Virginia Woolf's narrator consults books about women in the reading room of the British museum, in the area of London known as Bloomsbury.
Bloomsbury is situated in the southern part of the London Borough of Camden. It is home to a great number of academic institutions and hospitals, including the University of London Senate House Library, the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), Great Ormond Street Hospital and University College Hospital.
It is renowned for its attractive garden squares, such as Russell Square, Tavistock Square, and Gordon Square. Virginia Woolf lived at 46 Gordon Square between 1904 and 1907, along with her sister Vanessa, and brothers Adrian and Thoby.
Many of the intellectuals, writers and artists who formed the Bloomsbury Group – of which Virginia Woolf and other members of her family were prominent members – lived in this part of London in the early 20th century.
When Woolf's narrator leaves the British Museum she walks home through the Admiralty Arch. and along Whitehall to reach her 'home by the river'. This suggests that she lived either in, or in the vicinity of, the area illustrated by the map below in the London Borough known as the City of Westminster:
Througout the text, there are incidental references to the street-life of London during the late 1920s:
On her way to the museum, for example, the narrator notices the 'open coal-holes, down which sacks were showering'; the 'four-wheeled cabs' and the 'hoarse-voiced' costermongers with their barrows;
When the narrator returns to her home in her own 'little street', we have another glimpse of the life of the 'average' street in London: children from affluent families being cared for by nursemaids; men delivering coal again (the burning of which would, of course, contribute to the London smog which was such a feature of the period); the small shopkeeper counting her takings; the house-painter.
We get further hints about London life of the period in the description of the narrator waking the following day, when we hear about the errand boy, the dog-walkers, the taxi-cab hailers and the woman in a 'splendid fur coat' with a bunch of parma violets.
Take a trip around London in 1927!