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Virginia Woolf (1882-1941)

Biographical Information

Main Works

Featured Works: "An Unwritten Novel"


Selected Quotations


Biographical Information

  • British novelist, literary critic, short story writer, feminist, socialist, and pacifist; made major contributions to Modernist fiction through her innovative use of experimental techniques such as stream of consciousness, interior monologue, poetic impressionism, indirect narration, and multiple perspectives.

  • Born Adeline Virginia Stephen on 25 January 1882.

  • Her father, Leslie Stephen, was a man of letters, part of the English "intellectual aristocracy."

  • After the unexpected death of her mother in 1895, Virginia suffered her first mental breakdown.

  • She never had a formal education but had unlimited access to her father's very extensive library; her brothers were sent to preparatory and public schools and then to Cambridge.

  • She decided at an early age that she would be a writer, while her sister Vanessa decided to devote herself to art.

  • Upon her father's death in 1904, Virginia suffered her second breakdown and tried to commit suicide.

  • At the end of 1904, she started writing reviews for a paper called The Guardian then moved on in 1905 to reviewing for The Times Literary Supplement and continued to write for this journal for several years.

  • Taught at an evening college for working men and women.

  • 1906, her brother Thoby began weekly gatherings of friends, "Thursday evenings" -- its participants would later make up much of the "Bloomsbury Group."

  • Married Leonard Woolf on 10 August 1912; they decided to make a living through writing and journalism.

  • 1917, purchased a small printing press as hobby and therapy; the Hogarth Press became a business by 1922 and Virginia published nearly all of her work with the press since 1921.

  • Though she continued writing and publishing through the 1930's, the deaths of many friends and the prospect of war weighed heavily on her.

  • After finishing the drafts for Between the Acts, she committed suicide by drowning on 28 March 1941.

Main Works

A Voyage Out (1915), her first novel, was published by her half-brother Gerald Duckworth; although she had been working on it since 1908 and finished it in 1913, a mental breakdown after her marriage delayed the book's publication.

Monday or Tuesday (1921), Woolf's first collection of short fiction, including the short story "An Unwritten Novel."

Jacob's Room (1922), Woolf's first experimental novel.

Mrs. Dalloway (1925), To the Lighthouse (1927), The Waves (1931); the three novels that are generally considered her greatest claim to fame as a leading modernist writer.

Orlando (1928), novel inspired by her involvement with the aristocratic novelist/poet, Vita Sackville-West.

A Room of One's Own (1929), book-length feminist essay based on lecture, "Women and Fiction," delivered by Woolf at Newnham and Girton women's colleges in Cambridge; discusses women's writing and the social, economic, and historical concerns of women.

The Years (1937), novel.

Three Guineas (1938), pacifist feminist essay, sequel to A Room of One's Own.

A Haunted House (1943), collection of short stories published posthumously.


  • Leslie Stephen (1832- 1904), Virginia Woolf's father; man of letters, leader in the agnostic school of philosophy and challenger of popular religion which he charged with being unable to satisfy genuine spiritual needs; published in the fields of philosophy, politics, literary and social criticism; published the first Dictionary of National Biography; very influential in Virginia's education and her general belief system.

  • Vanessa Bell (1876-1961), Virginia Woolf's sister; Vanessa was a painter who married Clive Bell, a literary critic; Virginia was very close to her sister and spent a lot of time with the Bells who were also part of the Bloomsbury Group.

  • Thoby Stephen (1880-1906), Virginia Woolf's brother; gathered many of those who would make up the nucleus of the Bloomsbury Group at Cambridge.

  • Leonard Woolf, Virginia's husband; British man of letters, publisher, political worker, journalist, and internationalist who influenced literary and political life through his own work as well as through the Bloomsbury Group.

  • Hogarth Press, Begun in 1917; named after the Woolf's home in Richmond; first printing done with a small hand press then with a mechanical press; published work by writers such as T. S. Eliot and Katherine Mansfield.

  • World War I (1914-1919), large-scale conflict of industrial capitalist nations; new weapons such as machine guns, tanks, aircraft, submarines and poison gas were used for the first time resulting in huge human losses on both sides; the war concerned Woolf significantly as she watched friends go off to and die in it.

  • Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), Conflict between fascist conservatives and the democratic government of Spain. Italy and Germany regarded Spain as a good testing ground for weapons and tactics and allied themselves with the Spanish conservatives; the League of Nations unsuccessfully tried to enforce neutrality, setting up border patrol in an effort to keep outside supplies from reaching either side; eventually the conservatives overthrew the legitimate government and imposed a fascist dictatorship on Spain; Virginia's nephew Julian Bell was killed while participating in the border patrol.

  • World War II (1939-1945), After World War I people believed there would never be such a large scale war again; so, when World War II broke out, many were shocked; Woolf was again very disturbed over the deaths of friends fighting in the war; she also feared the takeover of England by the Nazis and prepared to commit suicide with her husband if England was invaded; in 1940 the Woolfs home was destroyed by a bomb.

Selected Quotations

  • to come



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