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Virginia Woolf's Teeth

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In a lovely Hogarth Press edition of Virginia Woolf's diaries I read this, tonight, from an entry dated when she was 41: "A door opened. I heard voices. At this hour, I thought innocently, no one can be up without cause - illness or accident. So I jumped up, thrust in my upper teeth, & opened the door..."

She thrust in her upper teeth... and here I have been, in my periodic hair-raising visits to the dentist, so convinced that if I do not do what I am told in the horrible chair, I will become toothless, whereupon my life will end... yet here is the lovely, elegant Virginia, toothless 18 years before she drowns herself in the river.

Am also reading about her love for Katherine Mansfield, a love based partly on envy and competition, yet she becomes depressed when Katherine dies. 

When I moved to Montreal I got rid of thousands of books, including VW's diaries. Here I am tonight, lounging in my comfy negligee on a pile of cushions with an English teacup full of red-hot tea, reclaiming the joy of reading them.

I notice, on an image search of VW's face, she never opened her mouth for portraits, even long before she reached the age of 41. Keeping those upper teeth well out of sight. In another diary entry around that time she mentions her doctor treating a lingering cold and flu with an injection of 50 million pneumonia germs. If the state of denture-making paralleled that of medicine in her day, maybe it's no wonder she gave this faint smile for her portraits.


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On November 6th, 2012 05:23 am (UTC), blondiblathers commented:
VW's Diaries
I'm halfway through the last of VW's diaries -- having read them from Vol One on, since this spring -- and somehow I've missed the fact that she had false teeth, although I did catch that she visited the dentist numerous times. My copies weren't published by Hogarth Press; could it be that their versions differed from the paperbacks I have? Anyhoo, thanks for the headsup and the photo ... one that I hadn't seen.
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On November 6th, 2012 12:41 pm (UTC), kathleenwinter replied:
Re: VW's Diaries
Yes, I too had read other editions and somehow did not catch that she had dentures. My brother tells me that part of the reason for her having them may have been extractions due to a prevailing notion that tooth infections were causing her mental illness. Later, apparently, some onlookers believed that she suffered so much because of these extractions and other medical nonsense that she refused her doctor's prescription for the mental state that finally drove her to fill her pockets with stone and drown herself in the Ouse River.
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On November 6th, 2012 04:31 pm (UTC), marilee pittman commented:
Kathleen, I love this piece. I too fear becoming a toothless old woman.
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On November 6th, 2012 04:41 pm (UTC), kathleenwinter replied:
Re: Dentures
Well.Marilee, should that time ever come for us both, maybe we can start the Glam Lit Gum Club, making VW our honorary mascot. xo
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