Virginia Woolf (1882–1941). Twentieth-century novelist, essayist, and publisher, perhaps most famous for her experiments with stream-of-consciousness narration. She was born in London, where she grew up in a house full of books. Starting at age 6, she was subjected to repeated sexual abuse by her stepbrother. She lost her mother in 1895 and her father, the writer Leslie Stephen, about a decade later. After their father’s death, she and her three siblings moved to Bloomsbury, a then unfashionable neighborhood, where they began to assemble the community of intellectuals and artists later known as the Bloomsbury Group. The group’s members included novelist E. M. Forster, economist John Maynard Keynes, and writer Leonard Woolf, whom Virginia married in 1912. Leonard Woolf was a famously devoted husband, working with Virginia to found the Hogarth Press and helping her to cope with episodes of depression.
Virginia Woolf’s initial publications were book reviews—these began to appear in 1905—and she produced her first novel, The Voyage Out, in 1915. Her work is generally said to become more ambitious, and more experimental, with the publication of Jacob’s Room in 1922. Her major works of fiction include Mrs. Dalloway (1925); To the Lighthouse (1927), which contains a moving portrait of her parents; Orlando (1928); and The Waves (1931). Her remarkable intellectual productivity is now, unfortunately, overshadowed by images of her mental instability. Although it is true that she took her own life, drowning herself in the River Ouse, it is also true that in her lifetime she published 9 novels, wrote 400 essays, and filled 30 volumes of a diary. Once regarded as somewhat less substantial than her contemporaries, she now stands alongside James Joyce and D. H. Lawrence as a major figure in British Modernism and one of the greatest of all English novelists.
[Courtesy: Professor Timothy Spurgin]