Virginia Woolf is one of the most emblematic personalities in English Literature. Her most popular works, ‘’Mrs. Dalloway” and ”To the Lighthouse”, as well as pioneering feminist texts, ‘A Room of One’s Own’ are some of the best examples of Victorian literature.
Born in the ideal Victorian family, Adeline Virginia Stephen was raised by free thinking parents. Her father, Leslie Stephen, was an eminent literary figure. Her mother, Julia Jackson, possessed great beauty and a reputation for saintly self-sacrifice.
When Virginia was still a kid, the family would move often from their house in London, to the Talland House on Cornwall Coast. Virginia would write recollections of her life between the city and the countryside from a small age. She stopped writing ‘family news’ when her mother died in 1895 at age 49. Virginia was 13 at the time.
She was just developing from depression when, in 1897, her half sister Stella Duckworth died at age 28, an event Virginia noted in her diary as “impossible to write of.” Then in 1904, after her father died, Virginia had a nervous breakdown.
While still dealing with her loses, she pursued studies at the Ladies’ Department of King’s College. She studied Greek, German and Latin. After the death of her father, her sister Vanesa moved the family in a house in the Bloomsbury area of London. There, young Virginia had the chance to meet with the high class of London. Moreover, many important writers and artists were visiting the Stephens. One of them was Clive Bell, who later on married her sister Vanesa. The group became famous in 1910 for the Dreadnought Hoax. This was a practical joke in which members of the group dressed up as a delegation of Ethiopian royals. Virginia herself disguised as a bearded man.
In these circle, Virginia met essayist Leonard Woolf, whom she married later on. Few years before marrying Leonard, Virginia had begun working on her first novel. The original title was ”Melymbrosia”. After nine years and numerous drafts, it was released in 1915 as ”The Voyage Out”. The Woolf bought the well-established Hogarth press some time later. From there they published their work. They also published works of Sigmund Freud, Katharine Mansfield and T.S. Eliot.
In 1919 Virginia publishes her second novel, ”Night and Day”. Her third novel ”Jacob’s Room” was published by Hogarth in 1922. Based on her brother Thoby, it was considered a significant departure from her earlier novels with its modernist elements.
Her fourth novel, ”Mrs. Dalloway”, received mesmerizing reviews and made her immediately famous. The story interweaved interior monologues and raised issues of feminism, mental illness and homosexuality in post-World War I England. There is also a 1997 film adaptation.
Throughout her career, Woolf spoke regularly at colleges and universities, wrote dramatic letters, moving essays and self-published a long list of short stories. By her mid-forties, she had established herself as an intellectual, an innovative and influential writer and pioneering feminist.
Sadly, on March 28, 1941, Virginia Woolf, unable to cope with her depression, filled in the pockets of her coat with stones and walked into the River Ouse. The authorities found her body three weeks later.
Woolf’s work resonated again with a new generation of readers during the feminist movement of the 1970s. Woolf remains one of the most influential authors of the 20th century.