Woolf 's control over the production of her own work is a significant factor in her genesis as a writer. The Hogarth Press became an important and influential publishing house in the decades that followed. It was responsible, for example, for the first major works of Freud in English, beginning in 1922, and published significant works by key modernist writers such as T. S. Eliot and Gertrude Stein. Woolf herself set the type for the Hogarth edition of Eliot's The Waste Land (1923), which he read to them in June 1922, and which she found to have 'great beauty and force of phrase: symmetry; and tensity. What connects it together, I'm not so sure' (D2 178).
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In January 1912 Leonard proposed marriage. She was unable to answer directly and he pressed further in a passionate letter: 'It isn't, really it isnt, merely because you are so beautiful - though of course that is a large reason and so it should be - that I love you: it is your mind and your character - I have never known anyone like you in that - wont you believe me?
Leonard and Virginia married in August 1912. Virginia was 30. Soon after her marriage she suVered another breakdown and her mental health declined sporadically over the following year, culminating in a suicide attempt in September 1913. They were advised against having children because of Virginia's recurring depressive illness, a cause of some regret to her, and a point of much heated debate among her later biographers.
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Leonard Woolf was two years older than Virginia, whom he had first met in 1901 in the rooms of her brother Thoby at Cambridge. He went from St Paul's School to Trinity College on a scholarship in 1899 and was the first Jew to be elected to the Cambridge Apostles. His father Sidney Woolf (1844-92) was a barrister who died prematurely, leaving his widow, Marie, with the care of their ten children. After Cambridge, Leonard reluctantly entered the Colonial Civil Service and he served in Ceylon for seven years. The experience forged him as a passionate anti-imperialist. In 1911 he began writing a novel based on his experiences, but written from the point of view of the Sinhalese; The Village in the Jungle was published in 1913. This work may have influenced his wife's novel The Voyage Out, which has a fictional colonial setting. On his return to England he became a committed socialist and he was active on the left for most of his life, publishing numerous pamphlets and books of significance on national and international politics. His role as intimate literary mentor to Virginia Woolf has sometimes overshadowed his considerable import as a political writer in his own right.
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The Bloomsbury Group has been characterised as a liberal, pacifist, and at times libertine, intellectual enclave of Cambridge-based privilege. The Cambridge men of the group (Bell, Forster, Fry, Keynes, Strachey, Sydney-Turner) were members of the elite and secret society of Cambridge Apostles. Woolf's aesthetic understanding, and broader philosophy, were in part shaped by, and at first primarily interpreted in terms of, (male) Bloomsbury's dominant aesthetic and philosophical preoccupations, rooted in the work of G. E. Moore (a central influence on the Apostles), and culminating in Fry's and Clive Bell's differing brands of pioneering aesthetic formalism. 'The main things which Moore instilled deep into our minds and characters, ' Leonard Woolf recalls, 'were his peculiar passion for truth, for clarity and common sense, and a passionate belief in certain values.' Increasing awareness of Woolf's feminism, however, and of the influence on her work of other women artists, writers and thinkers has meant that these Moorean and male points of reference, though of importance, are no longer considered adequate in approaching Woolf's work, and her intellectual development under the tutelage of women, together with her involvement with feminist thinkers and activists, is also now acknowledged.
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Woolf drew on her memories of her holidays in Cornwall for To the Lighthouse, which was conceived in part as an elegy on her parents. Her father was a vigorous walker and an Alpinist of some renown, a member of the Alpine Club and editor of the Alpine Journal from 1868 to 1872; he was the first person to climb the Schreckhorn in the Alps and he wrote on Alpine pleasures in The Playground of Europe (1871). By the time he married Julia Duckworth in 1878, however, a more sedentary Leslie Stephen was the established editor of the Cornhill Magazine, from which he later resigned to take up the editorship of the Dictionary of National Biography in 1882, the year of Woolf 's birth. Stephen laboured on this monumental Victorian enterprise until 1990, editing single-handed the first twenty-six volumes and writing well over 300 biographical entries. He also published numerous volumes of criticism, the most important of which were on eighteenth-century thought and literature.
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By the close of the nineteenth century her studies with her father were being supplemented by tuition in the classics from Dr Warr of King's College, Kensington, and from Clara Pater, sister of the English essayist and critic Walter Pater (1839-94). Woolf was very fond of Clara and an exchange between them later became the basis for her short story 'Moments of Being: Slater's Pins Have No Points' (1928). Thoby boarded at Clifton College, Bristol, Adrian was a dayboy at Westminster School, and Vanessa attended Cope's School of Art. Thoby, and later Adrian, eventually went to Trinity College, Cambridge, and Vanessa undertook training in the visual arts (attending the Slade School of Fine Art for a while). From 1902 Virginia's tuition in classics passed from Clara Pater to the very capable Janet Case, one of the first graduates from Girton College, Cambridge, and a committed feminist. The sisters visited Cambridge a number of times to meet Thoby, whose friends there included Clive Bell 1881-1964), Lytton Strachey (1880- 1932), Leonard Woolf (1880-1969) and Saxon Sydney-Turner.
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It is important to recognise Woolf 's acknowledgement of her father's dually formative influence. The domestic dictator was also an intellectual who powerfully shaped her developing intellect, even if, at times, antithetically so: 'just as a dog takes a bite of grass, I take a bite of him medicinally
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The daughter of the literary biographer Leslie Stephen, and close friend of the innovative biographer of the Victorians, Lytton Strachey, Woolf herself put forward, in 'The New Biography' (1927) (reviewing work by another biographer acquaintance, Harold Nicolson), her own memorable theory of biography, encapsulated in her phrase 'granite and rainbow'. 'Truth' she envisions 'as something of granite-like solidity', and 'personality as something of rainbow-like intangibility', and 'the aim of biography', she proposes, 'is to weld these two into one seamless whole' (E4 473). The following short biographical account ofWoolf will attempt to keep to the basic granitelike facts that Woolf novices need to know, while also occasionally attending in brief to the more elusive, but equally relevant, matter of rainbow-like personality.
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The 1990s to the present: feminism, historicism, postcolonialism, ethics There has never been a better time to study Virginia Woolf. Woolf studies, in the 1990s and in the new millennium, has continued to flourish and diversify in all its numerous and proliferating aspects. In this recent period the topics that occupied earlier critics continue in new debates, on her modernism, her philosophy and ethics, her feminism and her aesthetics; and there have also been marked turns in new directions. Woolf and her work have been increasingly examined in the context of empire, drawing on the influential field of postcolonial studies; and, stimulated by the impetus of new historicism and cultural materialism, there have been new attempts to understand Woolf 's writing and persona in the context of the public and private spheres, in the present as well as in her own time. Woolf in the context of war and fascism, and in the contexts of modernity, science and technology, continue to exercise critics. Serious, sustained readings of lesbianism in Woolf 's writing and in her life have marked recent feminist interpretations in Woolf studies. Enormous advances have also been made in the study of Woolf 's literary and cultural influences and allusions. Numerous annotated and scholarly editions of Woolf 's works have been appearing since she briefly came out of copyright in 1991, accompanied by several more scholarly editions of her works in draft and holograph, encouraging further critical scrutiny of her compositional methods. There have been several important reference works on Woolf. Many biographies of Woolf and her circle have also appeared, renewing biographical criticism, along with a number of works concerned with Woolf in geographical context, from landscape and London sites to Woolf 's and her circle's many houses and holiday retreats.
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The 1970s and 1980s: feminism, androgyny, modernism, aesthetics In the 1970s and 1980s, Woolf studies expanded in a number of directions, most notably in relation to feminism. Critical interest in Woolf developed at the same time as feminism developed in related academic disciplines. In this period her writings became central to the theoretical framing of feminism, in particular to debates on Marxist and materialist feminism and to the emergent theories of androgyny. Both these areas of debate takeWoolf 's A Room of One's Own as a major point of reference... At the same time as feminist approaches to Woolf were developing and expanding, so, too, was the critical interest in her modernist theories and her formal aesthetics. Again, Woolf 's writing became central to critical and theoretical formulations on modernism... This period also saw considerable critical interest in the influence of the visual arts on Woolf 's writing, and particularly in the influence of the formalist theories of her Bloomsbury colleagues Roger Fry and Clive Bell.
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The 1950s and 1960s: philosophy, psychology, myth There was considerable critical interest in Woolf 's life and work in this period, fuelled by the publication of selected extracts from her diaries, in A Writer's Diary (1953), and in part by J. K. Johnstone's The Bloomsbury Group (1954). The main critical impetus was to establish a sense of a unifying aesthetic mode in Woolf 's writing, and in her works as a whole, whether through philosophy, psychoanalysis, formal aesthetics, or mythopoeisis. James Hafley identified a cosmic philosophy in his detailed analysis of her fiction, The Glass Roof: Virginia Woolf as Novelist (1954), and offered a complex account of her symbolism. Woolf featured in the influential The English Novel: A Short Critical History (1954) by Walter Allen who, with antique chauvinism, describes the Woolfian 'moment' in terms of 'short, sharp female gasps of ecstasy, an impression intensified by Mrs Woolf 's use of the semi-colon where the comma is ordinarily enough'. Psychological and Freudian interpretations were also emerging at this time, such as Joseph Blotner's 1956 study of mythic patterns in To the Lighthouse, an essay that draws on Freud, Jung and the myth of Persephone.4 And there were studies of Bergsonian writing that made much of Woolf, such as Shiv Kumar's Bergson and the Stream of Consciousness Novel (1962). The most important work of this period was by the French critic Jean Guiguet. His Virginia Woolf and Her Works (1962); translated by Jean Stewart, 1965) was the first full-length study ofWoolf 's oeuvre, and it stood for a long time as the standard work of critical reference in Woolf studies. Guiguet draws on the existentialism of Jean-Paul Sartre to put forward a philosophical reading of Woolf; and he also introduces a psychobiographical dimension in the non-self.' This existentialist approach did not foreground Woolf 's feminism, either. his heavy use of extracts from A Writer's Diary. He lays great emphasis on subjectivism in Woolf 's writing, and draws attention to her interest in the subjective experience of 'the moment.' Despite his philosophical apparatus, Guiguet refuses to categorise Woolf in terms of any one school, and insists that Woolf has indeed 'no pretensions to abstract thought: her domain is life, not ideology'. Her avoidance of conventional character makes Woolf for him a 'purely psychological' writer.5 Guiguet set a trend against materialist and historicist readings ofWoolf by his insistence on the primacy of the subjective and the psychological: 'To exist, for Virginia Woolf, meant experiencing that dizziness on the ridge between two abysses of the unknown, the self and
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Bloomsbury lost Fry, in 1934, and Lytton Strachey before him, in January 1932, to early deaths. The loss of Strachey was compounded by Carrington's suicide just two months after, in March. Another old friend, Ka Cox, died of a heart attack in 1938. But the death, in 1937, of Woolf 's nephew Julian, in the Spanish Civil War, was perhaps the bitterest blow. Vanessa found her sister her only comfort: 'I couldn't get on at all if it weren't for you' (VWB2 203). Julian, a radical thinker and aspiring writer, campaigned all his life against war, but he had to be dissuaded by his family from joining the International Brigade to fight Franco. Instead he worked as an ambulance driver, a role that did not prevent his death from shrapnel wounds. Woolf 's Three Guineas, she wrote to his mother, was written 'as an argument with him
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Woolf turned her back on a number of tokens of her rising eminence in the 1930s, including an offer of the Companion of Honour award, an invitation from Cambridge University to give the Clark lectures, and honorary doctorate degrees from Manchester University and Liverpool University. 'It is an utterly corrupt society, ' she wrote in her diary, '... and I will take nothing that it can give me
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In January 1912 Leonard proposed marriage. She was unable to answer directly and he pressed further in a passionate letter: 'It isn't, really it isnt, merely because you are so beautiful - though of course that is a large reason & so it should be - that I love you: it is your mind & your character - I have never known anyone like you in that - wont you believe me?