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Virginia Woolf was born in London in 1882, the daughter of Sir Leslie Stephen, first editor of The Dictionary of National Biography. After his death in 1904 Virginia and her sister, the painter Vanessa Bell, moved to Bloomsbury and became the centre of 'The Bloomsbury Group'. This informal collective of artists and writers which included Lytton Strachey and Roger Fry, exerted a powerful influence over early twentieth-century British culture. In 1912 Virginia married Leonard Woolf, a writer and social reformer. Three years later, her first novel The Voyage Out was published, followed by Night and Day (1919) and Jacob's Room (1922). These first novels show the development of Virginia Woolf's distinctive and innovative narrative style. It was during this time that she and Leonard Woolf founded The Hogarth Press with the publication of the co-authored Two Stories in 1917, hand-printed in the dining room of their house in Surrey. Between 1925 and 1931 Virginia Woolf produced what are now regarded as her finest masterpieces, from Mrs Dalloway (1925) to the poetic and highly experimental novel The Waves (1931). She also maintained an astonishing output of literary criticism, short fiction, journalism and biography, including the playfully subversive Orlando (1928) and A Room of One's Own (1929) a passionate feminist essay. This intense creative productivity was often matched by periods of mental illness, from which she had suffered since her mother's death in 1895. On 28 March 1941, a few months before the publication of her final novel, Between the Acts, Virginia Woolf committed suicide.
April 2014 Guest Editor Nicci French on To the Lighthouse. Some people think modernism is chilly and unemotional: not this modernist masterpiece, which made me long to write. It’s a miraculous novel about time, which passes over everything, about art and the act of writing, about families, about human loneliness, about love.
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.