Letters of Virginia Woolf

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Letters of Virginia Woolf

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Edited: Sep 3, 2012, 6:15pm

The Flight of the Mind – Collected Letters 1, 1888-1912 (Virginia Woolf) (30/08/12) *****

Virginia in her own words from the age of 6 to 30, just prior to marrying Leonard Woolf, so here we are listening to Virginia Stephen.

During these years she had lost both parents and a brother, suffered from two deep depressions and made at least one attempt at suicide. Begun publishing essays and reviews, and started writing her first novel, The Voyage Out.

There is much fun and frivolity in many of the letters at this time. Much playfulness and teasing with her female friends, many of whom are older than she, and in some senses probably surrogate mothers. There are also wonderful letters to her sister Vanessa as the volume progresses, she is both mother and a kind of other half or twin to Virginia, and would remain so for most of her life.

She reads avidly, travels, begins to make friends with the friends of her brothers who would also become the foundation of the Bloomsbury group with she and her siblings. In her mid 20s she becomes increasingly interested in her domestic arrangements, enjoying creating homes for herself, both in her rooms in Bloomsbury, and in Sussex, which would remain her country idyll.

She was generous with her time, loyal to her friends, enjoyed visiting and being visited, often inviting friends to stay with her in the country, and even allowing them to use her home when she was away. She also liked solitude, and often travelled and stayed alone.

About the loses during this time, as there was some short time between Leslie Stephen’s diagnosis and death, Virginia appeared to deal with its prospect (and gave daily updates to some friends on his state of health and mind) with great pragmatism. But for me even more extraordinary, was how she kept the death of her brother, who died of typhoid, from her close friend Violet Dickinson, who was also suffering from typhoid (and survived), and who found out via a comment in a magazine only some months later. Virginia gives absolutely nothing away in her letters, giving reports of Thoby’s ups and downs of recovery, of which she claims to have no doubt. Was she in a way refusing to acknowledge her loss herself, or was this a rehearsal for the writer she was to become. A fiction.

Clearly she did it to protect her friend from the knowledge or idea that she too may die of typhoid, but what a selfless thing for a young woman of 24 to do.

As with most people, there is a shift, a growing up perhaps, a stronger voice after the death of her father. She is no longer someone’s daughter, but an independent individual. Her sister marries and she is interested in wondering what it would be like to marry, she assumes she will both marry and have children. As the volume ends, Leonard Woolf has returned from Ceylon and they become reacquainted.

Dec 3, 2012, 10:34pm

Well written and well said Caroline.

Yes I do too think she was keeping Violet away from the terminus aspect of Thoby's condition and subsequent demise . Very Selfless.

I sensed Vanessa pulling away from Virginia and Adrian ( or was she running away ? ) after Thoby's death ,.. believe that's why she married Clive . Do you feel that ?