Woolf, (Adeline) Virginia

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WOOLF, (Adeline) Virginia

Nationality: English. Born: London, 25 January 1882; daughter of the scholar and writer Leslie Stephen; younger sister of the painter Vanessa Bell. Education: Educated privately. Family: Married the writer Leonard Woolf in 1912. Career: Moved to Bloomsbury, London, 1904; associated with her sister and with the economist J. M. Keynes, the art critic Roger Fry, the painter Duncan Grant, the writers E. M. Forster, q.v., and David Garnett, and others, later known as the Bloomsbury Group; reviewer, Times Literary Supplement, from 1905, and other periodicals; teacher of adult education classes, Morley College, London, 1905; founder, with Leonard Woolf, Hogarth Press, Richmond, Surrey, later London, 1917-41. Awards: Femina-Vie Heureuse prize, 1928. Died: 28 March 1941 (suicide).



The Woolf Reader, edited by Mitchell A. Leaska. 1984.

The Complete Shorter Fiction, edited by Susan Dick. 1985.

The Essays, edited by Andrew McNeillie. 1986-94.

Short Stories

Two Stories, with Leonard Woolf. 1917.

Kew Gardens (story). 1919.

Monday or Tuesday. 1921.

A Haunted House and Other Short Stories. 1944.

Mrs. Dalloway's Party: A Short Story Sequence, edited by StellaMcNichol. 1973.


The Voyage Out. 1915; revised edition, 1920.

Night and Day. 1919.

Jacob's Room. 1922.

Mrs. Dalloway. 1925.

To the Lighthouse. 1927; draft version, edited by Susan Dick, 1982.

Orlando: A Biography. 1928.

The Waves. 1931; draft versions edited by J.W. Graham, 1976.

Flush: A Biography. 1933.

The Years. 1937.

Between the Acts. 1941.

The Pargiters: The Novel-Essay Portion of The Years, edited by Mitchell A. Leaska. 1977.


Freshwater, edited by Lucio P. Ruotolo. 1976.


Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown. 1924.

The Common Reader. 1925; second series, 1932; first series edited by Andrew McNeillie, 1984.

A Room of One's Own. 1929.

Street Haunting. 1930.

On Being Ill. 1930.

Beau Brummell. 1930.

A Letter to a Young Poet. 1932.

Walter Sickert: A Conversation. 1934.

Three Guineas. 1938.

Reviewing. 1939.

Roger Fry: A Biography. 1940.

The Death of the Moth and Other Essays. 1942.

The Moment and Other Essays. 1947.

The Captain's Death Bed and Other Essays. 1950.

A Writer's Diary, Being Extracts from the Diary of Woolf, edited by Leonard Woolf. 1953.

Hours in a Library. 1958.

Granite and Rainbow: Essays. 1958.

Contemporary Writers, edited by Jean Guiguet. 1965.

Nurse Lugton's Golden Thimble (for children). 1966.

Collected Essays, edited by Leonard Woolf. 4 vols., 1966-67.

Stephen versus Gladstone. 1967.

A Cockney's Farming Experiences, edited by Suzanne Henig. 1972.

The London Scene: Five Essays. 1975.

The Letters, edited by Nigel Nicolson and Joanne Trautmann. 6 vols., 1975-80; Congenial Spirits: The Selected Letters, edited by Joanne Trautmann Banks, 1989.

Moments of Being: Unpublished Autobiographical Writings, edited by Jeanne Schulkind. 1976.

The Diary, edited by Anne Olivier Bell. 5 vols., 1977-84; A Moment's Liberty: The Shorter Diary, 1990.

Books and Portraits: Some Further Selections from the Literary and Biographical Writings, edited by Mary Lyon. 1977.

Women and Writing, edited by Michèle Barrett. 1979.

Reading Notebooks, edited by Brenda R. Silver. 1982.

The Widow and the Parrot (for children). 1988.

A Passionate Apprentice: The Early Journals 1897-1909, edited by Mitchell A. Leaska. 1990.

A Woman's Essays: Selected Essays, edited by Rachel Bowlby. 1993.

Killing the Angel in the House: Seven Essays. 1995.

The Sayings of Virginia Woolf. 1996.

Translator, with S. S. Koteliansky, Stavrogin's Confession, by Dostoevskii. 1922.

Translator, with S. S. Koteliansky, Tolstoi's Love Letters. 1923.

Translator, with S. S. Koteliansky, Talks with Tolstoy, by A. D. Goldenveizer. 1923.



A Bibliography of Woolf by B. J. Kirkpatrick, 1957, revised edition, 1967, 1980; Woolf: An Annotated Bibliography of Criticism by Robin Majumdar, 1976.

Critical Studies:

Woolf by Winifred Holtby, 1932; Woolf by E. M. Forster, 1942; Woolf by David Daiches, 1942, revised edition, 1963; Woolf: Her Art as a Novelist by Joan Bennett, 1945, revised edition, 1964; Woolf: A Commentary by Bernard Blackstone, 1949; Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature by Erich Auerbach, 1953; Woolf's London, 1959, and Woolf, 1963, both by Dorothy Brewster; An Autobiography by Leonard Woolf, 5 vols., 1960-69; Woolf's Black Arrows of Sensation: The Waves by R. G. Collins, 1962; The Narrow Bridge of Art: Woolf's Early Criticism 1905-1925 by E. A. Hungerford, 1965; Woolf and Her Works by Jean Guiguet, 1965; Woolf by Carl Woodring, 1966; Feminism and Art: A Study of Woolf by Herbert Marder, 1968; Critics on Woolf edited by Jacqueline E. M. Latham, 1970; Woolf: To the Lighthouse: A Casebook, 1970, and Critical Essays on Woolf, 1985, both edited by Morris Beja; Woolf: The Inward Voyage by Harvena Richter, 1970; Twentieth-Century Interpretations of To the Lighthouse edited by Thomas A. Vogler, 1970; Woolf: A Collection of Critical Essays edited by Claire Sprague, 1971; Woolf: A Biography by Quentin Bell, 2 vols., 1972; Recollections of Woolf by Her Contemporaries edited by Joan Russell Noble, 1972; Woolf and the Androgynous Vision by Nancy Top-ping Bazin, 1973; Woolf: The Echoes Enslaved by Allen McLaurin, 1973; The World Without a Self: Woolf and the Novel by James Naremore, 1973; Woolf by Manly Johnson, 1973; Woolf: A Personal Debt by Margaret Drabble, 1973; The Novels of Woolf: Fact and Vision by A. V. B. Kelley, 1973; Woolf: A Critical Reading by Avrom Fleishman, 1975; Woolf: The Critical Heritage edited by Robin Majumdar and Allen McLaurin, 1975; Woolf and Her World, 1975, and Thrown to the Woolfs: Leonard and Virginia Woolf and the Hogarth Press, 1978, both by John Lehmann; Woolf: A Collection of Criticism edited by Thomas S. W. Lewis, 1975; Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway: A Study in Alienation by Jeremy Hawthorn, 1975; The Razor Edge of Balance: A Study of Woolf by Jane Novak, 1975; The Reader's Art: Woolf as Literary Critic by Mark Goldman, 1976; The Novels of Woolf by Hermione Lee, 1977; Woolf: Sources of Madness and Art by Jean O. Love, 1977; A Marriage of True Minds: An Intimate Portrait of Leonard and Virginia Woolf by George Spater and Ian Parsons, 1977; The Seen and the Unseen: Woolf's To the Lighthouse by L. Ruddick, 1977; The Novels of Woolf: From Beginning to End by Mitchell A. Leaska, 1978; Woman of Letters: A Life of Woolf by Phyllis Rose, 1978; Woolf by Susan Rubinow Gorsky, 1978, revised edition, 1989; The Unknown Woolf by Roger Poole, 1978; Continuing Presences: Woolf's Use of Literary Allusion by Beverly Ann Schlack, 1979; Woolf: A Study of Her Novels by T. E. Apter, 1979; Woolf: Revaluation and Continuity: A Collection of Essays edited by Ralph Freedman, 1980; Woolf's First Voyage: A Novel in the Making, 1980, and Woolf: The Impact of Childhood Sexual Abuse on Her Life and Work, 1989, both by Louise A. DeSalvo; Woolf's Major Novels: The Fables of Anon by Maria DiBattista, 1980; Woolf's Quarrel with Grieving by Mark Spilka, 1980; New Feminist Essays on Woolf, 1981, Woolf: A Feminist Slant, 1983, and Woolf and Bloomsbury: A Centenary Celebration, 1987, all edited by Jane Marcus, and Woolf and the Languages of Patriarchy by Marcus, 1987; Woolf's The Years: The Evolution of a Novel by Grace Radin, 1981; The Elusive Self: Psyche and Spirit in Woolf's Novels by Louise A. Poresky, 1981; Between Language and Silence: The Novels of Woolf by Howard Harper, 1982; Woolf and the Politics of Style by Pamela J. Transue, 1982; All That Summer She Was Mad: Woolf, Female Victim of Male Medicine by Stephen Trombley, 1982; Woolf: Centennial Papers edited by Elaine K. Ginsberg and Laura Moss Gottlieb, 1983; Comedy and the WomanWriter: Woolf, Spark, and Feminism by Judy Little, 1983; Woolf's Literary Sources and Allusions: A Guide to the Essays, 1983, and Woolf's Rediscovered Essays: Sources and Allusions, 1987, both by Elizabeth Steele; Woolf: New Critical Essays edited by Patricia Clements and Isobel Grundy, 1983; Woolf: A Writer's Life by Lyndall Gordon, 1984; The Short Season Between Two Silences: The Mystical and the Political in the Novels of Woolf by Madeline Moore, 1984; Woolf: A Centenary Perspective edited by Eric Warner, 1984; Woolf and London: The Sexual Politics of the City by S. M. Squier, 1985; The Invisible Presence: Woolf and the Mother-Daughter Relationship by Ellen Bayuk Roseman, 1986; The Singing of the Real World: The Philosophy of Woolf's Fiction by Mark Hussey, 1986; The Interrupted Moment: A View of Woolf's Novels by Lucio P. Ruotolo, 1986; Woolf and the Real World by Alex Zwerdling, 1986; Woolf: The Waves by Eric Warner, 1987; The Victorian Heritage of Woolf: The External World in Her Novels by Janis M. Paul, 1987; Woolf and the Problem of the Subject: Feminine Writing in the Major Novels by Makiko Minow-Pinkney, 1987; Woolf: The Frames of Art and Life by C. Ruth Miller, 1988; To the Lighthouse and Beyond: Transformations in the Narratives of Woolf by Virginia R. Hyman, 1988; Woolf, Dramatic Novelist by Jane Wheare, 1988; Woolf: Feminist Destinations by Rachel Bowlby, 1988; Woolf: To the Lighthouse by Stevie Davies, 1989; Woolf by Susan Dick, 1989; A Study of the Short Fiction by Dean R. Baldwin, 1989; A Woolf Chronology, 1989, and Woolf, 1990, both by Edward Bishop; Woolf and the Literature of the English Renaissance by Alice Fox, 1990; Woolf and the Poetry of Fiction by Stella McNichol, 1990; Woolf and the Fictions of Psychoanalysis by Elizabeth Abel, 1990; Woolf and the Madness of Language by Daniel Ferrier, 1990; The Reading of Silence: Woolf in the English Tradition by Patricia Ondek Laurence, 1991; Virginia Woolf by Hermione Lee, 1996; Katherine Mansfield and Virginia Woolf: A Personal and Professional Bond by Nóra Séllei, 1996; Women in the Milieu of Leonard and Virginia Woolf: Peace, Politics, and Education edited by Wayne K. Chapman and Janet M. Manson, 1997; Reading Virginia Woolf's Essays and Journalism: Breaking the Surface and Silence by Leila Brosnan, 1997; Virginia Woolf by Laura Marcus, 1997; Virginia Woolf's Renaissance: Woman Reader or Common Reader? by Juliet Dusinberre, 1997; Virginia Woolf, the Novels by Nicholas Marsh, 1998; Form as Compensation for Life: Fictive Patterns in Virginia Woolf's Novels by Oddvar Holmesland, 1998.

* * *

Virginia Woolf established her reputation primarily as a novelist and an essayist; she published only one book of short stories during her lifetime, Monday or Tuesday, of which a reviewer wrote in the Daily News: "All this bereft world of inconsequent sensation is but a habitation for those lonely, dishevelled souls who are driven about by the great wind which blows through Limbo."

According to her husband, Leonard Woolf, it was Woolf's habit to sketch out the rough idea of a story and file it away. Later, if an editor asked for a piece of short fiction or "if she felt, as she often did, while writing a novel that she required to rest her mind by working at something else for a time," she would pull out a sketch for a story. Not long before her death she had decided to put together a collected edition of her shorter work, including most of the stories from Monday or Tuesday, others that had appeared over the years in magazines such as Harper's Bazaar, Harper's Magazine, The Athenaeum, and The Forum, and some that had never been published. The posthumous result was A Haunted House and Other Short Stories.

With the exception, perhaps, of stories like "The Legacy," "Lappin and Lapinova," and "The Duchess and the Jeweller," which involve conflicted and complicated affairs of the heart but are fairly traditional stylistically, Woolf's work is generally impressionistic, imagistic, and experimental. Lyrical and melancholy, often quite beautiful, the stories revolve not so much around character or plot as consciousness and identity. According to the critic Phyllis Rose, Woolf's work involves the "radical questioning of what it is important to notice, what character consists in, what structure, if any, life has, and what structure [fiction]."

"Of all things," Woolf writes in "Together and Apart," "nothing is so strange as human intercourse … because of its changes, its extraordinary irrationality." In a story like "A Haunted House," which T. S. Eliot admired, not even death can interfere with essential connections; Sasha Latham, on the other hand, believes in "A Summing Up" that the human soul "is by nature unmated, a widow bird." Somewhere between these two poles lies the elusive "truth" of relationships, language, and the mind's "astonishing perceptions."

A number of the stories involve confrontations of the individual with society, generally in the setting of the upper middle class, "idle, chattering, overdressed, without an idea in their heads." On the one hand Woolf gives us Prickett Ellis in "The Man Who Loved His Kind," a lawyer who runs into a friend from school he has not seen in 20 years and reluctantly accepts his invitation to a party. "Pitted against the evil, the corruption, the heartlessness of society," Ellis feels he must justify himself, but ironically this "man of the people" finds human contact and conversation almost impossible. Mabel in "The New Dress" suffers a similar fate for different reasons; rather than putting herself above everyone else, she has had a lifelong sense "of being inferior to other people." The situation in this story, as in all of Woolf's short fiction, appears deceptively simple: Mabel shows up at a party where she is suddenly struck by the sense that her appearance is unacceptable; she has chosen the wrong dress. In the third-person interior monologue so typical of Woolf, Mabel recalls the feeling she had had at the dressmaker's when she was in the mirror, briefly, "the core of herself, the soul of herself," a beautiful woman who pleased her. But here reflected through the eyes of others, she feels "condemned, despised" for being "a feeble vacillating creature" leading a wretched "kind of twilight existence." Over the course of the evening she comes to believe that "this was true, this drawing-room, this self, and the other false." Several of Woolf's stories involve, either centrally or peripherally, "the true man, upon whom the false man was built" ("Together and Apart," "A Summing Up"); perhaps the most extreme example of this interplay "between one's eyes and the truth" is found in "The Lady in the Looking-Glass," where little by little the image of Isabella Tyson is stripped away until "here was the woman herself…. And there was nothing."

In one way or another all of Woolf's stories deal with perception and consciousness. Central to Woolf's vision is the idea expressed in "Solid Objects" that "any object mixes itself so profoundly with the stuff of thought that it loses its actual form and recomposes itself a little differently in an ideal shape which haunts the brain when we least expect it." Her texts are constructed of splashes and patches, shadows, reflections, color, the play of light, a constant flood and flux of images, and sensations that both reflect and transform reality.

Ultimately Woolf's work is about "moments of being," the title both of a collection of Woolf's autobiographical writings published after her death and of the story "Moments of Being" (originally called "Slater's Pins Have No Points"), where Fanny Wilmot observes that there is always the danger in life that one will "not possess it, enjoy it, not entirely and altogether." Woolf's reflections are poignantly expressed in "The Searchlight," in which a party of people sit watching air force maneuvers as "rods of light" scan the sky, momentarily illuminating objects over which they pass; the text itself begins to imitate the movement—broken, fragmented, interrupted by ellipses—as if to illustrate Woolf's understanding that although one tries to embrace the "adorable world" ("An Unwritten Novel"), "the light … only falls here and there."

—Deborah Kelly Kloepfer

See the essays on Kew Gardens and "The Mark on the Wall."

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