Nurse Lugton’s Golden Thimble, Nurse Lugton’s Curtain, 
Le Dé en or: (Re) Imaging the Imaginary of Virginia Woolf’s Children’s Story

Auteur / Author: 
Caroline MARIE (Université de Paris 8, France)
Vendredi 26 Août 2011 - 10:45


The Mrs Dalloway Manuscript contains a brief story that was probably written by Virginia Woolf for her niece in 1924. Nurse Lugton’s Golden Thimble was first published in the TLS in 1965, and the following year by The Hogarth Press with black and white drawings by Duncan Grant. This version was translated into French as Le Dé en or and published by Nathan in 1983 with vividly colourful illustrations by Napo. Another version of the story was subsequently found in another manuscript; it was illustrated by Julie Vivas with pastel pencil drawings and published by Gulliver Books in 1991 as Nurse Lugton’s Golden Curtain. Nurse Lugton’s curtain becomes animated as she dozes off and the human and animal figures she is embroidering on it become endowed with a life of their own, so that the story may be read as a musing on the vividness of the visual imaginary. As it was illustrated by three different artists of various nationalities (Grant was British, Vivas is Australian and Napo is an Argentine-born French illustrator and cartoonist) with highly contrasted styles, this story invites us to interrogate the relationship between word and image or, more precisely, the process of imaging a verbal imaginary. My comparative approach will allow me to discuss the imaging of the word as threshold between the novelist’s imaginary and her illustrators’, which will imply rethinking the notions of “imaginary”, questioning its essential individuality, “source”, questioning the nature of the “text” that is illustrated, and even that of “threshold”, usually defined as a point of beginning but that might fruitfully be considered a dividing yet porous line, or a point that must be exceeded to produce an effect. This will show that it is impossible to reduce the illustration process to a word into image translation and suggest much more complex and multidirectional exchanges which I will try to define.