case, Janet Elizabeth (1863–1937)," in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

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