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Virginia Moore

Virginia Moore

Name:  Virginia Moore

Date:  ca. 1969

Image Number:  JM01cdJM01

Comments:  Virginia Moore was born in Omaha, Nebraska, July 11, 1903, of Virginia parents and was raised as a Virginian.  Her mother was Ethel Daniel, daughter of a Charlottesville physician; her father, John Allen Moore, was a graduate of the University of Virginia Law School.  Virginia attended the Grenau School for Girls in Gainesville, Georgia.  In 1923, she took a B.A. from Hollins College, and later an M.A. and Ph.D. from Columbia.  Virginia held the Hollins Medal and was a member of Phi Beta Kappa

Early in her career, Virginia was a free-lance writer in New York City, writing poetry, critical reviews, and articles.  She also lectured on literature from coast to coast.  She traveled widely on five continents, going around the world twice.  Virginia once interviewed the noted Swiss psychologist Jung in Zurich at his invitation because they both shared an interest in the poet W. B. Yeats.  She had a lasting impression of Jung, her first sight of him after she had arrived early at his home.  "I saw him approaching through flowering cherry trees in a big black hat.  I was expecting a visit of a half hour or so, but he saw me for three hours.  Although his books sound clinical, Jung was a very easy man to talk to." Virginia often spent winters at a second residence in Alexandria, Virginia, but 'Cliffside' in Scottsville -- an old Federal-style house on the Virginia and National Registers of Historic Landmarks -- was always home.

Virginia's publications include: three early books of poetry, Not Poppy, Sweet Water and Bitter, and Homer's Golden Chain; a number of short stories; The Life and Eager Death of Emily Brontė, a documented critical biography; Distinguished Women Writers, a book of short biographies; Virginia is a State of Mind, the "biography of a state;" Ho for Heaven about changing attitudes toward death through the ages; Scottsville on the James, a history written for the 225th anniversary of the founding of the old Albemarle river town; The Unicorn: William Butler Yeats' Search for Reality, a documented critical biography; The Madisons, a documented dual biography of James and Dolley Madison; and The Liberty Bell Papers, which grew out of talks with several Albemarle residents.  She left a new cycle of poems, autobiographical notes, and a manuscript biography of Thomas Chatterton, with the wish that they might see publication.  Her Civil War novel, Rising Wind, was republished in 2014.

Virginia was a past President of the Board of the Scottsville Museum Foundation, served on the Albemarle County Library Board, and was past President of the Board of the Charlottesville's Jefferson-Madison Regional Library (whose name she selected to commemorate the 50-year friendship and collaboration between the two statesmen). She was a member of the Virginia Writer's Club, Virginia Poetry Society, Anthroposophical Society, Albemarle Historical Society, and St. Anne's Episcopal Parish.  Virginia attended Christ Church in Glendower.  Her work was known nationally, and her death was noted in the New York Times, Washington Post, and several Chicago-area and Virginia papers.

Her first marriage was to author and anthologist, Louis Untermeyer, of New York and Connecticut.  Since her father had no male heir, she legally changed her son's name to John Fitzallen Moore II after a divorce in 1929.  Virginia later married John Jefferson Hudgins, who had been a submariner during WWII.  He retired as a Navy captain and was a Washington attorney, long head of the Ocean Shipping Division of the Department of Agriculture; he died in 1992.  Dr. Moore always used her maiden name in correspondence and as her pen name; she was known widely as "Miss Virginia."

Virginia Moore is survived by her son, John Fitzallen Moore, of Libertyville, IL; six grandchildren, Robin Brooks Moore of San Jose, CA, Sheila Moore Price of Santa Fe, NM, Marjorie Moore Fish, of Cataumet, MA, Laurel Moore White of Madison, VA, Jonathan Michael Moore of Springfield, VA (in 2015, Jonathan is serving as OSCE Ambassador to Bosnia-Herzegovina), and Cristopher David Moore of Santa Fe, NM; twelve great grandchildren; and six children of the next generation.

To read "Striving for Ultimates," a feature article about Virginia Moore by Erin Parkhurst and courtesy of Virginia Living, visit Virginia Moore.

For additional information about Virginia and her many accomplishments, visit Virginia Moore (1903-1993) on Encyclopedia Virginia.

We knew Virginia Moore was much beloved in Scottsville and Virginia as well as in the hearts of her many literary fans throughout the United States.  But what a delight it was to discover in early 2006 that Dr. Moore continues to touch the hearts and minds of new readers around the world!  In January 2006, Amlan Majumder of Dinhata College, West Bengal, India, contacted Scottsville Museum via e-mail for information about Virginia's visIt to India in 1956.  Majumder is an internationally reknown economics lecturer, who was completing a personal study of a Hindu yogi named Sri Sri Swami Swarupananda Paramhansadeva.  Majumder had just discovered a 1995 news article that described briefly the yogi's meeting with Dr. Virginia Moore of America.  After pursuing this lead, Majumder soon connected Virginia Moore with Scottsville and found our website's coverage of her accomplishments.  His question to Scottsville Museum was to tell him more about Dr. Moore's meeting with this Hindu yogi, including when and where it occurred.

Majumder's discovery about Dr. Moore's India trip and meeting with a Hindu religious figure was news to this writer.  Dr. Moore earned her PhD in philosophy and religion at Columbia University in 1952, and acquaintances recalled her keen interest in world religions.  So we researched Miss Virginia's world travels and found a copy of her book, The Whole World, Stranger (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1957) in our Barclay House library.  Dr. Moore wrote this book about her 1955-1956 world tour with her sister, Nancy.  Their trip was an effort that the two sisters hoped would, in some measure, round out their western, partial experience in the world and teach them much which they did not know about Asia.  The trip included stops in Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Bali, South Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Burma, India, Ceylon, Pakistan, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, and Greece.  Dr. Moore, who held a PhD from Columbia University in philosophy and religion, was committed to studying the art, philosophy, religion, and meaningful human relationships in each of those countries.

Cleansing along the Ganges at Varanansi, India In earlier years, Moore spent considerable time with Carl Jung and his wife in Switzerland, and Jung's interest in Indian religion was of great interest to her.  Her copy of his Pschology and Religion, which is based on a lecture series Jung presented at Yale University in 1937, is full of notes written by Moore about Eastern versus Western religion.  It is not surprising then that Moore and her entourage found India intriguing.  They spent every waking hour of their India visit out among the people, learning as much as they could about Indian philosophy and religion.  During a boat trip from Calcutta to the holy city of Banaras (now called Varanasi), Moore found the thousands of people swarming in and along the Ganges River fascinating.  As she knew from her studies, Hindus believed that the Ganges was both clean and cleansing.  Dr. Moore remarked to Chakravorty, her Brahmin guide, that as a protestant, she felt very at home in India.  She rued that she might never have an opportunity to talk to any living holy men.  The attentive Chakravorty paused momentarily before responding, "I shall take you to talk to one."   Thanks to her guide, Dr. Moore soon enjoyed an amazing opportunity to talk with Swami Swarupanda Paramhansadeva in Banaras.  The 72-year old yogi welcomed the Moore sisters graciously and engaged them in an enlightened philosophical discussion for over 90 minutes.

In her book, The Whole World, Stranger(pp 166-170), Dr. Moore provides the following account of Chakravorty taking her to meet Sri Sri Swami Sarupananda Paramhamsadevji Maharaj in Banaras, where he was spending the week.  Note: the account is written in first person from Dr. Moore's perspective:

"He is my guru."

"He lives in Ben ---Banaras?"

"No, Madam. But he is in Banaras this week. He has just broken a two-year silence."

I thought of Lives of a Bengal Lancer in which an Englishman searches for years before he finds a holy man. But of course, in the case of Chakravorty's teacher, the title might be used only in a loose sense, by indulgence.

I thanked Chakravorty. "What is his name?"

"Swami Swarupananda Paramhamsadevji Maharaj."

I tried to translate. Swami, master or pundit; Swarup, the Self; Ananda, bliss; Paramhamsa -- as in Ramakrishna's title -- the high-flying bird; Maharaja, great prince.

Varanasi shoreline as seen from the Ganges River

"How old is he?"

"Seventy-six."

"He has followers?"

"Many thousands."

(They took a boat trip on the Ganges to reach Banaras....)

At last the summons came. Chakravorty said that the Swami would receive me on Thursday at 10 A.M., and I could, if I wished, bring my sister and Mrs. Kincaden.

After some hesitation, Nancy and I put on lipstick.

"I'm just what I am, " said Irma. "The Swami can take me or leave me."

The rendezvous to which Chakravorty led us was in a middling-to-poor part of the city: a modest cement house hiding a small patio: home of one of the Swami's disciples.

On the threshold, "If the Swami offers you fruit," said Chakravorty earnestly, "please eat it all." From which we gathered that the practice was ceremonial.

The upstairs room to which we were taken contained a shrine dedicated to the "three-in-one god." This could mean Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, I reflected. Or Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

"Only the undeveloped worship the lesser gods," said Chakrovorty.

Touching his bowed head with clasped hands, the beautiful gesture seen all over Asia, he made obeisance. We did the same. It was not hard to do, and seemed somehow -- here -- not only natural but inevitable.

Then we sat in three chairs on the porch by the patio, while someone went to fetch the Swami.

I do not know what I expected.

Swami Swarupananda entered with a luminous smile, parent of Chakravorty's. Though he had long white locks and beard, he did not look seventy-six; nearer fifty-six. He was dressed loosely in spanking clean white linen robes, and sandals. Rising, we performed the Hindustani salutation of respect.

Chakravorty went further, kneeling and bowing himself to the floor. His homage had no reservations.

When we were presented the Swami said in a rich voice (a person lives in his voice), "You are welcome."

I cannot record all the conversation of the next hour and a half. Chakravorty had melted into the background, and Nancy and Irma sat largely silent.

"Philosophy," said the Swami, "began when a Master's disciples blundered in trying to express in worlds what he had experienced not discursively, but immediately."

It was so.

When at one point I remarked that, for many Westerners, God stayed off in the distance, he answered, "God is in every atom."

But what Swami Swarupananda said was less important that how he said it, backing up, underwriting, each statement with what he was. And always he smiled. There was no doubt about it; this bachelor was transparently, overflowing, invincibly happy; his out-giving tremendous.

"Praising God is a joy."

I thought of John's words, "Let that joy be in you which was also in Christ Jesus."

Once he touched lightly on his life. As a little boy he had asked his mother what the train said. "Find out yourself," she had replied. So he had listened and listened. "Jaka-jaka, jaka-jaka--the more you give, the more you have."

It was clear that, in spite of an education so thorough it included all the physical sciences as well as all types of yoga, the man had kept an innocent heart.

Once he stopped as if in surprise, saying, "I see my mother in you."

Then he spoke of meditation as a practical need of mankind.

"It develops other forces than those of the brain: higher faculties. One should meditate without asking for results; let all one's energy flow into it."

Then, suddenly, as if the two were related, "For a nation the most important fact is character-building." The great thing was to grow in unselfishness and live communally. How else live our love? "Love is the paramount power -- we must embrace the whole world."

Was that the key to Chakravorty's pleasure in the kirtan?

I tried, then, falteringly, to tell the Swami how, little by little, step by step, here a thought and there an insight, like most people, I had grown in my understanding of the meaning of love, but knew I had touched only the fringe--the hem--

"Love," he said in a low voice, "the cause and the result."

A disciple brought in dishes of fruit, one each for Nancy, Irma, and myself, on which lay pieces of peeled plum, orange, guava, and banana arranged precisely, with sweetmeats. The eating was a formality.

Afterwards I said, "Being full of joy, you communicate it."

He sat silent for awhile. Then, "If I may speak my heart, I am full of joy because I have found my true self. In vain do people search for happiness in the external world. Even so, the fact that they search at all shows what we human beings are inalienably." He searched with his eyes. "Are you your body?"

"No."

"Are you your mind?"

"No."

"What are you?"

"I am -- I."

"What is 'I'?

"It goes deep."

"Exactly: a transcendental thing."

When Nancy, Irma, and I started to put our hands together in a salutation of farewell, he would not have it so. If West could go East, East could go West. We shook hands.

Said the Swami earnestly, "We shall meet again."

During the next few days, his remembered wisdom was like piano chords underneath a running melody.

The top photo of Virginia Moore is a copy of a family-owned oil painting that was acquired through the efforts of Raymon Thacker and in consultation with Virginia's son, John Moore. 

Copyright © 2001 by Scottsville Museum

Image Located On:  Capturing Our Heritage, CDJM01
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© 2001 by Scottsville Museum