Virginia Woolf's only autobiographical writing is to be found in this collection of five unpublished pieces. Despite Quentin Bell's comprehensive biography and numerous recent studies of her, the author's own account of her early life holds new fascination - for its unexpected detail, the strength of its emotion, and its clear-sighted judgement of Victorian values. In 'Reminiscences' Virginia Woolf focuses on the death of her mother, 'the greatest disaster that could happen', and its effect on her father, the demanding patriarch who took a high toll of the women in his household. She surveys some of the same ground in 'A Sketch of the Past', the most important memoir in this collection, which she wrote with greater detachment and supreme command of her art shortly before her death. Readers will be struck by the extent to which she drew on these early experiences for her novels, as she tells how she exorcised the obsessive presence of her mother by writing To the Lighthouse. The last three papers were composed to be read to the Memoir Club, a postwar regrouping of Bloomsbury, which exacted absolute candour of its members. Virginia Woolf's contributions were not only bold but also original and amusing. She describes George Duckworth's passionate efforts to launch the Stephen girls; gives her own version of 'Old Bloomsbury'; and, with wit and some malice, reflects on her connections with titled society.
'This is by far the most important book about Virginia Woolf that has appeared since her death.' Angus Wilson, Observer
Virginia Woolf was born in London in 1882, the daughter of Sir Leslie Stephen, first editor of The Dictionary of National Biography. After his death in 1904 Virginia and her sister, the painter Vanessa Bell, moved to Bloomsbury and became the centre of 'The Bloomsbury Group'. This informal collective of artists and writers which included Lytton Strachey and Roger Fry, exerted a powerful influence over early twentieth-century British culture. In 1912 Virginia married Leonard Woolf, a writer and social reformer. Three years later, her first novel The Voyage Out was published, followed by Night and Day (1919) and Jacob's Room (1922). These first novels show the development of Virginia Woolf's distinctive and innovative narrative style. It was during this time that she and Leonard Woolf founded The Hogarth Press with the publication of the co-authored Two Stories in 1917, hand-printed in the dining room of their house in Surrey. Between 1925 and 1931 Virginia Woolf produced what are now regarded as her finest masterpieces, from Mrs Dalloway (1925) to the poetic and highly experimental novel The Waves (1931). She also maintained an astonishing output of literary criticism, short fiction, journalism and biography, including the playfully subversive Orlando (1928) and A Room of One's Own (1929) a passionate feminist essay. This intense creative productivity was often matched by periods of mental illness, from which she had suffered since her mother's death in 1895. On 28 March 1941, a few months before the publication of her final novel, Between the Acts, Virginia Woolf committed suicide.