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Virginia Woolf is now recognized as a major twentieth-century author, a great novelist and essayist and a key figure in literary history as a feminist and a modernist. Born in 1882, she was the daughter of the editor and critic Leslie Stephen, and suffered a traumatic adolescence after the deaths of her mother, in 1895, and her step-sister Stella, in 1897, leaving her subject to breakdowns for the rest of her life. Her father died in 1904 and two years later her favourite brother Thoby died suddenly of typhoid.
With her sister, the painter Vanessa Bell, she was drawn into the company of writers and artists such as Lytton Strachey and Roger Fry, later known as the Bloomsbury Group. Among them she met Leonard Woolf, whom she married in 1912, and together they founded the Hogarth Press in 1917, which was to publish the work of T. S. Eliot, E. M. Forster and Katherine Mansfield as well as the earliest translations of Freud. Woolf lived an energetic life among friends and family, reviewing and writing, and dividing her time between London and the Sussex Downs. In 1941, fearing another attack of mental illness, she drowned herself.
Her first novel, The Voyage Out, appeared in 1915, and she then worked through the transitional Night and Day (1919) to the highly experimental and impressionistic Jacob’s Room (1922). From then on her fiction became a series of brilliant and extraordinarily varied experiments, each one searching for a fresh way of presenting the relationship between individual lives and the forces of society and history. She was particularly concerned with women’s experience, not only in her novels but also in her essays and her two books of feminist polemic, A Room of One’s Own (1929) and Three Guineas (1938).
Her major novels include Mrs Dalloway (1925), the historical fantasy Orlando (1928), written for Vita Sackville-West, the extraordinarily poetic vision of The Waves (1931), the family saga of The Years (1937), and Between the Acts (1941).
One of Helen Dunmore's favourite books. 'There are novels which have an almost uncanny power to renew themselves in the reader's imagination. Each time I return to To the Lighthouse I'm struck by something that I haven't noticed before: a flash of description, a moment of double-edged intimacy between two characters, a touch of senory experience so immediate that it brings a shiver. More and more as we grow older, these great novels declare their authority. they will certainly outlive us, like sea or rock or sand.' You can read Helen Dunmore's full Introduction to To the Lighthouse in this Orange Inheritance edition published by Vintage.
A Room of One's Own, based on a lecture given at Girton College Cambridge, is one of the great feminist polemics, ranging in its themes from Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte to the silent fate of Shakespeare's gifted (imaginary) sister and the effects of poverty and sexual constraint on female creativity. Three Guineas was published almost a decade later and breaks new ground in its discussion of men, militarism and women's attitudes towards war. These two pieces reveal Virginia Woolf's fiery spirit and sophisticated wit and confirm her status as a highly inspirational essayist. On My Bookshelf by Philippa Gregory... This was recommended to me when I was 23. I remember taking it on a camping holiday and reading it while blowing up the airbed with a foot pump! Woolf says women can’t be expected to work creatively when they have no resources. I felt she explained in a logical way why women’s creativity is not more successful. I gave it to my daughter, because it’s such a powerful read and I wanted to pass that on to her. Philippa Gregory's new book, The White Queen, is out now.
One of One of Will Self's favourite books. On a June morning in 1923, Clarissa Dalloway is preparing for a party and remembering her past. Elsewhere in London, Septimus Smith is suffering from shell-shock and on the brink of madness. Their days interweave and their lives converge as the party reaches its glittering climax.
A commercial and critical success when it was first published in 1931, and now considered by some to be Virginia Woolf's most ambitious novel. This new edition includes pictures and a section on Virginia Woolf's life and works. Through a series of connected monologues, The Waves tells the story of six very different friends - Bernard, Louis, Neville, Jinny, Susan and Rhoda - as they progress from childhood to middle age. Interspersed with evocative descriptions of the seaside at different times of day, the poignant personal histories coalesce into a poetic tapestry of human experience. A commercial and critical success when it was first published in 1931, and now considered by some to be Virginia Woolf's most ambitious novel, showcasing her Modernist narrative techniques at their finest, The Waves casts a visionary and lyrical light on everyday life.
I ought to be grateful to Richmond & Hogarth, and indeed, whether it's my invincible optimism or not, I am grateful. aA ' Virginia Woolf Although more commonly associated with Bloomsbury, Virginia and her husband Leonard Woolf lived in Richmond-upon-Thames for ten years from the time of the First World War (1914-1924). Refuting the common misconception that she disliked the town, this book explores her daily habits as well as her intimate thoughts while living at the pretty house she came to love - Hogarth House. Drawing on information from her many letters and diaries, the editor reveals how Richmond's relaxed way of life came to influence the writer, from her experimentation as a novelist to her work with her husband and the Hogarth Press, from her relationships with her servants to her many famous visitors.