“ I would venture to guess that Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them was often a woman” - Virginia Woolf
So recently, I discovered the write Virginia Woolf through the wonders of my English Literature course. I thought I would share with you readers some of the information that I found out while I was doing some background research for my class.
Died ~ 28th March 1941
Spouse ~ Leonard Woolf (m. 1912 - 1941)
Siblings ~ Vanessa Bell, Gerald Duckworth,
Thoby Stephen, Adrian Stephen, Stella Duckworth, Laura Stephen
Parents ~ Sir Leslie Stephen (Father)Julia Prinscep Stephen (Nee Jackson) (Mother)
Her father, Sir Leslie Stephen, was a historian and author, as well as one of the most prominent figures in the golden age of mountaineering. Woolf’s mother, Julia Prinsep Stephen (née Jackson), had been born in India and was also a nurse and wrote a book on the profession.
Woolf was taught at home and utilized the splendid confines of the family’s library. Moreover, Woolf’s parents were extremely well connected, both socially and artistically.
In 1895, at the age of thirteen, she also had to cope with the sudden death of her mother, from rheumatic fever, which led to her first mental breakdown and the loss of her sister Stella, who had become head of the household, two years later.
During this time, Woolf continued her studies at the Ladies Department of King’s College, London. Her studies introduced her to the feminist movement.
After her father’s death, Woolf met members of the Bloomsbury Group.
The Bloomsbury Group
An influential group of associated English writers, intellectuals, philosophers and artists which included Virginia Woolf herself. Their works and outlook deeply influenced literature, aesthetics, criticisms and economics as well as modern attitudes towards feminism, pacifism and sexuality. The group became famous in 1910 for the Dreadnought Hoax, a practical joke in which members of the group dressed up as a delegation of Ethiopian royals, including Virginia disguised as a bearded man, and successfully persuaded the English Royal Navy to show them their warship, the HMS Dreadnought. After the outrageous act, Leonard Woolf and Virginia became closer, and eventually they were married on August 10, 1912.
Throughout her career, Woolf spoke regularly at colleges and universities, penned dramatic letters, wrote moving essays and self published a long list of short stories. By her forties she had established herself as an intellectual, an innovative and influential writer and pioneering feminist. Despite her outward success, she continued to regularly suffer from debilitating bouts of depression and dramatic mood swings. Unable to cope with her despair, she committed suicide on March 28th 1941.
"I feel certain that I am going mad again. I feel we can't go through another of those terrible times. And I shan't recover this time. I begin to hear voices, and I can't concentrate. So I am doing what seems the best thing to do. You have given me the greatest possible happiness. You have been in every way all that anyone could be. I don't think two people could have been happier 'til this terrible disease came. I can't fight any longer." - Virginia Woolf's Suicide Note to Husband, Leonard Woolf (1941)
When I first read this extract from her suicide note, I got emotional. Writing something like this must have been terrible. I suppose I found this poignant due to knowing that soon after she weighed her coat down with rocks and walked into the River Ouse and drowned. Her eloquent style of writing can evidently be seen through this final piece that she ever wrote and I find that to be most powerful.
Mrs Dalloway (1925)
So in my English Literature class, we are going to be studying Mrs Dalloway, I'd heard of this book previously but never got round to actually reading it. So I suppose my English class is a way to kill that from my to-do list.
So the general summary of Mrs Dalloway is:
'Mrs. Dalloway covers one day from morning to night in one woman's life. Clarissa Dalloway, an upper-class housewife, walks through her London neighbourhood to prepare for the party she will host that evening. When she returns from flower shopping, an old suitor and friend, Peter Walsh, drops by her house unexpectedly.'
The reason why I've given you such a brief summary is because I don't want to give any spoilers away to myself or others who might want to give it a read! Once I've read it over the summer I will definitely give it a review slot on this blog. I've got a feeling that due to her explicit role in the forming of the Bloomsbury group that this novel will be able to tackle some very modern issues that are relevant in today's society.
Although her popularity decreased after World War II, Woolf’s work resonated again with a new generation of readers during the Feminist Movement of the 1970’s and remains one of the most influential authors of the 21st Century.
Virginia Woolf instantly drew my interest due to the fact that she's a feminist. I feel like her strong views that were developed upon during her time at Kings College and the vital role she played in The Bloomsbury group definitely showed her as a contender for the fight for equal rights.
Hope you enjoyed this post!