Biography of Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf was a twentieth century novelist and member of the Bloomsbury Group.

When and Where was she Born?

25th January 1882, London, England.

Family Background:

Virginia Woolf was christened Adeline Virginia Stephen. She was the daughter of Sir Leslie Stephen, writer and first editor of the Dictionary of National Biography and Julia. Both parents had been married before. Sir Leslie to one of William Makepeace Thackeray’s daughters. Both had children already.


Educated at home by her father.

Timeline of Virginia Woolf:

1883: Virginia lived at Number 22 Hyde Park Gate, Kensington, London with the seven other children of the extended family which had been made up by both her parents previous marriages.

1890: The family spent many long holidays at this period at St. Ives in Cornwall and it was to become the setting of many of her novels and inspired “To the Lighthouse”.

1891: She started the “Hyde Park Gate News” a weekly newspaper which contained her first works of fiction.

1895: Death of her Mother. Virginia suffered her first mental breakdown. Her half sister Stella took on the running of the household.

1897: Stella married Jack Hills but also died suddenly on return from her honeymoon. Her eldest true sister Vanessa then took over the house. Her father had an extensive library and Virginia was allowed to use its full range and she was determined to become a writer herself one day. Although Virginia never went to School, Vanessa trained to be a painter and her two full brothers went to Cambridge. Thoby was to meet Leonard Woolf, Clive Bell, Lytton Strachy and Maynard Keynes who were all to figure in their lives later on.

1904: Her father died and Virginia had her second nervous breakdown. Vanessa took the family to a new house at 46 Gordon Square, Bloomsbury, London. Virginia started writing reviews for The Guardian.

1905: Virginia Woolf started to write for the Times Literary Supplement.

1906: Thoby died of Typhoid following a trip to Greece.

1907: Her sister Vanessa married Clive Bell. Virginia and her surviving brother Adrian moved to 29 Fitzroy Square Bloomsbury where they continued Thoby’s Thursday evening discussion groups for friends.

29 Fitzroy Square
29 Fitzroy Square, London where Virginia Woolf lived with her husband  (copyright Anthony Blagg)
Detail of plaque
Detail of plaque

1911: Virginia moved to 38 Brunswick Square. She began renting small houses near Lewes in Sussex particularly Asheham House.

1912: Leonard Woolf returned on leave from the Ceylon Civil Service and almost at once proposed to Virginia. Eventually she agreed. They marry on 10th August at St. Pancras Registry Office.

1913: Virginia completed her first novel “The Voyage Out” which she had begun five years earlier. She had another severe nervous breakdown so the work was not published until 1915.

1915: Her first attempt at suicide. The couple rented a house in Richmond on Thames.

1916: Vanessa Bell began renting Charleston Farmhouse in Sussex nearby Asheham House.

1917: The Woolf’s, now living in Richmond Surrey, bought a small hand printing press so that they could take up printing principally as therapy for Virginia.

1919: The Woolfs bought Monks House in the village of Rodmell in East Sussex as a holiday home.

1921: Publication of her first collection of short stories. “Monday or Tuesday” which were seen as experimental for the day.

1922: Their printing work became a full scale printing business in the shape of the Hogarth Press and Virginia published most of her works with Hogarth. This Company went on to publish other experimental writers including T.S. Eliot. Her first experimental novel “Jacob’s Room” was published.

1923: Publication of “Mr Bennet and Mrs Brown” in the Athenaeum” an attack on the aesthetic of the “Georgian Novelists” such as Arnold Bennett, John Galsworthy and H.G. Wells.

1924: The Woolf’s moved back to London to live at 52 Tavistock Square.

1925: Publication of “Mrs Dalloway”.

1927: Publication of “To the Lighthouse”

1928: Her involvement with Vita Sackville-West led to the publication of “Orlando”, a tale of a poet who travels through four centuries changing sex on the way.

1929: Talks she gave to Women’s Colleges at Cambridge University inspired “A Room of One’s Own”, which is still regarded as a feminist classic and states that a woman should have money and space of her own is she is to flourish as a writer.

1931: Publication of “The Waves”. The 1930’s were a time of worsening health and depression for Virginia.

1933: Publication of “Flush”, a fictional Biography of Elizabeth Barret Browning’s dog.

1937: Publication of “The Years”

1938: Publication of Three Guineas”.

1939: Beginning of the Second World War.

1940: Publication of a biography of her friend Roger Fry. Moved to Monk’s House permanently when their London Home was bombed out in the Blitz.

When and Where Did she Die?

28th March 1941. She drowned herself in the River Ouse after weighting her pockets with stones, near Rodmell, East Sussex, England.

Age at Death:


Written Works:

1915: “”The Journey Out.”
1919: “Night and Day.”
1927: ““To the Lighthouse.”
1928: “Orlando.”
1929: “”A Room of One’s Own.”
1931: “”The Waves.”
1938: “”The Years.”
(1941):“ “Between the Acts.”
(1942):“ “The Death of the Moth.”
(1947): “”The Moment.”


10th August 1912: To Leonard Woolf at St. Pancras Registry Office.

Site of Grave:

Her ashes were buried in the garden of Monk’s House, Rodmell, Sussex, England, under one of a pair of elm trees.

Places of Interest:


Rodmell: Monk’s House is now owned by the National Trust.

Further Information:

Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain, c/o Sir Charles Fairhaven, Charles Lane, Banks, Southport, PR9 8H5.