Virginia Woolf List Of Essays


Chronological List of Works By Virginia Woolf


Updated December 04, 2002
Created July 7, 1997

All but The Voyage Out and Night and Day are from the Hogarth Press in England. After Night and Day, Woolf's U.S. publisher is Harcourt Brace.  This list includes primarily works published during Woolf's lifetime.  See also the list of biographies and published letters and diaries.

The Voyage Out (26 March 1915, Duckworth; U.S. pub. by Doran, May 1920)

    Woolf's first novel, begun in 1908 and heavily revised after about 1912.  Manuscript editions of the earlier version (1909-12) have been compiled and published by Louise DeSalvo as Melymbrosia (1982), Woolf's working title for the book.

Two Stories (1917)

     "The Mark on the Wall" by VW and "a story" by Leonard Woolf. The book was published  by subscription only, mainly to friends and acquaintances, and was the Hogarth Press’s first publication.

Kew Gardens (12 May 1919)

     Ten pages of text by VW, with illustrations by her sister, Vanessa Bell.

Night and Day (20 Oct 1919, Duckworth; U.S. pub. Doran, 1920)

     VW considered this her "traditional" novel, in the manner of the nineteenth-century novelists she admired.

Monday or Tuesday (7 April 1921; U.S. pub. Harcourt Brace, Nov. 1921) - stories

     Includes "Kew Gardens," "The Mark on the Wall," "An Unwritten Novel" and five previously  unpublished sketches.

Jacob’s Room (27 Oct 1922; U.S. pub. Harcourt Brace, 1922)

     Her first truly experimental novel and the Hogarth Press’s first large-scale work, Jacob's Room begins Woolf's reputation as "difficult" or "highbrow."  Critics compare her to James Joyce and Dorothy Richardson.  Jacob is based on Woolf's older brother Thoby Stephen, who died of a fever in 1906, when he was in his mid-twenties.

Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown (1923)

     A response to Arnold Bennett’s criticism that she "can’t create or didn’t in Jacob’s Room, characters that survive" (Woolf paraphrasing Bennett, Writer’s Diary). First version was published  in the U.S. and then in England. A later, better-known, version was written as a lecture to the Cambridge Heretics on 18 May 1924, then published in the Criterion under the title   "Character in Fiction," and then published by Hogarth Press as Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown.   Critically, "the essay became a key document, not only in the assessment of Virginia Woolf’s work, but  in relation to twentieth-century fiction generally" (Critical Heritage 17).

The Common Reader (First Series, 23 Apr 1925)

    The Common Reader was Woolf's title for two series of critical essays she published (the second series was published in 1932), mostly focused on her responses to reading and literature.  It includes biographical sketches of many writers and such now-famous essays as "On Not Knowing Greek" and "How it Strikes a Contemporary."

Mrs. Dalloway (14 May 1925; simultaneously in England  and U.S.; first time for simultaneous publication in U.S. and England)

     A novel that takes place entirely in the space of one day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway, with a parallel plot about a shell-shocked World War I veteran, Septimus Smith.  The setting is London.

To the Lighthouse (5 May 1927)

     Woolf's most famous and most autobiographical novel.   The novel takes place chiefly at a family summer house based on Woolf's own family's house in Cornwall (though the novel is set in the Hebrides), during two visits, seven years apart, with events in between described abstractly in a middle section called "Time Passes."  The "Time Passes" section had been published in French in Dec. 1926.

     See also the original holograph draft / transcribed and edited by Susan Dick
     (Toronto; Buffalo: University of Toronto Press, 1982).
     

Orlando (2 Oct 1928)

      Her most successful novel up to then, in terms of sales (even though publishing it as a "biography" confused booksellers), Orlando traces the life of an English nobleman, Orlando, from the Renaissance to the very moment of publication.  Orlando, based on Woolf's friend Vita Sackville-West, lives 400 years and changes into a woman in the 18th century.

A Room of One’s Own (24 Oct 1929)

    Woolf's first major feminist criticism, originating in two lectures given in October 1928 to students at the two women's colleges of Cambridge University (Newnham and Girton, here fictionalized as "Fernham").  First published as a short essay on "Women and Fiction"  in Forum (March 1929), it was thereafter heavily revised to the present six chapters.

     See also a study of extant manuscripts edited by S.P. Rosenbaum, Virginia Woolf/Women & Fiction: The Manuscript Versions of A Room of One's Own (Oxford : Blackwell, 1992).

The Waves (October 1931)

     This novel is generally considered Woolf's masterpiece, though it is also her most experimental (some say most difficult) work.

NOTE: The first book-length criticism of VW appeared in 1932, Winifrid Holtby’s biography and Floris Delattre’s Le Roman psychologique de Virginia Woolf. Delattre writes on VW’s use of time (quality vs. quantity).

The Common Reader (Second Series, 1932)

   This collection includes both new and revised critical essays, including biographical sketches of Mary Wollstonecraft and Dorothy Wordsworth, and the now-famous essay "How Should One Read a Book?"

Flush (5 Oct 1933)

     A comic novel written from the point of view of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's cocker spaniel Flush.

The Years (13 March 1937]

     A bestseller, popular with critics and readers, this novel traces the life of a Victorian family, the Pargiters, from 1880 to the "Present Day."  Begun as a sequel to A Room of One's Own, Woolf originally intended to alternate nonfiction essays with the Pargiter's story (which illustrates the essays).  Woolf ultimately extracted the nonfiction and changed the working title from "The Pargiters" to The Years.  Mitchell A. Leaska has edited the extracted portions and published them as The Pargiters: The Novel-Essay Portion of The Years (1977), which also includes the earlier version of the 1880 section of the novel.

Three Guineas (4 June 1938)

     These feminist essays function as a sequel to A Room of One's Own, including a critique of patriarchy (illustrated with photographs of public figures) and an argument for pacifism in the face of the growing threat of another world war.  The  illustrations are not printed in modern editions.

Roger Fry (25 July 1940)

    A biography of Woolf's friend, the art critic and painter (1866-1934), who had introduced post-impressionism (Picasso, Cezanne) to England in the years before World War I.  

Between the Acts (17 July 1941)

   Woolf's last novel, published after her death.  She had changed her mind about publishing it just days before her death (see letter to John Lehmann).   Like Mrs. Dalloway, the action takes place in a short span of time in June and is focused on a social event, here a community pageant rather than a party.  The setting is June 1939  in the English countryside at a house called Pointz Hall (the working title of the book), home of the Olivers, and in the nearby village, where Miss LaTrobe is in charge of the pageant.   The pageant concerns English history, and parts of it are part of the narrative.  

A Writer’s Diary (UK 1953)

    The public's first access to Woolf's diaries came in this heavily edited selection of diary entries concerning writing or particular works Woolf was writing.  The selections were prepared by her husband, Leonard Woolf.   The more complete 5-volume edition of Woolf's diaries was published 1977-1984, edited by her nephew Quentin Bell's wife, Anne Olivier Bell.  Six volumes of Woolf's letters have also been published (ed. Nigel Nicolson and Joanne Trautmann, 1975-1980).

Moments of Being (US 1976, ed. Jeanne Schulkind)

   Woolf often spoke of writing her autobiography, but these unpublished autobiographical writings are as close as we have to formal autobiography. The earliest, "Reminiscences," was written at the birth of her first nephew, Julian Bell, supposedly as a biography of her sister Vanessa. The latest, "A Sketch of the Past," was written near the end of her life, apparently as the beginning of a formal autobiography. The rest are sketches she read to members of the Memoir Club, who met regularly to read such essays.

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This article is about the British modernist author. For the American children's author, see Virginia Euwer Wolff. For the British rock band, see Virginia Wolf.

Adeline Virginia Woolf (; née Stephen; 25 January 1882 – 28 March 1941) was an English writer who is considered one of the most important modernist twentieth century authors and a pioneer in the use of stream of consciousness as a narrative device.

She was born in an affluent household in South Kensington, London, attended the Ladies' Department of King's College and was acquainted with the early reformers of women's higher education. Having been home-schooled for the most part of her childhood, mostly in English classics and Victorian literature, Woolf began writing professionally in 1900. During the interwar period, Virginia Woolf was an important part of London's literary society as well as a central figure in the group of intellectuals known as the Bloomsbury Group. She published her first novel titled The Voyage Out in 1915, through her half-brother’s publishing house, Gerald Duckworth and Company. Her best-known works include the novelsMrs Dalloway (1925), To the Lighthouse (1927) and Orlando (1928). She is also known for her essayA Room of One's Own (1929), where she wrote the much-quoted dictum, "A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction."

Woolf became one of the central subjects of the 1970s movement of feminist criticism, and her works have since garnered much attention and widespread commentary for "inspiring feminism", an aspect of her writing that was unheralded earlier. Her works are widely read all over the world and have been translated into more than fifty languages. She suffered from severe bouts of mental illness throughout her life and took her own life by drowning in 1941 at the age of 59.

Life[edit]

Family of origin[edit]

See also: Julia Stephen

Virginia Woolf was born Adeline Virginia Stephen on 25 January 1882 at 22 Hyde Park Gate in South Kensington, London to Julia (née Jackson) (1846–1895) and Leslie Stephen (1832–1904), writer, historian, essayist, biographer and mountaineer. Julia Jackson was born in 1846 in Calcutta, Bengal, British India to Dr John and Maria (Mia) Pattle Jackson, from two Anglo-Indian families.[7] Dr Jackson FRCS was the third son of George Jackson and Mary Howard of Bengal, a physician who spent 25 years with the Bengal Medical Service and East India Company and a professor at the fledgling Calcutta Medical College. While Dr Jackson was an almost invisible presence, the Pattle family (seePattle family tree) were famous beauties, and moved in the upper circles of Bengali society. The seven Pattle sisters all married into important families.Julia Margaret Cameron was a celebrated photographer while Virginia married Earl Somers, and their daughter, Julia Jackson's cousin, was Lady Henry Somerset, the temperance leader. Julia moved to England with her mother at the age of two and spent much of her early life with another of her mother's sister, Sarah. Sarah and her husband Henry Thoby Prinsep, conducted an artistic and literary salon at Little Holland House where she came into contact with a number of Pre-Raphaelite painters such as Edward Burne-Jones, who she modelled for. Julia was the youngest of three sisters and Adeline Virginia Stephen was named after her mother's oldest sister Adeline Maria (1837–1881) and her mother's aunt Virginia (seePattle family tree and Table of ancestors). The Jacksons were a well educated, literary and artistic proconsular middle-class family.[13] In 1867, Julia Jackson married Herbert Duckworth, a barrister,[14] but within three years was left a widow with three infant children.[15] She was devastated and entered a prolonged period of mourning, abandoning her faith and turning to nursing and philanthropy. Julia and Herbert Duckworth had three children;

Leslie Stephen was born in 1832 in South Kensington to Sir James and Lady Jane Catherine Stephen (née Venn), daughter of John Venn, rector of Clapham. The Venns were the centre of the evangelicalClapham sect. Sir James Stephen was the under secretary at the Colonial Office, and with another Clapham member, William Wilberforce, was responsible for the passage of the Slavery Abolition Bill in 1833. As a family of educators, lawyers and writers the Stephens represented the elite intellectual aristocracy. While his family were distinguished and intellectual, they were less colourful and aristocratic than Julia Jackson's. A graduate and fellow of Cambridge University he renounced his faith and position to move to London where he became a notable man of letters. In the same year as Julia Jackson's marriage, he wed Harriet Marian (Minny) Thackeray (1840–1875), youngest daughter of William Makepeace Thackeray, who bore him a daughter, Laura (1870–1945),[c] but died in childbirth in 1875. Laura turned out to be developmentally handicapped. and was eventually institutionalised.

The widowed Julia Duckworth knew Leslie Stephen through her friendship with Minny's older sister Anne (Anny) Isabella Ritchie and had developed an interest in his agnostic writings. She was present the night Minny died and added Lesley Stephen to her list of people needing care, and helped him move next door to her on Hyde Park Gate so Laura could have some companionship with her own children.[25][5] Both were preoccupied with mourning and although they developed a close friendship and intense correspondence, agreed it would go no further.[d][29] Lesley Stephen proposed to her in 1877, an offer she declined, but when Anny married later that year she accepted him and they were married on March 26, 1878. He and Laura then moved next door into Julia's house, where they lived till his death in 1904. Julia was 32 and Leslie was 46.

Their first child, Vanessa, was born on May 30, 1879. Julia, having presented her husband with a child, and now having five children to care for, had decided to limit her family to this. However, despite the fact that the couple took "precautions", "contraception was a very imperfect art in the nineteenth century" resulting in the birth of three more children over the next four years.[e][33][34]

22 Hyde Park Gate (1882–1904)[edit]

1882–1895[edit]

Virginia provides insight into her early life in her autobiographical essays, including Reminiscences (1908),22 Hyde Park Gate (1921) and A Sketch of the Past (1940). She also alludes to her childhood in her fictional writing. In To The Lighthouse (1927) Her depiction of the life of the Ramsays in the Hebrides is an only thinly disguised account of the Stephens in Cornwall and the Godrevy Lighthouse they would visit there.[40] However, Woolf's understanding of her mother and family evolved considerably between 1907 and 1940, in which the somewhat distant, yet revered figure of her mother becomes more nuanced and filled in. In 1891, Vanessa and Virginia Stephen began the Hyde Park Gate News,chronicling life and events within the Stephen family,[34] while the following year the Stephen sisters also used photography to supplement their insights, as did Stella Duckworth. Vanessa Bell's 1892 portrait of her sister and parents in the Library at Talland House (see image) was one of the family's favourites, and was written about lovingly in Leslie Stephen's memoir.

Virginia was born into a literate and well-connected household of six children, with two half brothers and a half sister (the Duckworths, from her mother's first marriage), another half sister, Laura (from her father's first marriage, and an older sister, Vanessa and brother Thoby. The following year, another brother Adrian followed. The handicapped Laura Stephen lived with the family until she was institutionalised in 1891. Julia and Leslie had four children together:

Virginia was born at 22 Hyde Park Gate and lived there till her father's death in 1904. Number 22 Hyde Park Gate, South Kensington, lay at the south east end of Hyde Park Gate, a narrow cul-de-sac running south from Kensington Road, just west of the Royal Albert Hall, and opposite Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park, where the family regularly took their walks (seeMap). Built in the early nineteenth century as one of a row of single family townhouses for the upper middle class, it soon became too small for their expanding family. At the time of their marriage, it consisted of a basement, two stories and an attic. In 1886 substantial renovations added a new top floor, converted the attic into rooms, and added the first bathroom.[f] It was a tall but narrow townhouse, that at that time had no running water. The servants worked "downstairs" in the basement. The ground floor had a drawing room, separated by a curtain from the servant's pantry and a library. Above this on the first floor were Julia and Leslie's bedrooms. On the next floor were the Duckworth children's rooms, and above them the day and night nurseries of the Stephen children occupied two further floors. Finally in the attic, under the eaves, were the servant's bedrooms, accessed by a back staircase.[5] The house was described as dimly lit and crowded with furniture and paintings. Within it the younger Stephens formed a close-knit group. Life in London differed sharply from that in Cornwall, their outdoor activities consisting mainly of walks in nearby Hyde Park, and their daily activities around their lessons. , ,

Sir Leslie Stephen's eminence as an editor, critic, and biographer, and his connection to William Thackeray, meant that his children were raised in an environment filled with the influences of Victorian literary society. Henry James, George Henry Lewes, Alfred Tennyson, Thomas Hardy, Edward Burne-Jones and Virginia's honorary godfather, James Russell Lowell, were among the visitors to the house. Julia Stephen was equally well connected. Her aunt was a pioneering early photographer Julia Margaret Cameron who was also a visitor to the Stephen household. The two Stephen sisters, Vanessa and Virginia, were almost three years apart in age, and exhibited some sibling rivalry. Virginia christened her older sister "the saint" and was far more inclined to exhibit her cleverness than her more reserved sister. Virginia resented the domesticity Victorian tradition forced on them, far more than her sister. They also competed for Thoby's affections. Virginia would later confess her ambivalence over this rivalry to Duncan Grant in 1917. "indeed one of the concealed worms of my life has been a sister's jealousy — of a sister I mean; and to feed this I have invented such a myth about her that I scarce know one from t'other".

Virginia showed an early affinity for writing. Although both parents disapproved of formal education for females, writing was considered a respectable profession for women, and her father encouraged her in this respect. Later she would describe this as "ever since I was a little creature, scribbling a story in the manner of Hawthorne on the green plush sofa in the drawing room at St. Ives while the grown-ups dined". By the age of five she was writing letters and could tell her father a story every night. Later she, Vanessa and Adrian would develop the tradition of inventing a serial about their next-door neighbours, every night in the nursery, or in the case of St. Ives, of spirits that resided in the garden. It was her fascination with books that formed the strongest bond between her and her father.

Talland House (1882–1894)[edit]

Leslie Stephen was in the habit of hiking in Cornwall, and in the spring of 1881 he came across a large white house in St. Ives, Cornwall, and took out a lease on it that September. Although it had limited amenities[g], its main attraction was the view overlooking Porthminster Bay towards the Godrevy Lighthouse, which the young Virginia could see from the upper windows and was to be the central figure in her To the Lighthouse (1927). It was a large square house, with a terraced garden, divided by hedges, sloping down towards the sea. Each year between 1882 and 1894 from mid-July to mid-September the Stephen's leased Talland House[55][h] as a summer residence. Leslie Stephen, who referred to it thus: "a pocket-paradise", described it as "The pleasantest of my memories... refer to our summers, all of which were passed in Cornwall, especially to the thirteen summers (1882-1894) at St. Ives. There we bought the lease of Talland House: a small but roomy house, with a garden of an acre or two all up and down hill, with quaint little terraces divided by hedges of escallonia, a grape-house and kitchen-garden and a so-called ‘orchard’ beyond".[57] It was in Leslie's words, a place of "intense domestic happiness".

In both London and Cornwall, Julia was perpetually entertaining, and was notorious for her manipulation of her guests' lives, constantly matchmaking in the belief everyone should be married, the domestic equivalence of her philanthropy. As her husband observed "My Julia was of course, though with all due reserve, a bit of a matchmaker".[60] While Cornwall was supposed to be a summer respite, Julia Stephen soon immersed herself in the work of caring for the sick and poor there, as well as in London.[55][i] Both at Hyde Park Gate and Talland House, the family mingled with much of the country's literary and artistic circles. Frequent guests included literary figures such as Henry James and George Meredith,[60] as well as James Russell Lowell, and the children were exposed to much more intellectual conversations than their mother's at Little Holland House. The family did not return, following Julia Stephen's death in May 1895.

For the children it was the highlight of the year, and Virginia's most vivid childhood memories were not of London but of Cornwall. In a diary entry of 22 March 1921, she described why she felt so connected to Talland House, looking back to a summer day in August 1890. "Why am I so incredibly and incurably romantic about Cornwall? One’s past, I suppose; I see children running in the garden … The sound of the sea at night … almost forty years of life, all built on that, permeated by that: so much I could never explain". Cornwall inspired aspects of her work, in particular the "St Ives Trilogy" of Jacob's Room (1922),To the Lighthouse (1927), and The Waves (1931).

1895–1904[edit]

Julia Stephen fell ill with influenza in February 1895, and never properly recovered, dying on 5 May, when Virginia was only 13. This was a pivotal moment in her life and the beginning of her struggles with mental illness. The Duckworths were travelling abroad at the time of their mother's death, and Stella returned immediately to take charge and assume her role. That summer, rather than return to the memories of St Ives, the Stephens went to Freshwater, Isle of Wight, where a number of their mother's family lived. It was there that Virginia had the first of her many nervous breakdowns, and Vanessa was forced to assume some of her mother's role in caring for Virginia's mental state. Stella became engaged to Jack Hills the following year and they were married on 10 April 1897, making Virginia even more dependent on her older sister. The death of Stella Duckworth, her pregnant surrogate mother, on 19 July 1897, after a long illness, was a further blow to Virginia's sense of self, and the family dynamics. In April 1902 their father became ill, and although he underwent surgery later that year he never fully recovered, dying on 22 February 1904. Virginia's father's death precipitated a further breakdown. Later, Virginia would describe this time as one in which she was dealt successive blows as a "broken chrysalis" with wings still creased. Chrysalis occurs many times in Woolf's writing but the "broken chrysalis" was an image that became a metaphor for those exploring the relationship between Woolf and grief.[72] At his death, Leslie Stephen's net worth was £15,715 6s. 6d.[j] (probate 23 March 1904)[k]

Education[edit]

In the late nineteenth century, education was sharply divided along gender lines, a tradition that Virginia would note and condemn in her writing.. Boys were sent to school, and in upper middle class families such as the Stephens, this involved private boys schools, often boarding schools, and university.[76][77][78][l] Girls, if they were afforded the luxury of education, received it from their parents, governesses and tutors. Virginia was educated by her parents who shared the duty. There was a small classroom off the back of the drawing room, with its many windows, which they found perfect for quiet writing and painting. Julia taught the children Latin, French and History, while Leslie taught them mathematics. They also received piano lessons.[85] Supplementing their lessons was the children's unrestricted access to Leslie Stephen's vast library, exposing them to much of the literary canon,[13] resulting in a greater depth of reading than any of their Cambridge contemporaries, Virginia's reading being described as "greedy".[86] After Public School, the boys in the family all attended Cambridge University. The girls derived some indirect benefit from this, as the boys introduced them to their friends.

Later, between the ages of 15 and 19 she was able to pursue higher education. She took courses of study, some at degree level, in beginning and advanced Ancient Greek, intermediate Latin and German, together with continental and English history at the Ladies' Department of King's College London at nearby 13 Kensington Square between 1897 and 1901.[m] She studied Greek under the eminent scholar George Charles Winter Warr, professor of Classical Literature at King's.[89] In addition she had private tutoring in German, Greek and Latin. One of her Greek tutors was Clara Pater (1899–1900), who taught at King's. Another was Janet Case, who involved her in the women's rights movement, and whose obituary Virginia would later write in 1937. Her experiences there led to her 1925 essay On Not Knowing Greek. Her time at King's also brought her into contact with some of the early reformers of women's higher education such as the principal of the Ladies' Department, Lilian Faithfull (one of the so-called Steamboat ladies), in addition to Pater. Her sister Vanessa also enrolled at the Ladies' Department (1899–1901). Although the Stephen girls could not attend Cambridge, they were to be profoundly influenced by their brothers' experiences there. When Thoby went up to Trinity in 1899 he became friends with a circle of young men, including Clive Bell, Lytton Strachey, Leonard Woolf, Saxon Sydney-Turner, that he would soon introduce to his sisters at the Trinity May Ball in 1900. These men formed a reading group they named the Midnight Society.[94]

Relationships with family[edit]

Although Virginia expressed the opinion that her father was her favourite parent, and although she had only just turned thirteen when her mother died, she was profoundly influenced by her mother throughout her life. It was Virginia who famously stated that "for we think back through our mothers if we are women",[95] and invoked the image of her mother repeatedly throughout her life in her diaries, her letters and a number of her autobiographical essays, including Reminiscences (1908),22 Hyde Park Gate (1921) and A Sketch of the Past (1940), frequently evoking her memories with the words "I see her ...".[98] She also alludes to her childhood in her fictional writing. In To The Lighthouse (1927) the artist, Lily Briscoe, attempts to paint Mrs Ramsay, a complex character based on Julia Stephen, and repeatedly comments on the fact that she was "astonishingly beautiful".[99] Her depiction of the life of the Ramsays in the Hebrides is an only thinly disguised account of the Stephens in Cornwall and the Godrevy Lighthouse they would visit there.[40] However, Woolf's understanding of her mother and family evolved considerably between 1907 and 1940, in which the somewhat distant, yet revered figure becomes more nuanced and filled in.

While her father painted Julia Stephen's work in in terms of reverence, Woolf drew a sharp distinction between her mother's work and "the mischievous philanthropy which other women practise so complacently and often with such disastrous results". She describes her degree of sympathy, engagement, judgement and decisiveness, and her sense of both irony and the absurd. She recalls trying to recapture "the clear round voice, or the sight of the beautiful figure, so upright and distinct, in its long shabby cloak, with the head held at a certain angle, so that the eye looked straight out at you". Julia Stephen dealt with her husband's depressions and his need for attention, which created resentment in her children, boosted his self-confidence, nursed her parents in their final illness, and had many commitments outside the home that would eventually wear her down. Her frequent absences and the demands of her husband instilled a sense of insecurity in her children that had a lasting effect on her daughters.[100] In considering the demands on her mother, Woolf described her father as "fifteen years her elder, difficult, exacting, dependent on her" and reflected that this was at the expense of the amount of attention she could spare her young children, "a general presence rather than a particular person to a child",[102] reflecting that she rarely ever spent a moment alone with her mother, "someone was always interrupting".[103] Woolf was ambivalent about all this, yet eager to separate herself from this model of utter selflessness. She describes it as "boasting of her capacity to surround and protect, there was scarcely a shell of herself left for her to know herself by" At the same time she admired the strengths of her mother's womanly ideals. Given Julia's frequent absences and commitments, the young Stephen children became increasingly dependent on Stella Duckworth, who emulated her mother's selflessness, as Woolf wrote "Stella was always the beautiful attendant handmaid ... making it the central duty of her life".

Julia Stephen greatly admired her husband's intellect, and although she knew her own mind, thought little of her own. As Woolf observed "she never belittled her own works, thinking them, if properly discharged, of equal, though other, importance with her husband's". She believed with certainty in her role as the centre of her activities, and the person who held everything together, with a firm sense of what was important and valuing devotion. Of the two parents, Julia's "nervous energy dominated the family". While Virginia identified most closely with her father, Vanessa stated her mother was her favourite parent. Angelica Garnett recalls how Virginia asked Vanessa which parent she preferred, although Vanessa considered it a question that "one ought not to ask", she was unequivocal in answering "Mother" Virginia observed that her half-sister, Stella, the oldest daughter, led a life of total subservience to her mother, incorporating her ideals of love and service. Virginia quickly learned, that like her father, being ill was the only reliable way of gaining the attention of her mother, who prided herself on her sickroom nursing.[100][103] Other issues the children had to deal with was Leslie Stephen's temper, Woolf describing him as "the tyrant father".[109]

Sexual abuse[edit]

Much has been made of Virginia's statements that she was continually sexually abused during the whole time that she lived at 22 Hyde Park Gate, as a possible cause of her mental health issues,[110] though there are likely to be a number of contributing factors (see Mental health). Against a background of over committed and distant parents, suggestions that this was a dysfunctional family must be evaluated. These include evidence of sexual abuse of the Stephen girls by their older Duckworth stepbrothers, and by their cousin, James Kenneth Stephen (1859–1892), at least of Stella Duckworth.[n] Laura is also thought to have been abused. The most graphic account is by Louise DeSalvo, but other authors and reviewers have been more cautious. Lee states that "The evidence is strong enough, and yet ambiguous enough, to open the way for conflicting psychobiographical interpretations that draw quite different shapes of Virginia Woolf's interior life"

Bloomsbury: life in squares (1904–1941)[edit]

Gordon Square (1904–1907)[edit]

On their father's death, the Stephens first instinct was to escape from the dark house of yet more mourning, and this they did immediately, accompanied by George, travelling to Manorbier, on the coast of Pembrokeshire on 27 February. There they spent a month, and it was there that Virginia first came to realise her destiny was as a writer, as she recalls in her diary of 3 September 1922. They then further pursued their new found freedom by spending April in Italy and France, where they met up with Clive Bell again. Virginia then suffered her second nervous breakdown, and first suicidal attempt on 10 May, and convalesced over the next three months.

Before their father died, the Stephens had discussed the need to leave South Kensington in the West End, with its tragic memories and their parents' relations. George Duckworth was 35, his brother Gerald 33. The Stephen children were now between 24 and 20. Virginia was 22. Vanessa and Adrian decided to sell 22 Hyde Park Gate in respectable South Kensington and move to Bloomsbury. Bohemian Bloomsbury, with its characteristic leafy squares seemed sufficiently far away, geographically and socially, and was a much cheaper neighbourhood to rent in (seeMap). They had not inherited much and they were unsure about their finances. Also Bloomsbury was close to the Slade School which Vanessa was then attending. While Gerald was quite happy to move on and find himself a bachelor establishment, George who had always assumed the role of quasi-parent decided to accompany them, much to their dismay. It was then that Lady Margaret Herbert[o]appeared on the scene, George proposed, was accepted and married in September, leaving the Stephens to their own devices.

Vanessa found a house at 46 Gordon Square in Bloomsbury, and they moved in November, to be joined by Virginia now sufficiently recovered. it was at Gordon Square thast the Stephens began to regularly entertain Thoby's intellectual friends in February 1905. The circle now included Lytton Strachey, Clive Bell, Rupert Brooke, E. M. Forster, Saxon Sydney-Turner, Duncan Grant, Leonard Woolf, John Maynard Keynes, David Garnett, and Roger Fry, with Thursday evening "At Homes" that became known as the Thursday Club. This circle formed the nucleus of the intellectual circle of writers and artists known as the Bloomsbury Group.[94] Also in 1905 Virginia and Adrian visited Portugal and Spain, Clive Bell proposed to Vanessa, but was declined, while Virginia began teaching evening classes at Morley College and Vanessa added another event to their calendar with the Friday Club, dedicated to the fine arts. The following year, 1906, Virginia suffered two further losses. Her cherished brother Thoby, who was only 26, died of typhoid, following a trip they had all taken to Greece, and immediately after Vanessa accepted Clive's third proposal. Vanessa and Clive were married in February 1907 and as a couple, their interest in avant garde art would have an important influence on Woolf's further development as an author. With Vanessa's marriage, Virginia and Adrian needed to find a new home.

Fitzroy Square (1907–1911) and Brunswick Square (1911–1912)[edit]

Virginia moved into 29 Fitzroy Square in April 1907, a house on the west side of the street, formerly occupied by George Bernard Shaw. It was in Fitzrovia, immediately to the west of Bloomsbury but still relatively close to her sister at Gordon Square. The two sisters continued to travel together, visiting Paris in March. Adrian was now to play a much larger part in Virginia's life, and they resumed the Thursday Club in October at their new home, while Gordon Square became the venue for the Play Reading Society in December. Meanwhile Virginia began work on her first novel, Melymbrosia that eventually became The Voyage Out (1915). Vanessa's first child, Julian was born in February 1908, and in September Virginia accompanied the Bells to Italy and France. It was during this time that Virginia's rivalry with her sister resurfaced, flirting with Clive, which he reciprocated, and which lasted on and off from 1908 to 1914, by which time her sister's marriage was breaking down. Several members of the group attained notoriety in 1910 with the Dreadnought hoax, which Virginia participated in disguised as a male Abyssinian royal. Her complete 1940 talk on the hoax was discovered and is published in the memoirs collected in the expanded edition of The Platform of Time (2008). It was while she was at Fitzroy Square that the question arose of Virginia needing a quiet country retreat, which she started looking for in December 2010 and soon found a property in Sussex (seebelow), maintaining a relationship with that area for the rest of her life.

In 1911 Virginia and Adrian decided to give up their home on Fitzroy Square in favour of a different living arrangement, moving to 38 Brunswick Square in Bloomsbury proper[p] in November, with Maynard Keynes and Duncan Grant, and in December they were joined by the writer, Leonard Woolf, an arrangement that continued till late 1912. The house was adjacent to the Foundling Hospital, much to Virginia's amusement since she was an unchaperoned single woman.[134] Duncan Grant decorated Adrian Stephen's rooms (see image).

Julia Stephen and Virginia 1884

Activities at Talland

Virginia and Adrian Stephen playing cricket 1886

Julia, Leslie and Virginia, Library, Talland House 1892

Virginia and Vanessa 1894

Virginia and Leslie Stephen 1902

Education

Virginia (3rd from left) with her mother and the Stephen children at their lessons, Talland House c. 1894

13 Kensington Square, former home of the Ladies' Department, King's College

Life in squares

46 Gordon Square

29 Fitzroy Square

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