Virginia Woolf (January 25, 1882 – March 28, 1941) was a British author and feminist. Between the world wars, Woolf was a significant figure in London literary society and a member of the Bloomsbury Group.
Born Adeline Virginia Stephen in London, Woolf was brought up and educated in a classically Victorian household at 22 Hyde Park Gate. In 1895, following the death of her mother, she had the first of several nervous breakdowns. She later indicated in an autobiographical account, "Moments of Being," that she and her sister Vanessa Bell had been sexually abused by their half-brothers, George and Gerald Duckworth. Following the death of her father (Sir Leslie Stephen, a well-known editor and literary critic) in 1904, she and her sister, Vanessa, moved to a home in Bloomsbury, forming the initial kernel for the intellectual circle known as the Bloomsbury group. While nowhere near a simple recapitulation of the coterie's ideals, Woolf's work can be understood as consistently in dialogue with Bloomsbury, particularly its tendency (informed by G.E. Moore, among others) towards doctrinaire rationalism.
She began writing professionally in 1905, initially for the Times Literary Supplement. In 1912 she married Leonard Woolf, a civil servant and political theorist. Her first novel, The Voyage Out, was published in 1915. This novel was originally titled "Melymbrosia," but due to criticism Virginia recieved about the political nature of the book, she changed the novel and its title. She went on to publish novels and essays as a public intellectual to both critical and popular success. Much of her work was self-published through the Hogarth Press. She is hailed as one of the greatest novelists of the twentieth century and one of the foremost Modernists.
Woolf is considered one of the greatest innovators in the English language. In her works she experimented with stream-of-consciousness, the underlying psychological as well as emotional motives of characters, and the various possibilities of fractured narrative and chronology. She has, in the words of E.M. Forster, pushed the English language "a little further against the dark," and her literary achievements and creativity are influential even today.
On March 28, 1941, Woolf filled her pockets with stones, and drowned herself in the River Ouse, near her home in Rodmell. She left a suicide note for her husband: "I feel certain that I am going mad again: I feel we cant go through another of those terrible times. And I shan't recover this time. I begin to hear voices, and cant concentrate. So I am doing what seems the best thing to do. You have given me the greatest possible happiness... I can't fight it any longer, I know that I am spoiling your life, that without me you could work" (The Letters of Virginia Woolf, vol. VI, p. 481).
Hermione Lee's Virginia Woolf provides an authoritative examination of Woolf's life, updating the earlier biography by Woolf's own nephew, Quentin Bell.
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