Virginia Woolf

About the Author

Adeline Virginia Stephen was born in London on 25th January 1882, the third of four children of Leslie Stephen, a distinguished man of letters, and Julia Jackson Duckworth, a widow. Both her parents had children from previous marriages, and she grew up in a large active family, which spent long summer holidays in St Ives. Educated at home, she had unlimited access to her father’s library; she always intended to be a writer.

In 1895, her mother died unexpectedly, and soon after this Virginia suffered her first nervous breakdown; she was to be beset by mental illness throughout her life. Following the death of their father in 1904, the four orphaned Stephens moved to Bloomsbury, where their home became the centre of what came to be known as the Bloomsbury Group. This circle included Clive Bell (whom Virginia’s sister Vanessa married in 1907), Lytton Strachey, John Maynard Keynes, and Leonard Woolf, whom Virginia was to marry in 1912, after his return from seven years’ public service in Ceylon.

Virginia completed her first novel, The Voyage Out, in 1913, but her subsequent severe breakdown delayed its publication until 1915, by which time the Woolfs had settled at Hogarth House in Richmond. As a therapeutic hobby for Virginia, they bought a small hand press, on which they set and printed several short works by themselves and their friends. The first publication of The Hogarth Press appeared in 1917, and thereafter it gradually developed into a considerable enterprise, at first publishing works by then relatively unknown writers, such as T.S. Eliot, Katherine Mansfield and E.M. Forster, as well as the Woolfs themselves.

While living at Richmond, Virginia wrote her second, rather orthodox novel, Night and Day (1919), but was concurrently composing more experimental pieces such as Kew Gardens (1919) and Monday or Tuesday (1921). In 1920 the Woolfs bought Monk’s House in Rodmell, and there Virginia began her third novel, Jacob’s Room (1922). This was followed by Mrs Dalloway (1925), To the Lighthouse (1927) and The Waves (1931), and these three novels established her as one of the leading writers of the Modernist movement. Orlando, a highly imaginative ‘biography’ inspired by her involvement with Vita Sackville-West, was published in 1928. The Years appeared in 1937, and she had more or less completed her final novel, Between the Acts, when, unable to face another attack of mental illness, she drowned herself in the River Ouse on 28 March 1941.