Biography of Virginia Woolf

English Writer Virginia Woolf Biography

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Virginia Woolf was an English Writer, Author and Novelist and a pioneer of modernism in English Literature. Among her most famous work are novels Tothe Lighthouse , Mrs. Dalloway and Orlando and an essay a Room of One’s Own. Virginia Woolf was an important figure in the Victorian Literary Society and is regarded as one of the greatest modernist literary personality of the twentieth century.

Virginia Woolf became the innovator of the English literature with her experiment with the ‘stream of consciousness’ and broke the mold with her highly experimental language denouncing the traditional literary techniques. Her works allow for a deeper insight to the psychology of a character and its real thinking, though they are often criticized for its pretentious and elitist depiction of the characters. The author turned into a victim to a severe depression cluttering her life and mental stability and eventually leading her to commit suicide in 1941. Virginia Woolf Childhood & Early Years

Virginia Woolf, originally Adeline Virginia Stephen, was born on 25 January 1882 to her father Sir Leslie Stephen, a renowned author and mother Julia Prinsep Stephen. Julia Stephen was born in India who later moved to England permanently whereupon Virginia Woolf worked as a model for painters and photographers. Both Leslie and Julia had been married previously and been widowed and had children from their marriage staying with them. The couple had four children with their own marriage. Thus the young Virginia grew up with a number of half brothers and sisters around her.

As a result of her parents connection to the eminent writers such as William Thackeray and George Henry Lewes, Virginia was raised in an environment influenced with Victorian Literary Society. Her own father was a noble writer, editor and critic who was married to the eldest daughter of William Thackeray.

Virginia developed an early liking for the English Literature and as a result, was trained in the classics and the English Literature, whereas her brothers received only formal education.

Most of her initial years were spent in Cornwall where she first became interested in the natural beauty. The impression of its landscapes and the lighthouse imprinted on her mind and would come out in her literary works. Except for initial few years, Virginia did not have a very happy childhood. Her mother passed away in 1895 followed by her sister who died two years later.

Virginia Woolf was shattered at the very first acquaintance with the reality of inevitable death and before Virginia Woolf could get over the initial shock, her father died in 1904. Virginia Woolf lost her mental stability and suffered from

Virginia Woolf was briefly institutionalized when these bouts of depression continued to occur. According to her biographer and close relative Quentin Bell, these depressive breakdowns were also a result of the sexual abuse she was subjected to by her half brothers George and Gerald. Virginia’s memoir A Sketch of the Past reveals these facts, which Virginia Woolf wrote much later in her life.

The mental illness cause during this period would plague her throughout her life and have a drastic effect on her social life eventually causing her to suicide, though it hardly affected her literary talents.

Virginia Woolf’s Later Life & Marriage

Following the death of her parents, Virginia sold their house in Hyde Park and moved to Bloomsbury. Her first educational institute was King’s College, London where she came into contact with the intellectual group of the literary society. Leonard Woolf, also a member of the group was a Jew writer who met and married her in 1912. Their marriage had a profound impact on her as she termed it the ‘most beautiful thing in her life’.

In 1917, they two founded the Hogarth Press and wrote few books in collaboration. Her most popular works during this period include Night and Day ( 1919 ), a short story collection Monday or Tuesday ( 1921 ) and essays in The Common Reader ( 1925 ). Jacob’s Room ( 1922 ) and Mrs. Dalloway ( 1925 ) which was adapted into the film The Hours in 2002, To The Lighthouse ( 1927 ) and Orlando : A Biography ( 1928 ).

Virginia Woolf Notable Works
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Virginia’s first professional writing began in 1905, when she started writing for the Times Literary Supplement. However her first individual work, a novel The Voyage Out was published in 1915. The book was published by her half brother’s imprint Gerald Duckworth and Company Limited. The content of the book was later modified by Louise DeSalvo. Most of her works were published by her own Hogarth Press.

By this time, Woolf had become a famous personality in the Victorian literary society and was often regarded as the greatest novelist of the twentieth century and a forerunner of the modernism. Virginia Woolf became the innovator of the English Literature with her successful experiment with Stream of Consciousness, Psychological and Emotional Motives of the Characters. Her novels are marked with narrative style, passionate lyricism and stylistic intelligence.

To The Lighthouse, a semi – autobiographical piece published in 1921, depicts the Ramsay family’s visit to a lighthouse. The novel also portrays the lives of a nation’s natives trapped in a war. Another famous novel The waves, displays a group of friends who construct the plot of the novel.

Between the acts, her last piece of work, which was published in 1941, reflects her experience with art, sexual ambivalence and life in a symbolic and narrative style. Most of works have been translated into a number of foreign languages and have been adapted into films and cinema.

Woolf’s eminence came to a downfall with the end of the World War II which was again restored with the Feminist criticism around 1970s. Virginia Woolf was also criticized for her anti – Semitism and snobbery, which she herself had admitted in her personal diary. Her literary efforts were often targeted for what they feel “exemplifying the English upper – middle intellectual class”.

Virginia Woolf’s Death

Virginia Woolf was writing what was to be her last publication Between the acts, published in 1941. The monstrous bouts of depression had come back and once again she began to experience fear and fright. The outbreak of World War II and the destruction oh her London house worse exacerbated her condition until Virginia Woolf could not write a single paragraph properly.

Virginia Woolf was well aware of her illness, as her letters show, and decided to spare her husband spare the pain and trouble caused by her frequent bouts of illness.

On 28 March 1941, Woolf committed suicide by drowning herself into the River Ouse, filling her coat’s pockets with stones. Her body was found on 18 April, and was buried by her husband in the garden of their house in Sussex. Leonard set to the task of completing her unfinished works and editing her prodigious collection of journals. He died in 1960.

Virginia Woolf’s posthumously published works include The Death of the Moth and Other Essays ( 1942 ), A Haunted House and Other Short Stories ( 1944 ), and The Moment and Other Essays ( 1948 ). An award winning biography of Woolf was written by her nephew Professor Quentin Bell, entitled as Virginia Woolf : A Biography.

Virginia Woolf Timeline

    • 1882 – Virginia Woolf was born on 25 January.
  • 1895 – Her mother passed away.
  • 1904 – Her father died.
  • 1905 – Virginia’s first professional writing began.
  • 1912 – Virginia Woolf married Leonard Woolf.
  • 1915 – Her first individual work, a novel The Voyage Out was published.
  • 1917 – They two founded the Hogarth Press.
  • 1921 – To the Lighthouse, a semi – autobiographical piece published.
  • 1941 – Between the acts, her last piece of work was published.
  • 1941 – Woolf committed suicide by drowning herself on 28 March.
  • 1960 – Her husband Leonard Woolf died.