Woolf, Virginia, 1882-1941

Alternative names
Birth 1882-01-25
Death 1941-03-28

Biographical notes:

Virginia Woolf (b. January 25, 1882, London, England–d. March 28, 1941, Ouse, River, Englnad) was a noted novelist and is now viewed as a pioneer of feminist literature. She was a member of the Bloomsbury Group, comprised of English artists, philosophers, and writers in the early twentieth century. She was also a co-founder and operator (along with husband Leonard Woolf) of Hogarth Press.

Though she received little formal education, her father, a writer and editor with strong interests in literary history, encouraged her to read extensively and gave her general advice on writing. Her father's connections to the literary world brought Virginia into contact with many well-known writers, including James Russell Lowell (Virginia's godfather), George Meredith, and Anne Thackeray Ritchie.

The death of her mother in 1895, when Virginia was thirteen, led to the first in a life long series of bouts of madness or depression, which plagued Woolf and which she treated with rest, milk, and long walks. The death of her step-sister in 1897 and then her father in 1904, though tragic, gave Virginia and her siblings the impetus and opportunity to move from the family home in respectable Hyde Park Gate to a new home in the less respectable neighborhood of Bloomsbury. It was here that the Bloomsbury group, formed at the Stephen's Thursday evenings at-home, got its start. Groups of Thoby's friends from Cambridge visited to participate in wide-ranging discussions about politics, economics, and art. In 1906, Thoby died and Vanessa married Clive Bell, leaving Virginia and her younger brother Adrian to set up house together at a new Bloomsbury address.

The next few years were difficult for Virginia. Distressed by the loss of Thoby and the symbolic loss of Vanessa, but also invigorated by the relative independence of her new situation, she began writing her first novel. Also during this period, Lytton Strachey, a friend of her late brother, pointed out Leonard Woolf, another friend and original member of the Bloomsbury group, as a potential match for Virginia. Leonard Woolf, a writer in his own right, encouraged Virginia, a fact much in his favor when he proposed marriage in 1912.

In 1917, the Woolfs purchased a small hand press and set it up on their dining-room table with the idea of printing some of their own work and that of a few friends. From this small beginning grew Hogarth Press, giving Virginia Woolf the advantage of being able to publish everything she wrote, without concern for conventions or conservative editors. Woolf published all of her books through Hogarth Press, including Jacob's Room (1922), Mrs. Dalloway (1925), Orlando: A Biography (1928), and A Room of Ones' Own (1929). The exceptions were Woolf's first two novels, The Voyage Out (1915) and Night and Day (1919), published by her half-brother's publishing company, Duckworth Press. Most of her works were picked up by Harcourt, Brace and published in America within a year of English publication.

In 1919, the Woolfs moved to Monk's House in Rodmell, maintaining a flat in Tavistock Square, Bloomsbury for the work week. Through the twenties and thirties Woolf continued to write, not just novels, but essays on feminism, literary criticism, and some biography. During the early years of World War II, she spent most of her time at Monk's House on the Sussex coast, and it was there that she committed suicide, drowning herself in the Sussex coast on March 28, 1941.


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  • Weiss, Bianca
  • Psychology in literature
  • Literature
  • Women novelists, English--20th century--Biography--Sources
  • Novelists, English
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  • Women--History, modern period, 1600-
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  • English literature--20th century
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  • Authors and publishers--Great Britain--History--20th century
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  • London, ENG, GB
  • River Ouse, , UK