It’s no great shock that Leonard Woolf was recorded on film, not when you think about it—after all, the writer, publisher, and widower of Virginia lived into 1969.
And yet! And yet! It seems somehow magical that here he should be, modern and in color, talking about Maynard Keynes for all the world as if he is not a living bridge to a storied past, most of which went as unfilmed—as though Bloomsbury had not belonged to modernity at all, let alone invented it.
There’s less than a minute of footage of Leonard in the video above, and he’s not saying anything particularly revolutionary; just praising his friend Keynes’s famously lively mind. Perhaps because Virginia Woolf was never filmed, Leonard’s sheer normalcy lands with a lot of force. (I say “Leonard” and “Virginia” as if I know them, as if they are public property.) It’s hard not to think of his own words: “Whenever one really knows the facts, one finds that what is accepted by contemporaries or posterity as the truth about them is so distorted or out of focus that it is not worth worrying about.”
Sadie Stein is contributing editor of The Paris Review, and the Daily’s correspondent.