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Biography of Virginia Woolf

Photo of 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.

Education:

Educated at home by her father.

Timeline of Virginia Woolf:

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

1890: The family spend 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 starts the “Hyde Park Gate News”, a weekly newspaper which contains her first works of fiction.

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

1897: Stella marries Jack Hills but also dies suddenly on return from her honeymoon. Her eldest true sister Vanessa then takes over the house. Her father had an extensive library and Virginia was allowed to use its full range and she is 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 dies and Virginia has her second nervous breakdown. Vanessa taked the family to a new house at 46 Gordon Square, Bloomsbury, London. Virginia starts writing reviews for The Guardian newspaper.

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

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

1907: Her sister Vanessa marries Clive Bell. Virginia and her surviving brother Adrian move to 29 Fitzroy Square, Bloomsbury where they continue 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 moves to 38 Brunswick Square. She begins renting small houses near Lewes in Sussex particularly Asheham House.

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

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

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

1916: Vanessa Bell begins renting Charleston Farmhouse in Sussex near Asheham House.

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

1919: The Woolfs buy 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 are seen as experimental at the time.

1922: Their printing work becomes a full scale printing business in the shape of the Hogarth Press and Virginia publishes most of her works with Hogarth. This Company goes on to publish other experimental writers including T.S. Eliot. Her first experimental novel “Jacob’s Room” is 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 move 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 leads to the publication of “Orlando”, a tale of a poet who travels through four centuries changing sex on the way.

1929: The talks she gives to Women’s Colleges at Cambridge University inspire “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 if 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. The couple move to Monk’s House permanently when their London Home is 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:

59.

Written Works:

1915: “”The Voyage Out.”
1919: “Night and Day.”
1922: “Jacob’s Room”
1925: “Mrs Dalloway”
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.”

Marriage:

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:

SUSSEX:

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.

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