Virginia Woolf led a fascinating life. Here, we trace Woolf’s story from budding writer to literary giant.
Virginia Woolf was born on the 25th January 1882 in London. One of eight siblings, her family was highly educated and well connected with the Victorian literary society, including figures like Henry James to George Henry Lewes.
Tragedy struck early in life: her mother died suddenly when Woolf was only thirteen years old. Only two years later, Woolf’s half-sister, Stella died, followed by her surrogate mother, Stella Duckworth and soon her brother, Thoby. As a result, Woolf suffered her first nervous breakdown. When her father died in 1904, Woolf was briefly institutionalised.
Woolf then moved to Bloomsbury, London. She became a part of the ‘Bloomsbury Group’, a circle of writers and artists, including E M Forster and Rupert Brooke, who had a huge influence on her on writing.
Woolf’s debut novel, The Voyage Out was published in 1915. She married writer, Leonard Woolf in 1912, and in 1917 the pair founded the Hogarth Press. They published their own novels as well as work by T.S Eliot and Katharine Mansfield and more.
Woolf’s work was highly experimental at the time she was writing. Typically, Woolf’s novels use stream-of-consciousness, a technique which brings readers into the minds of the characters. While she had some success with novels including Night and Day (1919) and Jacob’s Room (1922) , it was Mrs Dalloway (1925) which catapulted her to literary canon status.
Mrs Dalloway details a day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway, a high society woman preparing for a party for her politician husband. We also follow Septimus Smith, a World War One veteran struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Again, with Orlando, Woolf continued to receive critical praise and huge popularity. Novels, The Waves (1931) , The Years (1937), and Between the Acts (1941) followed.
Woolf also published short story collections including Monday or Tuesday (1921) and non-fiction. Woolf expressed strong feminist views in essays like A Room of One’s Own (1929) , arguing that women needed their own space to write and think.
Sadly, Woolf’s depression cast a shadow over much of her life. When she finished her final novel, Between the Acts, her depression returned. On the 28 March 1941, she filled her coat pockets with stones and drowned herself in the River Ouse near her home.
To this day, Woolf is regarded as a pioneer for her deeply felt, evocative literature. Her work inspired novels and films including Michael Cunningham's 1998 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Hours and Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf .
Featured Image Copyright The Waves CC Arslan Ahmedov