Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Virginia Woolf

Most people know Virginia Woolf. Of course most people know the bare minimum; she was a feminist writer who killed herself. If you know a little more you know she was a feminist writer who was part of the Bloomsbury Group who killed herself with rocks. This is ingrained by high school curriculum and is a simplification of a life filled with brilliance and madness. Virginia Stephens was born into a blended household, with two boys and a girl from her mother's previous marriage to Herbert Duckworth, and a girl from her father's previous marriage to William Mackepeace Thackeray's youngest daughter, Minny. Her parents went on to have four more children together, including her, despite attempts to curtail their family at five children after the birth of Virginia's older sister Vanessa. Over the years it has become accepted knowledge that Virginia's accusations of sexual abuse at the hands of her half-brothers wasn't a product of her active imagination and probably fed into her mental collapses, the first of which happened when she was thirteen with the death of her mother.

She would suffer mental collapses many more times, the final resulting in her taking her life. Yet despite the fact that the death of her father triggered one of these collapses, it also resulted in her liberation. After his death the family moved to Bloomsbury where they lived as they wished, often holding salons for her brothers' college friends. They became known as the Bloomsbury Group, compromised of writers, philosophers, artists, intellectuals, friends, and lovers who's "prime objects in life were love, the creation and enjoyment of aesthetic experience and the pursuit of knowledge." Her first book, The Voyage Out, was published in 1915 when she was 33, under her half-brother's imprint, Gerald Duckworth and Company. But her second book, Mrs. Dalloway, published in 1925 is easily her most famous. This was printed by Hogarth Press, a publishing house that Virginia established with her husband Leonard in 1917. Though married to Leonard until her death her great love was Vita Sackville-West. Though all the love and family in the world couldn't help her with the depression she felt with the onset of the second world war, and in 1941, at the age of 59, she committed suicide.       


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