Virginia Woolf

Virginia WoolfAdeline Virginia Woolf was an English writer, and one of the foremost modernists of thetwentieth century.

During the interwar period, Woolf was a significantfigure in London literary society and a central figure in the influential Bloomsbury Groupof intellectuals.

Her most famous works include the novels Mrs Dalloway (1925), To the Lighthouse(1927) and Orlando (1928), and the book-length essay A Room of One's Own (1929), with itsfamous dictum, "A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.

"Woolf suffered from severe bouts of mental illness throughout her life, thought to havebeen the result of what is now termed bipolar disorder, and committed suicide by drowningin 1941 at the age of 59.

Early lifeVirginia Woolf was born Adeline Virginia Stephen at 22 Hyde Park Gate in London.

Her parentswere Sir Leslie Stephen (1832–1904) and Julia Prinsep Duckworth Stephen (née Jackson)(1846–1895).

Leslie Stephen was a notable historian, author, critic and mountaineer.

He was a founding editor of the Dictionary of National Biography, a work which wouldinfluence Woolf's later experimental biographies.

Julia Stephen was a renowned beauty, bornin British India to Dr.

John and Maria Pattle Jackson.

She was also the niece of the photographerJulia Margaret Cameron and first cousin of the temperance leader Lady Henry Somerset.

Julia moved to England with her mother, where she served as a model for Pre-Raphaelite painterssuch as Edward Burne-Jones.

Woolf was educated by her parents in theirliterate and well-connected household at 22 Hyde Park Gate, Kensington.

Her parents hadeach been married previously and been widowed, and, consequently, the household containedthe children of three marriages.

Julia had three children by her first husband, HerbertDuckworth: George, Stella, and Gerald Duckworth.

Leslie first married Harriet Marian (Minny)Thackeray (1840–1875), the daughter of William Thackeray, and they had one daughter: LauraMakepeace Stephen, who was declared mentally disabled and lived with the family until shewas institutionalised in 1891.

Leslie and Julia had four children together: VanessaStephen (1879), Thoby Stephen (1880), Virginia (1882), and Adrian Stephen (1883).

Sir Leslie Stephen's eminence as an editor, critic, and biographer, and his connectionto William Thackeray, meant that his children were raised in an environment filled withthe influences of Victorian literary society.

Henry James, George Henry Lewes, and Virginia'shonorary godfather, James Russell Lowell, were among the visitors to the house.

JuliaStephen was equally well connected.

She came from a family of beauties who left their markon Victorian society as models for Pre-Raphaelite artists and early photographers, includingher aunt Julia Margaret Cameron who was also a visitor to the Stephen household.

Supplementingthese influences was the immense library at the Stephens' house, from which Virginia andVanessa were taught the classics and English literature.

Unlike the girls, their brothersAdrian and Julian (Thoby) were formally educated and sent to Cambridge, a difference that Virginiawould resent.

The sisters did, however, benefit indirectly from their brothers' Cambridgecontacts, as the boys brought their new intellectual friends home to the Stephens' drawing room.

According to Woolf's memoirs, her most vivid childhood memories were not of London butof St.

Ives in Cornwall, where the family spent every summer until 1895.

The Stephens'summer home, Talland House, looked out over Porthminster Bay, and is still standing today,though somewhat altered.

Memories of these family holidays and impressions of the landscape,especially the Godrevy Lighthouse, informed the fiction Woolf wrote in later years, mostnotably To the Lighthouse.

The sudden death of her mother in 1895, whenVirginia was 13, and that of her half-sister Stella two years later, led to the first ofVirginia's several nervous breakdowns.

She was, however, able to take courses of study(some at degree level) in Greek, Latin, German and history at the Ladies' Department of King'sCollege London between 1897 and 1901, and this brought her into contact with some ofthe early reformers of women's higher education such as Clara Pater, George Warr and LilianFaithfull (Principal of the King's Ladies' Department and noted as one of the Steamboatladies).

Her sister Vanessa also studied Latin, Italian, art and architecture at King's Ladies'Department.

On 2 May 2013, it was announced that Woolf was to be honoured by her almamater when, in Autumn 2013, the Virginia Woolf Building of King's College London would openon Kingsway, London.

The death of her father in 1904 provoked hermost alarming collapse and she was briefly institutionalised.

Modern scholars (includingher nephew and biographer, Quentin Bell) have suggested her breakdowns and subsequent recurringdepressive periods were also influenced by the sexual abuse to which she and her sisterVanessa were subjected by their half-brothers George and Gerald Duckworth (which Woolf recallsin her autobiographical essays A Sketch of the Past and 22 Hyde Park Gate).

Throughout her life, Woolf was plagued by periodic mood swings and associated illnesses.

She spent three short periods in 1910, 1912 and 1913 at Burley House, 15 Cambridge Park,Twickenham, described as "a private nursing home for women with nervous disorder".

Thoughthis instability often affected her social life, her literary productivity continuedwith few breaks throughout her life.

BloomsburyAfter the death of their father and Virginia's second nervous breakdown, Vanessa and Adriansold 22 Hyde Park Gate and bought a house at 46 Gordon Square in Bloomsbury.

Woolf came to know Lytton Strachey, Clive Bell, Rupert Brooke, Saxon Sydney-Turner,Duncan Grant, Leonard Woolf, John Maynard Keynes, David Garnett, and Roger Fry, whotogether formed the nucleus of the intellectual circle of writers and artists known as theBloomsbury Group.

Several members of the group attained notoriety in 1910 with the Dreadnoughthoax, which Virginia participated in disguised as a male Abyssinian royal.

Her complete 1940talk on the Hoax was discovered and is published in the memoirs collected in the expanded editionof The Platform of Time (2008).

In 1907 Vanessa married Clive Bell, and the couple's interestin avant garde art would have an important influence on Woolf's development as an author.

Virginia Stephen married writer Leonard Woolf on 10 August 1912.

Despite his low materialstatus (Woolf referring to Leonard during their engagement as a "penniless Jew") thecouple shared a close bond.

Indeed, in 1937, Woolf wrote in her diary: "Love-making—after25 years can't bear to be separate.

you see it is enormous pleasure being wanted:a wife.

And our marriage so complete.

" The two also collaborated professionally, in 1917founding the Hogarth Press, which subsequently published Virginia's novels along with worksby T.


Eliot, Laurens van der Post, and others.

The Press also commissioned works by contemporaryartists, including Dora Carrington and Vanessa Bell.

The ethos of the Bloomsbury group encouraged a liberal approach to sexuality, and in 1922she met the writer and gardener Vita Sackville-West, wife of Harold Nicolson.

After a tentativestart, they began a sexual relationship, which, according to Sackville-West, was only twiceconsummated.

In 1928, Woolf presented Sackville-West with Orlando, a fantastical biography in whichthe eponymous hero's life spans three centuries and both sexes.

Nigel Nicolson, Vita Sackville-West'sson, wrote "The effect of Vita on Virginia is all contained in Orlando, the longest andmost charming love letter in literature, in which she explores Vita, weaves her in andout of the centuries, tosses her from one sex to the other, plays with her, dressesher in furs, lace and emeralds, teases her, flirts with her, drops a veil of mist aroundher".

After their affair ended, the two women remained friends until Woolf's death in 1941.

Virginia Woolf also remained close to her surviving siblings, Adrian and Vanessa; Thobyhad died of typhoid fever at the age of 26.

WorkWoolf began writing professionally in 1900, initially for the Times Literary Supplementwith a journalistic piece about Haworth, home of the Brontë family.

Her first novel, TheVoyage Out, was published in 1915 by her half-brother's imprint, Gerald Duckworth and Company Ltd.

This novel was originally titled Melymbrosia, but Woolf repeatedly changed the draft.

Anearlier version of The Voyage Out has been reconstructed by Woolf scholar Louise DeSalvoand is now available to the public under the intended title.

DeSalvo argues that many ofthe changes Woolf made in the text were in response to changes in her own life.

Woolf went on to publish novels and essays as a public intellectual to both criticaland popular success.

Much of her work was self-published through the Hogarth Press.

She is seen as a major twentieth century novelist and one of the foremost modernists.

Woolf is considered a major innovator in the English language.

In her works she experimentedwith stream-of-consciousness and the underlying psychological as well as emotional motivesof characters.

Woolf's reputation declined sharply after World War II, but her importancewas re-established with the growth of feminist criticism in the 1970s.

Virginia Woolf's peculiarities as a fiction writer have tended to obscure her centralstrength: Woolf is arguably the major lyrical novelist in the English language.

Her novelsare highly experimental: a narrative, frequently uneventful and commonplace, is refracted—andsometimes almost dissolved—in the characters' receptive consciousness.

Intense lyricismand stylistic virtuosity fuse to create a world overabundant with auditory and visualimpressions.

Woolf has often been credited with stream of consciousness writing alongsideher modernist contemporaries like James Joyce and Joseph Conrad.

The intensity of Virginia Woolf's poetic vision elevates the ordinary, sometimes banal settings—oftenwartime environments—of most of her novels.

For example, Mrs Dalloway (1925) centres onthe efforts of Clarissa Dalloway, a middle-aged society woman, to organise a party, even asher life is paralleled with that of Septimus Warren Smith, a working-class veteran whohas returned from the First World War bearing deep psychological scars.

To the Lighthouse (1927) is set on two days ten years apart.

The plot centres on the Ramsayfamily's anticipation of and reflection upon a visit to a lighthouse and the connectedfamilial tensions.

One of the primary themes of the novel is the struggle in the creativeprocess that beset painter Lily Briscoe while she struggles to paint in the midst of thefamily drama.

The novel is also a meditation upon the lives of a nation's inhabitants inthe midst of war, and of the people left behind.

It also explores the passage of time, andhow women are forced by society to allow men to take emotional strength from them.

Orlando (1928) is one of Virginia Woolf's lightest novels.

A parodic biography of ayoung nobleman who lives for three centuries without ageing much past thirty (but who doesabruptly turn into a woman), the book is in part a portrait of Woolf's lover Vita Sackville-West.

It was meant to console Vita for the loss of her ancestral home, though it is also asatirical treatment of Vita and her work.

In Orlando, the techniques of historical biographersare being ridiculed; the character of a pompous biographer is being assumed in order for itto be mocked.

The Waves (1931) presents a group of six friendswhose reflections, which are closer to recitatives than to interior monologues proper, createa wave-like atmosphere that is more akin to a prose poem than to a plot-centred novel.

Flush: A Biography (1933) is a part-fiction, part-biography of the cocker spaniel ownedby Victorian poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

The book is written from the dog's point ofview.

Woolf was inspired to write this book from the success of the Rudolf Besier play,The Barretts of Wimpole Street.

In the play, Flush is on stage for much of the action.

The play was produced for the first time in 1932 by actress Katharine Cornell.

Her last work, Between the Acts (1941), sums up and magnifies Woolf's chief preoccupations:the transformation of life through art, sexual ambivalence, and meditation on the themesof flux of time and life, presented simultaneously as corrosion and rejuvenation—all set ina highly imaginative and symbolic narrative encompassing almost all of English history.

This book is the most lyrical of all her works, not only in feeling but in style, being chieflywritten in verse.

While Woolf's work can be understood as consistently in dialogue withBloomsbury, particularly its tendency (informed by G.


Moore, among others) towards doctrinairerationalism, it is not a simple recapitulation of the coterie's ideals.

Woolf's works have been translated into over 50 languages, by writers such as Jorge LuisBorges and Marguerite Yourcenar.

Attitudes toward Judaism, Christianity andfascism Woolf was criticised by some as an antisemite,despite her being happily married to a Jewish man.

This antisemitism is drawn from the factthat she often wrote of Jewish characters in stereotypical archetypes and generalisations,including describing some of her Jewish characters as physically repulsive and dirty.

The overwhelmingand rising 1920s and 1930s antisemitism possibly influenced Virginia Woolf.

She wrote in herdiary: "I do not like the Jewish voice; I do not like the Jewish laugh.

" However, ina 1930 letter to the composer Ethel Smyth, quoted in Nigel Nicolson's biography VirginiaWoolf, she recollects her boasts of Leonard's Jewishness confirming her snobbish tendencies,"How I hated marrying a Jew- What a snob I was, for they have immense vitality.

"In another letter to Smyth, Woolf gives a scathing denunciation of Christianity, seeingit as self-righteous "egotism" and stating "my Jew has more religion in one toe nail—morehuman love, in one hair.

" Woolf and her husband Leonard hated and feared1930s fascism with its antisemitism even before knowing they were on Hitler's blacklist.

Her1938 book Three Guineas was an indictment of fascism.

Death After completing the manuscript of her last(posthumously published) novel, Between the Acts, Woolf fell into a depression similarto that which she had earlier experienced.

The onset of World War II, the destructionof her London home during the Blitz, and the cool reception given to her biography of herlate friend Roger Fry all worsened her condition until she was unable to work.

On 28 March1941, Woolf put on her overcoat, filled its pockets with stones, walked into the RiverOuse near her home, and drowned herself.

Woolf's body was not found until 18 April 1941.

Herhusband buried her cremated remains under an elm in the garden of Monk's House, theirhome in Rodmell, Sussex.

In her last note to her husband she wrote:Modern scholarship and interpretations Though at least one biography of VirginiaWoolf appeared in her lifetime, the first authoritative study of her life was publishedin 1972 by her nephew Quentin Bell.

Hermione Lee's 1996 biography Virginia Woolfprovides a thorough and authoritative examination of Woolf's life and work.

In 2001 Louise DeSalvo and Mitchell A.

Leaska edited The Letters of Vita Sackville-Westand Virginia Woolf.

Julia Briggs's Virginia Woolf: An Inner Life, published in 2005, isthe most recent examination of Woolf's life.

It focuses on Woolf's writing, including hernovels and her commentary on the creative process, to illuminate her life.

Thomas Szasz'sbook My Madness Saved Me: The Madness and Marriage of Virginia Woolf (ISBN 0-7658-0321-6)was published in 2006.

FeminismRecently, studies of Virginia Woolf have focused on feminist and lesbian themes in her work,such as in the 1997 collection of critical essays, Virginia Woolf: Lesbian Readings,edited by Eileen Barrett and Patricia Cramer.

Woolf's best-known nonfiction works, A Roomof One's Own (1929) and Three Guineas (1938), examine the difficulties that female writersand intellectuals face because men hold disproportionate legal and economic power and the future ofwomen in education and society.

In The Second Sex (1949), Simone de Beauvoir counts, ofall women who ever lived, only three female writers—Emily Brontë, Woolf and "sometimes"Katherine Mansfield—who have explored "the given".

Mental illness Much scholarship has been made of Woolf'smental illness, described as a "manic-depressive illness" in Thomas Caramagno's 1992 book,The Flight of the Mind: Virginia Woolf's Art and Manic-Depressive Illness, in which healso warns against the "neurotic-genius" way of looking at mental illness, where peoplerationalise that creativity is somehow born of mental illness.

In two books by StephenTrombley, Woolf is described as having a confrontational relationship with her doctors, and possiblybeing a woman who is a "victim of male medicine", referring to the contemporary relative lackof understanding about mental illness.

Irene Coates's book Who's Afraid of LeonardWoolf: A Case for the Sanity of Virginia Woolf holds that Leonard Woolf's treatment of hiswife encouraged her ill health and ultimately was responsible for her death.

Though extensivelyresearched, this view is not accepted by Leonard's family.

Victoria Glendinning's book LeonardWoolf: A Biography argues that Leonard Woolf was not only supportive of his wife but enabledher to live as long as she did by providing her with the life and atmosphere she neededto live and write.

Virginia's own diaries support this view of the Woolfs' marriage.

Controversially, Louise A.

DeSalvo reads most of Woolf's life and career through the lensof the incestuous sexual abuse Woolf suffered as a young woman in her 1989 book VirginiaWoolf: The Impact of Childhood Sexual Abuse on her Life and Work.

Woolf's fiction is also studied for its insight into shell shock, war, class and modern Britishsociety.

DepictionsMichael Cunningham's 1998 Pulitzer Prize–winning novel The Hours focused on three generationsof women affected by Woolf's novel Mrs Dalloway.

In 2002, a film version of the novel was releasedstarring Nicole Kidman as Woolf, a role for which she won the 2002 Academy Award for BestActress.

The film also starred Julianne Moore and Meryl Streep and featured an award-winningscore by American composer Philip Glass.

Susan Sellers' novel Vanessa and Virginia (2008)explores the close sibling relationship between Woolf and her sister, Vanessa Bell.

It wasadapted for the stage by Elizabeth Wright in 2010 and first performed by Moving StoriesTheatre Company.

BibliographyNovels The Voyage Out (1915)OCLC 4802497Night and Day (1919) Jacob's Room (1922)Mrs Dalloway (1925) To the Lighthouse (1927)Orlando (1928) The Waves (1931)The Years (1937) Between the Acts (1941)Short story collections Kew Gardens (1919)Monday or Tuesday (1921) A Haunted House and Other Short Stories (1944)Mrs Dalloway's Party (1973) The Complete Shorter Fiction (1985)"Carlyle's House and Other Sketches" (2003) BiographiesVirginia Woolf published three books to which she gave the subtitle "A Biography":Orlando: A Biography (1928, usually characterised as a novel inspired by the life of Vita Sackville-West)Flush: A Biography (1933, more explicitly cross-genre: fiction as "stream of consciousness"tale by Flush, a dog; non-fiction in the sense of telling the story of the owner of the dog,Elizabeth Barrett Browning), reprinted in 2005 by Persephone BooksRoger Fry: A Biography (1940, usually characterised as non-fiction, however: " novelistic skillsworked against her talent as a biographer, for her impressionistic observations jostleduncomfortably with the simultaneous need to marshal a multitude of facts.

")Non-fiction books Modern Fiction (1919)The Common Reader (1925) A Room of One's Own (1929)On Being Ill (1930) The London Scene (1931)The Common Reader: Second Series (1932) Three Guineas (1938)The Death of the Moth and Other Essays (1942) The Moment and Other Essays (1947)The Captain's Death Bed And Other Essays (1950) Granite and Rainbow (1958)Books and Portraits (1978) Women And Writing (1979)Collected Essays (four volumes) DramaFreshwater: A Comedy (performed in 1923, revised in 1935, and published in 1976)Translations Stavrogin's Confession & the Plan of 'TheLife of a Great Sinner', from the notes of Fyodor Dostoevsky, translated in partnershipwith S.


Koteliansky (1922) Autobiographical writings and diariesA Writer's Diary (1953)—Extracts from the complete diaryMoments of Being (1976) A Moment's Liberty: the shorter diary (1990)The Diary of Virginia Woolf (five volumes)—Diary of Virginia Woolf from 1915 to 1941Passionate Apprentice: The Early Journals, 1897–1909 (1990)Travels With Virginia Woolf (1993)—Greek travel diary of Virginia Woolf, edited byJan Morris The Platform of Time: Memoirs of Family andFriends, Expanded Edition, edited by S.


Rosenbaum (London, Hesperus, 2008)Letters Congenial Spirits: The Selected Letters (1993)The Letters of Virginia Woolf 1888–1941 (six volumes, 1975–1980)Paper Darts: The Illustrated Letters of Virginia Woolf (1991)Prefaces, contributions Selections Autobiographical and Imaginativefrom the Works of George Gissing ed.

Alfred C.

Gissing, with an introduction by VirginiaWoolf (London & New York, 1929) Photograph albumsMonk's House photograph album 1, 1863–1938.

Digital Facsimile at Houghton Library, HarvardUniversity Monk's House photograph album 2, 1909–1922.

Digital Facsimile at Houghton Library, Harvard UniversityMonk's House photograph album 3, 1890–1933.

Digital Facsimile at Houghton Library, HarvardUniversity Monk's House photograph album 4, 1890–1947.

Digital Facsimile at Houghton Library, Harvard UniversityMonk's House photograph album 5, 1892–1938.

Digital Facsimile at Houghton Library, HarvardUniversity Monk's House photograph album 6, 1850–1900.

Digital Facsimile at Houghton Library, Harvard University.

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