Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) - in full Adeline Virginia Woolf, original surname Stephen
Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) - in full Adeline Virginia Woolf, original surname Stephen
British author who made an original contribution to the form of the novel - also distinguished feminist essayist, critic in The Times Literary Supplement, and a central figure of Bloomsbury group. Woolf's books were published by Hogart Press, which she founded with her husband, the critic and writer Leonard Woolf. Originally their printing machine was small enough to fit on a kitchen table, but their publications later included T.S. Eliot's Waste Land (1922), fiction by Maksim Gorky, E.M. Forster, and Katherine Mansfield, and the complete twenty-four-volume translation of the works of Sigmund Freud.
"Have you any notion how many books are written about women in the course of one year? Have you any notion how many are written by men? Are you aware that you are, perhaps, the most discussed animal in the universe?"
Virginia Woolf was born in London, as the daughter of Julia Jackson Duckworth, a member of the Duckworth publishing family, and Leslie Stephen, a literary critic, a friend of Meredith, Henry James, Tennyson, Matthew Arnold, and George Eliot, and the founder of the Dictionary of National Biography. Leslie Stephen's first wife had been the daughter of the novelist William Makepeace Thackeray. His daughter Laura from the first marriage was institutionalized because of mental retardation. In a memoir dated 1907 she wrote of her parents, "Beautiful often, even to our eyes, were their gestures, their glances of pure and unutterable delight in each other."
Woolf was educated at home by her father, and grew up at the family home at Hyde Park Gate. In mddle age she described this period in a letter to Vita Sackville-West: "Think how I was brought up! No school; mooning about alone among my father's books; never any chance to pick up all that goes on in schools—throwing balls; ragging; slang; vulgarities; scenes; jealousies!" Woolf's youth was shadowed by series of emotional shocks - her half-brother Gerald Duckworth sexually abused her and her mother died when she was in her early teens. Stella Duckworth, her half sister, took her mother's place, but died a scant two years later. Leslie Stephen, her father, suffered a slow death from cancer. When her brother Toby died in 1906, she had a prolonged mental breakdown.
Following the death of her father in 1904, Woolf moved with her sister Vanessa and two brothers to the house in Bloomsbury, which would become central to activities of the Bloomsbury group. "And part of the charm of those Thursday evenings was that they were astonishingly abstract. It was not only that Moore's book [Principia Ethica, 1903] had set us all discussing philosophy, art, religion; it was that the atmosphere - if in spite of Hawtrey I may use that word - was abstract in the extreme. The young men I have named had no 'manners' in the Hyde Park Gate sense. They criticized our arguments as severely as their own. They never seemed to notice how we were dressed or if we were nice looking or not." (from Moments of Being, ed. by Jeanne Schulkind, 1976) Vanessa agreed to marry the critic of art and literature Clive Bell. Virginia's economic situation improved she she inherited £2,500 from an aunt.
From 1905 Woolf began to write for the Times Literary Supplement. In 1912 she married the political theorist Leonard Woolf, who had returned from serving as an administarator in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). Woolf published her first book, THE VOYAGE OUT, in 1915. In 1919 appeared NIGHT AND DAY, a realistic novel set in London, contrasting the lives of two friends, Katherine and Mary. JACOB'S ROOM (1922) was based upon the life and death of her brother Toby.
With TO THE LIGHTHOUSE (1927) and THE WAVES (1931)Woolf established herself as one of the leading writers of modernism. On the publication of To the Lighthouse, Lytton Strachey wrote: "It is really most unfortunate that she rules out copulation - not the ghost of it visible - so that her presentation of things becomes little more... than an arabesque - an exquisite arabesque, of course." The Waves is perhaps Woolf's most difficult novel. It follows in soliloquies the lives of six persons from childhood to old age. Louis Kronenberger noted in The New York Times that Woolf was not really corncerned with people, but "the poetic symbols, of life--the changing seasons, day and night, bread and wine, fire and cold, time and space, birth and death and change."
In these works Woolf developed innovative literary techniques in order to reveal women's experience and find an alternative to the male-dominated views of reality. In her essay 'Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown' Woolf argued that John Galsworthy, H.G. Wells and other realistic English novelist dealt in surfaces but to get underneath these surfaces one must use less restricted presentation of life, and such devices as stream of consciousness and interior monologue and abandon linear narrative.MRS DALLOWAY (1925) formed a giant web of thoughts of several groups of people during the course of a single day. There is little action, but much movement in time from present to past and back again through the characters memories. The central figure, Clarissa Dalloway, is a wealthy London hostess. She spends her day in London preparing for her evening party. She recalls her life before World War I, berofe her marriage to Richard Dalloway, and her friendship with the unconventional Sally Seton, and her relationship with Peter Walsh. At her party she never meets the shell-shocked veteran Septimus Smith, one of the first Englishmen to enlist in the war. Sally returns as Lady Rossetter, Peter Walsh is still enamored with Mrs. Dalloway, the prime minister arrives, and Smith commits suicide. To the Lighthouse had a tripartite structure: part 1 presented the Victorian family life, the second part covers a ten-year period, and the third part is a long account of a morning in which ghosts are laid to rest. The central figure in the novel, Mrs. Ramsay, was based on Woolf's mother. Also other characters in the book were drawn from Woolf's family memories.
"So that is marriage, Lily thought, a man and a woman looking at a girl throwing a ball." (from To the Lighthouse)
During the inter-war period Woolf was at the center of literary society both in London and at her home in Rodmell, near Lewes, Sussex. She lived in Richmond from 1915 to 1924, in Bloomsbury from 1924 to 1939, and maintained the house in Romdell from 1919-41. The Bloomsbury group was initially based at the Gordon Square residence of Virginia and her sister Vanessa (Bell). The consolidation of the group's beliefs in unifying aesthetic concerns occurred under the influence of the philosopher G.E. Moore (1873-1958). The group included among others E.M. Forster, Lytton Strachey, Clive Bell, Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant, and Leonard Woolf. By the early 1930s, the group ceased to exist in its original form.
In the event of a Nazi invastion, Woolf and Leonard had made provisions to kill themselves. After the final attack of mental illness Woolf loaded her pockets with stones and drowned herself in the River Ouse near her Sussex home on March 28, 1941. On her note to her husband she wrote: "I have a feeling I shall go mad. I cannot go on longer in these terrible times. I hear voices and cannot concentrate on my work. I have fought against it but cannot fight any longer. I owe all my happiness to you but cannot go on and spoil your life." Her suicide has colored interpretations of her works, which have been read perhaps too straightly as explorations of her own traumas.
Virginia Woolf's concern with feminist thematics are dominant in A ROOM OF ONE'S OWN (1929). In it she made her famous statement: "A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction." The book originated from two expanded and revised lectures the author presented at Cambridge University's Newnham and Girton Colleges in October 1928. It deals with the obstacles and prejudices that have hindered women writers, and analyzes the differences between women as objects of representation and women as authors of representation. Woolf argued that a change in the forms of literature was necessary because most literature had been "made by men out of their own needs for their own uses." In the last chapter it explores the possibility of an androgynous mind. Woolf refers to Coleridge who said that a great mind is androgynous and states that when this fusion takes place the mind is fully fertilized and uses all its faculties. "Perhaps a mind that is purely masculine cannot create, any more than a mind that is purely feminine..." THREE GUINEAS (1938) examined the necessity for women to make a claim for their own history and literature. ORLANDO (1928), a fantasy novel, traced the career of the androgynous protagonist from a masculine identity within the Elisabethan court to a feminine identity in 1928. The book was illustrated with pictures of Woolf's lover, Vita Sackville-West, dressed as Orlando. According to Nigel Nicolson, the initiative to start the affair came as much on Virginia's side as on the more experienced Vita's. Their relationship coincided with a period of great creative productivity in Woolf's career as a writer. In 1994 Eileen Atkins dramatized their letters in her play Vita and Virginia, starring Atkins and Vanessa Redgrave.
As an essayist Woolf was prolific, publishing some 500 essays in periodicals and collections, beginning 1905. Characteristic for Woolf's essays are dialogic nature of style and continual questioning of opinion - her reader is often directly addressed, in a conversational tone, and her rejection of an authoritative voice links her essays to the tradition of Montaigne.Leonard (Sidney) Woolf (1880-1969) - Born in London as the son of a barrister. Woolf studied at Cambridge and in 1904 he went into civil service to Ceylon. His first book, The Village in the Jungle, appeared in 1913. Woolf joined the Fabian Society and wrote for The New Statesman. From 1923 to 1930 he was a literary editor on the Nation. In 1917 he set up a small hand press at Hogart House, and worked as the director of the Hogarth Press until his death. Among Woolf's works are novels, non-fiction and his five volume memoirs Sowing (1960), Growing (1961), Beginning Again (1964), Downhill All the Way (1967) and The Journey Not the Arrival Matters (1969). - For further information: Leonard Woolf by S.S. Myerowitz (1982); A Marriage of True Minds by G. Spater and I.M. Parsons (1977) - For further reading: Virginia Woolf by Quentin Bell (1972, 2 vols.); Moments of Being, ed. by Jeanne Schulkind (1976); The Novels of Virginia Woolf from Beninning to End by M.A. Leaska (1977); Virginia Woolf: A Feminist Slant by by J. Marcus (1983); Woman of Letters by Rose Phyllis (1978); Virginia Woolf: a Winter's Life by Lyndall Gordon (1984); Virginia Woolf by Rachel Bowlby (1988); Virginia Woolf and the Fictions of Psychoanalysis by Elizabeth Abel (1989); Virginia Woolf: The Impact of Childhood Sexual Abuse on Her Life and Work by Louise DeSalvo (1989); Virginia Woolf: A Literary Life by John Mepham (1991); Virginia Woolf: A Collection of Critical Essays by M. Homans (1993); Vita and Virginia by Suzanne Raitt (1993); Virginia Woolf by Quentin Bell (1996); The Feminist Aesthetics of Virginia Woolf by Jane Goldman (1998); Virginia Woolf by Hermione Lee (1996); Virginia Woolf by Nigel Nicolson (2000) - Note: Toni Morrison, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993, wrote her thesis at Cornell University on Faulkner and Virginia Woolf. - See also: Katherine Mansfield, Marcel Proust
•THE VOYAGE OUT, 1915
•NIGHT AND DAY, 1919
•MONDAY OR TUESDAY, 1921
•JACOB'S ROOM, 1922
•MRS. DALLOWAY, 1925 - suom. - film 1998, dir. by Marleen Gorris, adapted by Eileen Atkins, starring Vanessa Redgrave, Michael Kitchen, Rupert Graves, John Standing, Lena Headley. - "What had seemed at first a frivolous exercise in social decorum has turned into a probing examination of the Big Question that haunts our lives. As Mrs. Dalloway leaves the party to stand outside the window at her balcony, looking down at the hard, upraised iron spikes of the fence below - the same kind of spikes that impaled the body of the wretched Septimus - she asks to herself, Is there a plan for our lives? Why do we live on in the face of pain and tragedy?" (from Novels into Film by John C. Tibbetts and James M. Welsh, 1997)
•THE COMMON READER, 1925
•TO THE LIGHTHOUSE, 1927 - Majakka - film 1983
•ORLANDO, 1928 - suom. (Chief model for the character of Orlando was writer Vita Sackville-West, with whom Woolf had a lesbian relationship) - film 1992, written and dir. by Sally Potter, starring Tilda Swinton, Billy Zane, Lothaire Bluteau, John Wood
•A ROOM OF ONE'S OWN, 1929 - Oma huone
•THE WAVES, 1931 - Aallot
•FLUSH, 1933 - Runoilijan koira
•THE YEARS, 1937
•THREE GUINEAS, 1938
•ROGER FRY: A BIOGRAPHY, 1940
•BETWEEN THE ACTS, 1941
•THE DEATH OF THE MOTH, 1942
•A HAUNTED HOUSE, 1943
•THE MOMENT AND OTHER ESSAYS, 1947
•THE CAPTAIN'S DEATH BED AND OTHER ESSAYS, 1950
•A WRITER'S DIARY, 1953(ed. by Leonard Woolf)
•VIRGINIA WOOLF AND LYTTON STRACHEY, 1956
•GRANITE AND RAINBOW, 1958
•THE LADY IN THE LOOKINGGLASS, 1960
•CONTEMPORARY WRITERS, 1960
•NURSE LUGTON'S GOLDEN THIMBLE, 1966
•COLLECTED ESSAYS, 1967 (4 vols., ed. by Leonard Woolf)
•MRS. DALLOWAY'S PARTY, 1973
•MOMENTS OF BEING, 1976 - Elettyjä hetkiä
•BOOKS AND PORTRAITS, 1977
•THE LETTERS OF VIRGINIA WOOLF, 1975-80 (5 vols., ed. by Nigel Nicolson and Joanne Trautmann)
•WOMEN AND FICTION, 1979 (ed. by Michèle Barrett)
•THE DIARY OF VIRGINIA WOOLF, 5 vol., 1977-84 (ed. by Anne Olivier Bell)
•THE LETTERS OF VIRGINIA WOOLF TO VITA SACKWILLE-WEST, 1984
•THE COMPLETE SHORTER FICTION OF VIRGINIA WOOLF - Nainen peilissä
•THE ESSAYS, 1986-94
•A PASSIONATE APPRENTICE: THE EARLY JOURNALS, 1897-1909, 1990 (ed. by Mitchell Leaska)
•A WOMAN'S ESSAYS, 1992
•THE CROWDED DANCE OF MODERN LIFE, 1993