William Bankes: echoes of Egypt in Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse.
One of the delightful experiences of reading Virginia Woolf's work is to enjoy her playful descriptions of real people from history. These can range in scope from the Queen, perhaps, driving past the people of London in her motorcar in Mrs. Dalloway, to the figure of Shakespeare sitting solidly in his armchair in front of the fire in "The Mark on the Wall," to the whimsical caricature of Vita Sackville-West in Orlando. Such characterizations subtly frame her writing in a social or political context. Recognizing the echoes of real people in her imaginary figures might therefore illuminate aspects of her creative process. As an example of this, I want to suggest how understanding the historical referents of a minor character such as William Bankes in To the Lighthouse deepens our understanding of the novel.
Woolf begins her review of Julia Roundell's 1909 biography of Lady Hester Stanhope with the wry observation: "The writers in the Dictionary of National Biography have a pleasant habit of summing up a life, before they write it, in one word, thus--'Stanhope, Lady Hester Lucy (1770-1839), eccentric'. The reason why her life is written at all is that she differed from other people, but never converted them to her own way of thinking" (E1 325). In fact, Lady Hester's experiences overlap with a circle of unconventional personalities whose lives make up a kind of pageant of early nineteenth-century exploration. These include an explorer who shares the same name as the botanist in To the Lighthouse: William Bankes. (1) The real William Bankes of Kingston Hall (now Kingston Lacey) and Corfe Castle--who was the MP for Cambridge University, a lifelong friend of Lord Byron, and was known for his interest in painting and the Old Masters, his skills as a draughtsman, and his appropriation of Egyptian and Nubian antiquities--figures vividly in at least three sources Woolf refers to in her writing: Dr. Charles Meryon's Memoirs of the Lady Hester Stanhope, as related by herself in conversations with her physician (3 vols., Henry Colburn, 1845) and Travels of Lady Hester Stanhope; forming the completion of her memoirs. Narrated by her physician (3 vols., Henry Colburn, 1846), Roundell's biography, and Byron's letters. (2) Considering the patriarchal theme running through To the Lighthouse--exemplified by Mr. Ramsay's authority and tyranny, Mrs. Ramsay's endorsement of conventional gender roles, and the book's overt alignment of the male mind with academia and scientific fact--I want to suggest that the choice of name for William Bankes in To the Lighthouse does two things. It playfully alludes to one of the most legendary tyrants in history, the ancient Egyptian pharaoh Ramses II, and it recalls the age of exploration, discovery, and imperialism that established England's patriarchal authority in the East.
The lives of both Lord Byron and William John Bankes are reviewed in the Dictionary of National Biography. Leslie Stephen wrote about Byron in 1886 and George Benson about Bankes in 1885. Both writers mention the strong friendship between the poet and Bankes (as the DNB describes), the "Traveller in the East." The writers of the dictionary deemed Lady Hester a professional eccentric in part because she was a woman; by contrast, men travelers, if they were of the correct social standing, might be celebrated as members of the Society of Dilettanti, a group of English noblemen dedicated to the study of classical art. These men traveled to the Mediterranean lands on a Grand Tour, studying antiquities and collecting examples of classical art from dealers in Italy. By the eighteenth century, the Grand Tour had become an essential part of a nobleman's education. On returning from their travels, the gentlemen displayed their antiquarian treasures in cabinets of curiosities in their stately houses and recited verses about their travels to the Pyramids and Greek and Roman ruins. At the time of his travels, William Bankes had one of the largest collections of Egyptian antiquities in England at Kingston Hall.
Lady Hester was unusual among this group in that she was not interested in antiquities--and habitually destroyed them to make this point. Instead, it seems she sought to become in the Orient what she could not be in contemporary English society: manly, independent, imperious, and powerful. At home she could not leave the house without a chaperone; as a self-styled Queen of the Desert, she felt herself to be on equal footing with Arab tribal leaders. It is easy to see that the picture Meryon paints of Lady Hester would provide amusing material for Woolf to draw on. (3) One obvious point of delight would be Lady Hester's adoption of a masculine lifestyle, right down to her determination to throw off her European dresses for a Turkish man's garb. (4) I emphasize Lady Hester's story because I believe both the romance of her travels at that point in history as well as her powerful role in a world dominated by men captured Woolf's imagination. Associations might be made with Virginia Stephen's disguise as an Ethiopian prince in the Dreadnought Hoax (which took place the month after the TLS review appeared), with the complex figure of Orlando based on Vita Sackville-West's life, and even with Gertrude Bell, Lady Hester's twentieth-century counterpart mentioned in A Room of One's Own and Three Guineas.
An amusing incident, described in Volume II of Meryon's Travels of Lady Hester Stanhope, shows Bankes at her mercy. Particularly concerned by the fate of some tomb paintings discovered at Abu Ghyas, Meryon writes:
The plague ceased in the month of July. I then bethought myself again of the sepulchre, and revisited it. Much injury had been done to the paintings. The only chance which remained of rescuing them from oblivion was the arrival of some traveller in these parts who could draw. This hope was not realized until the year 1816, when, in the month of March, Mr. William Bankes, the late Member of Parliament for Cambridge University, came to Mar Elias; and, having convinced me, by several drawings which he showed me, that he was an excellent draftsman, I conducted him to the sepulchre. This gentleman compared the paintings in it to those at Herculaneum. During the lapse of a few months, considerable damage had been caused by the alluvion of mould driven in by the rains. The figures nearest the entrance were covered by it up to the shoulders, and the floor was sodden with wet. Mr. Bankes, nevertheless, executed in two days a perspective view of the interior, in colours. But he carried his projects yet farther: for he formed the design of removing some of these fresco-paintings from their places, and, accordingly, employed a mason to cut them out from the piers of the walls; which was effected in two instances. (341-342)
Bankes stayed with Lady Hester for some days while completing his drawings; however, their garrulous and strong personalities clashed. As Roundell describes, Bankes was determined to visit some ruined temples at Palmyra, and Lady Hester offered him one of her Arab servants as an escort (Roundell 136-140). She had devised a system with the Emir ruling over that part of the desert whereby her letter of introduction would ensure safe passage for the traveler. Two seals on her letter indicated the bearer should be treated with great respect; one seal meant he was ordinary and in need of little ceremony. Bankes opened the letter and discovered only one seal. Furious, he threw the letter aside and accordingly only succeeded in getting past the Emir with great difficulty and expense. The incident was somewhat famous among travelers; Meryon records it at length as do other writers such as Charles Irby and James Mangles who chronicle their own adventures in the East.
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Aside from contemporary reports of his travels, it seems that writers almost always note Bankes's close friendship with Byron (which Bankes reflects on in later life with the same kind of nostalgia as William Bankes feels when thinking about his friendship with Mr. Ramsay in To the Lighthouse). They were friends from Trinity College, Cambridge, and Byron's letters to Bankes date from this time through the rest of his life. Topics include descriptions of their mutual courtship of Annabella Milbanke, their travels in the East, acquisitions of antiquities, and references to Bankes's growing collection of European paintings (which includes a sketch of Velasquez's Las Meninas, as well as paintings by Titian, Tintoretto, Giorgione and Rubens). (5) Byron refers to Bankes as his "Nubian traveler," and in a letter to John Murray he gives an account of his "one time collegiate pastor, and master, and patron," who has done "miracles of research and enterprise." He writes, "Bankes is a wonderful fellow. There is hardly one of my school or college contemporaries that has not turned out more or less celebrated" (qtd. in Bankes 155). Bankes was also a friend of Byron's lover, Lady Caroline Lamb, and is believed to have written some pages of her novel, Ada Reis (ibid. 158). The reason Bankes's life was never recorded in full was that transgressions in his personal life eclipsed both recognition and publication of his achievements. (6) In 1841 Bankes was caught in a homosexual "incident" with a Guardsman in Green Park, which occasioned a trial publicized in The Times, and resulted in self-exile to Italy. The vast collection of drawings, paintings, and translations compiled on his travels to Egypt and Nubia were consigned, until recently, to Kingston Hall. (7)
This scandal may or may not have been notorious in certain circles and familiar to people interested in nineteenth-century exploration. In their book, Irby and Mangles describe Bankes as the "celebrated and indefatigable traveler" (232); however, more relevant to his figuring in Woolf's fiction are accomplishments that would have been documented by the 1920s. Bankes's contributions to Egyptology are equal to if not more significant than those of more recognizable figures: British Consul General Henry Salt for instance, Henry William Beechey, and the famous circus strongman Giovanni Belzoni, who was known up through the early twentieth-century as one of the great explorers of Egypt. (8) Belzoni excavated in the Valley of the Kings, and under the direction of Bankes brought the head of Memnon (actually Ramses II, the "shattered visage" of Shelley's "Ozymandias") from Thebes to the British Museum. In a 1966 review of William MacQuitty's book Abu Simbel, L. P. Kirwan suggests that the allusion to "a traveller from an antique land" in "Ozymandias" actually refers to Bankes himself. (9) Because I will suggest the poem has significance in the context of Egyptian imagery in To the Lighthouse, I quote it here in full:
I met a traveller from an antique land Who said: 'Two vast and trunkless legs of stone Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand, Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown, And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command, Tell that its sculptor well those passions read Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things, The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed. And on the pedestal these words appear-- "My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!" Nothing beside remains. Round the decay Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare The lone and level sands stretch far away.
Bankes was one of the first Europeans to record the temple of Ramses II at Abu Simbel, which was opened by Belzoni and John Lewis Burckhardt in 1817. Belzoni also helped Bankes remove an obelisk from Philae to Kingston Hall in England. The obelisk, inscribed with hieroglyphs from the Ptolemaic Period, represents what was probably Bankes's most significant discovery: his phonetic understanding of "Cleopatra" was a first step toward Jean Champollion's later decipherment of the Rosetta Stone. The obelisk created a sensation, notably catching the interest of King George IV and the Duke of Wellington, who laid the foundation stone for it at Kingston Hall in 1827 (Bankes 169).
But what part might William Bankes and the exploration of Egypt play in To the Lighthouse?
A few critics have recognized references to ancient Egypt in Woolf's fiction--for example, Evelyn Haller writes about Egyptian imagery in Between the Acts, and Lorelei Ormrod discusses Egyptian creation myths in The Waves. But there is much more to look for, especially in the work of a writer who frequently alludes to cultural artifacts in the British Museum or writes of the classical world. Take, for example, this early reference to sculpture and antiquities in Night and Day:
[Mary] repressed her impulse to speak aloud, and rose and wandered about rather aimlessly among the statues until she found herself in another gallery devoted to engraved obelisks and winged Assyrian bulls, and her emotion took another turn. She began to picture herself traveling with Ralph in a land where these monsters were couchant in the sand. "For," she thought to herself, as she gazed fixedly at some information printed behind a piece of glass, "the wonderful thing about you is that you're ready for anything; you're not in the least conventional, like most clever men." And she conjured up a scene of herself on a camel's back, in the desert, while Ralph commanded a whole tribe of natives. (83)
In 1926, while Woolf was writing To the Lighthouse, Vita Sackville-West had arrived in Egypt to begin her own journey through the Levant. After Egypt, Vita would travel to Baghdad to see Gertrude Bell, who was a political advisor to King Faisal, and a twentieth-century Lady Hester Stanhope in her own right. On 26 January, Woolf writes to Vita: "Somehow, as you get further away, I become less able to visualize you; and think of you with backgrounds of camels and pyramids which make me a little shy. Then you will be on board ship: Captains and gold lace: portholes, planks--Then Bombay where I must have had many cousins and uncles. Then Gertrude Bell--Baghdad" (L3 231). Vita responded from Luxor in January in an "alphabet letter," placing camels and pyramids in the foreground:
The only way I can make sense of Egypt is as Molly MacCarthy did with Christmas: alphabetically. Amon, Americans, alabaster, Arabs; bromides, buffaloes, beggars, Bronx; camels, crocodiles, colossi, Cook's; donkeys, dust, dahabeeahs, dragomen, dervishes, desert; Egyptians, Evian; fezzes, fellaheen, feluccas, flies, fleas; Germans, goats, granite; hotels, hieroglyphics, hoopoes, Horus, hawks; Isis, imshi, irrigation, ignorance; jibbahs; kites, Kinemas, Kodaks; lavatories, lotus, Levantines; mummies, mud, millionaires; Nubia, Nile; ophthalmia, Osiris, obsidian, obelisks; palms, pyramids, parakeets; quarries; Ramses, ruins; sunsets, sarcophagi, steamers, soux, sand, shadoofs, stinks, Sphinx; temples, tourists, trams, Tut-ankh-amen; Uganda; vultures, Virginia; water-bullocks, warts; Xerxes, Xenophon; yaout; zest, (my own.) (Sackville-West 93)
When I wrote to Nigel Nicolson in 2000 to ask about Woolf's correspondence with Vita during these travels, he replied that Virginia Woolf was a xenophobe. She had no foreign friends, despised Americans, and when she travelled, was only attracted by the landscape and (at a distance) the peasants. She had no interest in Egyptology or Oriental mysticism. This highlights a common early (mis)perception of Woolf as an exclusively inward-looking writer, but it is a tone perhaps taken from Vita herself, who in her letters urges Virginia to travel, contrasting her own intoxication with "natural objects" with Virginia's interest in "what goes on inside." She writes,
Do thin silk clothes and sunburn make you envious? No, you wretch, you prefer your old misty Gloomsbury and your London squares. The wish to steal Virginia overcomes me,--steal her, take her away, and put her in the sun among the objects mentioned alphabetically above. You know you liked Greece. You know you liked Spain. Well, then? If I can get myself to Africa and Asia, why can't you? (94)
Vita's letters from Egypt reveal both her sense that Woolf might make much of Egypt in her work--"I miss you horribly, and apart from that am permanently infuriated by the thought of what you could do with this country if only you could be got here" (ibid. 93)--and also that her writing incorporated the constant and varied stream of life around her:
You see it is so easy for you sitting in Tavistock Square to look inward; but I find it very difficult to look inward when I am also looking at the coast of Sinai; and very difficult to look at the coast of Sinai when I am also looking inward and finding the image of Virginia everywhere. So this combination makes my letter more dumb than usual. You manage things better. You have a more tidily sorted mind. You have a little compartment for the Press, and another little compartment for Mary Hutchinson, and another for Vita, and another for Dog Grizzle, and another for the Downs, and another for London fogs, and another for the Prince of Wales, and another for the lighthouse,--no, I'm wrong, the lighthouse is allowed to play its beam over the whole lot,--and their only Common Denominator is your own excitability over whichever compartment you choose to look into at the moment. (95-96)
Is it such a stretch to imagine the scope of the lighthouse reaching into Vita's "compartment" in Egypt? Vita's description of the Nile as "a fine contrast in barrenness and fertility" (94) resonates with Mr. Ramsay's intrusion on Mrs. Ramsay: "into this delicious fecundity, this fountain and spray of life, the fatal sterility of the male plunged itself, like a beak of brass, barren and bare" (TTL 37).
In fact, the novel plays with Egyptian imagery, including that of the tombs of kings. I quote more of Vita's letter below, and will expand on this further:
I sent you a picture postcard today, just as an insult. I went down into the bowels of the earth and looked at Tut-ankh-amen. At his sarcophagus and outer mummy-case, I mean. This is merely of gilded wood. The inner one is at Cairo, (I saw it,) and is of solid gold. You know, the Valley of the Kings is really the most astonishing place. Tawny, austere hills with a track cut between them; no life at all, not a bird, not a lizard, only a scavenger Kite hanging miles high; and undiscovered Kings lying lapped in gold. And English spinsters in sun-helmets and black glasses. (94)
Tutankhamen's tomb had been discovered four years before Vita's trip to the Middle East, and Egypt was in the news. The Times detailed archaeological excavations of the ancient world, and chronicled the ongoing political climate regarding the English presence in Egypt. Surely Woolf, an avid reader of her world, married to a writer and politician who had been stationed in Ceylon, had at least a cursory, if not a more comprehensive interest in the East, and conceivably a particular interest in Egypt. Vita was not the only one of her friends to travel there.
In 1923, the Woolfs published E.M. Forster's Pharos and Pharillon, lighthearted and fanciful sketches of Alexandria inspired by his time in Egypt during the First World War. The book comprises a poetic study of the city's history, beginning in around 279 BC from the vantage point of its famous lighthouse, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Forster traces the thread of progress through the Ptolemies and Cleopatra, then through Roman, Arab, and Turkish occupations, and finally to the age of European exploration in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Forster's style in this book is playful (he gives us Mrs. Fay, another determined cross-dressing lady-traveler), (10) but he is also strongly critical of English imperialism. Pharos, built of marble, over five hundred feet high, and pierced with many windows, was an architectural beacon of ancient civilization. Now, he writes, besides "a mosque, exactly occupying the site of the lighthouse ... the dominant memory in the chaos is ... British, for here are some large holes, made by Admiral Seymour when he bombarded the Fort in 1882 and laid the basis of our intercourse with modern Egypt" (Forster 201). Forster portrays Pharos as a dichotomous image: it is a harmonious national symbol of the aesthetic as well as scientific potential of Egypt and of the ancient world; however, the ruined site is also representative of thousands of years of destruction and a masculine urge for conquest. It is both things at once. We think of Woolf's description in To the Lighthouse: it is "a silvery, misty-looking tower with a yellow eye, that opened suddenly, and softly in the evening" as well as a "tower, stark and straight ... barred with black and white [with] windows in it" (186).
It is illuminating to look at Egypt from two perspectives: not only as the backdrop for theatres of discovery and expansion (or trespass and imperialism), but also--as Haller does--as one of the ancient Eastern cultures described in The Golden Bough: a culture rich in mythology, art, and architecture, that captured the imagination of writers and poets. We know Woolf began writing To the Lighthouse just as Vita began her journey. To what extent might an interest in Egypt or Egyptology have informed Woolf's writing in general, and this novel in particular?
In both the manuscript and the novel, there are word choices and images suggestive of Egyptian themes. There is, for example, a suggestion of the Egyptian method of mummifying or preserving the dead when William Bankes refers to his relation to Mr. Ramsay as being "like the body of a young man laid up in peat for a century, with the red fresh on his lips" (21). In another example, in the manuscript version of the text, instead of endowing a cut out refrigerator with heavenly bliss, James, who "had already his private code, his secret language," embalms the refrigerator (Holograph 4). Use of this word, among others, is a subtle reflection of the culture of the early twentieth century, attuned to the heritage of countries where there were colonial outposts abroad.
Woolf's use of the word "hieroglyphs" in a 1904 letter to Emma Vaughan is a more obvious example. She writes, "The other day I turned out the accumulations of my writing case, and a sallow, Egyptian looking parchment caught my eye, covered with hieroglyphs. It was the MS of the famous account of our never to be forgotten (as your Germans would say) punt disaster, which had stuck to me, humbly and dumbly, through all these years of neglect" (L1 150). Similarly, she writes to Violet Dickinson in 1906, "My Violet, /When you write you only use a few oaths, and misaddress your letter, and make hieroglyphics--so what is the use of pretending that we can correspond?" (L1 221). In The Waves, Jinny, making up stories in a room full of people, says, "Thus, in a few seconds, deftly, adroitly, we decipher the hieroglyphs written on other people's faces" (TW 175).
Certain images in To the Lighthouse also suggest ancient Egyptian culture. Mr. Ramsay reminds his children that: "life is difficult; facts uncompromising; and the passage to that fabled land where our brightest hopes are extinguished, our frail barks founder in darkness, [is] one that needs, above all, courage, truth, and the power to endure" (4). Intimation of a journey to the underworld, within the context of a book reminiscent of the impact of Julia Stephen's death, might be followed by an allusion to the Valley of the Kings: "[Lily] imagined how in the chambers of the mind and heart of the woman who was, physically, touching her, were stood, like the treasures in the tombs of kings, tablets bearing sacred inscriptions, which if one could spell them out, would teach one everything, but they would never be offered openly, never made public" (51).
Finally, if we accept that there is meaning behind Woolf's choice of names for some characters, the Ramsay name might also serve as an echo of pharaonic Egypt. Writers have often alluded to the command of Exodus's Ramses II as a metaphor for totalizing power structures. It was Ramses II, famous for building colossal temples, sculptures, and monuments, who enslaved the Israelites, breaking their spirits by making "their lives bitter with hard bondage, in mortar, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field" (Exodus 1:14), killing their first-born sons, and finally driving them from Egypt. Is it semantics when Mr. Ramsay asks: "Does the progress of civilisation depend upon great men? Is the lot of the average human being better now than in the time of the Pharaohs? Is [this] the criterion by which we judge the measure of civilisation? Possibly not. Possibly the greatest good requires the existence of a slave class" (43)?
Although by "slave class" Mr. Ramsay means the liftman in the Tube, of course in this book it holds the double entendre of "women." Woolf writes frequently about how the English government throughout the greater part of its history has treated women like slaves. In Three Guineas, Woolf says that this implicit policy has a domestic genesis: behind women "lies the patriarchal system; the private house, with its nullity, its immorality, its hypocrisy, its servility, ... shuts us up like slaves in a harem" (113). In "Reminiscences," she writes that her father, conscious of failure as a philosopher, "needed always some woman to act before; to sympathise with him, to console him." He had no shame in his histrionic displays in front of women, partly "because woman was then (though gilt with an angelic surface) the slave" (MB 145). We see Leslie Stephen, caricatured in Mr. Ramsay, descending upon Lily, exerting
upon her solitary figure the immense pressure of his concentrated woe; his age; his frailty; his desolation; when suddenly, tossing his head impatiently, in his annoyance--for after all, what woman could resist him?--he noticed that his boot-laces were untied. Remarkable boots they were too, Lily thought, looking down at them: sculptured; colossal; like everything that Mr. Ramsay wore, from his frayed tie to his half-buttoned waistcoat, his own indisputably. She could see them walking to his room of their own accord, expressive in his absence of pathos, surliness, ill-temper, charm. "What beautiful boots!" she exclaimed. She was ashamed of herself. To praise his boots when he asked her to solace his soul; when he had shown her his bleeding hands, his lacerated heart, and asked her to pity them, then to say, cheerfully, "Ah, but what beautiful boots you wear!" deserved, she knew, and she looked up expecting to get it, in one of his sudden roars of ill-temper, complete annihilation. (153)
They are remarkable boots, and they are sculptured; colossal; capable of walking of their own accord; imagined by Lily as representative of Ramsay's overbearing pathos, surliness, and ill-temper. Surely this description of sculptured boots is intentional; they recall the image of the ruined statue of Ramses II in Shelley's "Ozymandias":
Two vast and trunkless legs of stone Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand, Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown, And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command--
Later, in the boat to the lighthouse, James carries on this image of his father:
He sat there bareheaded with the wind blowing his hair about, extraordinarily exposed to everything. He looked very old. He looked, James thought, getting his head now against the Lighthouse, now against the waste of waters running away into the open, like some old stone lying on the sand; he looked as if he had become physically what was always at the back of both of their minds--that loneliness which was for both of them the truth about things. (202)
If such references to the material culture of ancient Egypt are convincing, this suggests something about Woolf's creative process and her incorporation of history, legend, and real people into her fiction. Using names like William Bankes, or Ramsay/Ramses in an autobiographical text critiquing the patriarchal structure of a society that was played out in Woolf's childhood--the same social structure that made Lady Hester Stanhope leave England rather than sit demurely in her drawing-room--makes sense. Such references only add greater depth to an already complex text. They also give her readers much more to be alert for--as she says, when "the name of Cowper or Byron or whoever it might be ... start[s] up in the most unlikely pages."
Bankes, Viola. A Dorset Heritage. The Story of Kingston Lacy. London: Richards Press, 1953.
Darbishire, Helen. "Keats and Egypt." Review of English Studies: A Quarterly Journal of English Literature and the English Language 3.9 (1927): 1-11.
Forster, E. M. Alexandria: A History and a Guide; and, Pharos and Pharillon. London: Andre Deutsch, 2004.
Haller, Evelyn. "Isis Unveiled: Virginia Woolf's Use of Egyptian Myth." In Virginia Woolf: A Feminist Slant. Ed. Jane Marcus. Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 1983. 109-31.
Irby, Charles and Mangles, James. Travels in Egypt and Nubia, Syria, and Asia Minor, During the Years 1817 & 1818 by the Hon. C. L. Irby and J. Mangles. Murray/S Colon. And Home Libr. London, 1844.
Meryon, Charles Lewis. Travels of Lady Hester Stanhope. Salzburg Studies in English Literature. Romantic Reassessment. 3 vols. Salzburg: Institut fur Anglistik und Amerikanistik, Universitat Salzburg, 1983.
Ormrod, Lorelei. "From a Different Angle: History, Historiography, and Virginia
Woolf." Thesis (M.Phil.) University of Oxford, 1998.
Roundell, Julia Anne E. Lady Hester Stanhope. London, 1908.
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Louise DeSalvo and Mitchell A. Leaska. New York: Morrow, 1985.
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--. Moments of Being. San Diego: Harvest/Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1985.
--. Night and Day. New York: Harvest/Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1973.
--. The Letters of Virginia Woolf. Ed. Nigel Nicolson and Joanne Trautmann. Vol. 1 (1888-1912). 5 vols. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1975.
--. The Waves. New York: Harvest/Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1959.
--. Three Guineas. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1938.
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(1) It is possible that this character might be a composite of William John Bankes and another explorer who lived around the same time. Sir Joseph Banks (1743-1820), president of the Royal Society and member of the Society of Dilletanti, was the only son of William Banks of Revesby Abbey in Lincolnshire. He was both a landscape artist and a botanist, and a member of Captain Cook's first expedition to the Pacific aboard the Endeavour, 1768-71. There are thirty-two portraits of Sir Joseph Banks in the National Portrait Gallery, some by Sir Joshua Reynolds. As is noted in the Dictionary of National Biography, he was involved in directing collectors abroad for "the enrichment of the gardens at Kew." His manuscripts were kept in the botanical department of the British Museum in Cromwell Road, and his library was kept by itself in a room at the British Museum. In To the Lighthouse, William Bankes is also a botanist and tells Lily he has conventional taste in paintings.
(2) There are also references to William Bankes in the following texts that she may have had access to: the Dictionary of National Biography; The Gentleman's Magazine (August 1855); Burke's History of the Landed Gentry; Travels in Egypt and Nubia, Syria and Asia Minor by Charles Irby and James Mangles; The Journal of Mrs. Arbuthnot, 1820-1832 edited by Francis Bamford and the Duke of Wellington; and in Bankes's own translation of Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Giovanni Finati.
(3) Woolf read through Meryon's books for her TLS review of Roundell's book in 1910, then probably in 1915 when she was considering writing a book of "Eccentrics," and perhaps again when she criticized Lytton Strachey's paper on Lady Hester's life in 1919 (D1 264). She also refers to Lady Hester in two essays: "Four Figures" (CR2) and "How It Strikes a Contemporary" (CR1).
(4) Meryon writes, "she was generally mistaken for some young bey with his mustachios not yet grown; and this assumption of the male dress was a subject of severe criticism among the English who came to the Levant. Strangers, however, would frequently pass her without any notice at all; a strong proof that she felt no awkwardness in wearing a dress which would otherwise have attracted general attention" (Travels I 193).
(5) See, Viola Bankes, A Dorset Heritage. The Story of Kingston Lacy. (London: Richards Press, 1953). 140, 152, 154, 169.
(6) The first comprehensive account of his life, Adventures in Nubia: The Travels of William John Bankes (1786-1855), by Patricia Usick, was published in 2002.
(7) Currently the collection is divided between Kingston Lacey (now a National Trust property in Wimborne Minster, Dorset) and the British Museum.
(8) In a January 1927 article about Keats and Egypt in The Review of English Studies, Helen Darbishire refers to Belzoni as the "ingenious Italian who found, transported, and shipped the famous head of Memnon" to the British Museum. (Helen Darbishire, "Keats and Egypt." Review of English Studies: A Quarterly Journal of English Literature and the English Language 3.9 (1927). (10).
(9) Bankes's achievements were in the public consciousness enough so that Kirwan, in his review of MacQuitty's Abu Simbel wrote: "The discovery of the Great Temple, built by Ramesses II in c. 1290 B.C., was made by John Lewis Burckhardt on behalf of the African Association which in 1831 merged with the Society. Belzoni's expedition of 1817 ... the first to enter the temple in modern times, included among its varied membership a naval captain James Mangles, who also became a Fellow of the Society. This expedition resulted largely from the reports brought back about the temple in 1813 by William Bankes to Henry Salt, British Consul in Cairo. Both were members of the African Association. Bankes, Byron's fashionable and extravagant 'Nubian explorer', is not mentioned in Mr. MacQuitty's text but he deserves to be and not only for his expedition. It was he who brought back the bilingually inscribed granite obelisk from Philae, down the Nile, over the seas and then through muddy lanes, dragged by teams of horses, to his delightful house at Kingston Lacy in Dorset. Thereby he contributed substantially to the decipherment of hieroglyphs. He was also a friend of the Shelleys and thus could easily have provided the theme for 'Ozymandias' which, as Mr. MacQuitty says, could have been inspired by the fallen head from the second colossus at Abu Simbel."
(10) In Pharos and Pharillon, Forster writes: "Restrictions against Christians being even severer [in Cairo] than at Alexandria, Mrs. Fay had to dress as a native before she might enter the city. 'I had in the first place a pair of trousers with yellow leather half-boots and slippers over them'; then a long satin gown, another gown with short sleeves, a robe of silk like a surplice, muslin from her forehead to her feet, and over everything a piece of black silk. 'Thus equipped, stumbling at every step, I sallied forth, and with great difficulty got across my noble beast; but as the veil prevented me breathing freely I must have died by the way'" (227-228).
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|Publication:||Woolf Studies Annual|
|Article Type:||Critical essay|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2008|
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