The distinct dislike LMS holds for Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) in the novel is reflective of more than a few within her social circles, although she did tend to divide opinion.
Adeline Virginia Woolf was however, of profound importance in the literary world and authored many famous and still highly esteemed books, including ‘Mrs Dalloway’, ‘To the Lighthouse’ and ‘A Room of One’s Own’.
She also wrote essays and short stories and was/is still regarded as a great modernist writer – one of the best.
Woolf’s success in literature was marred by her many personal problems however, which eventually got the better of the young author in 1941, when depression finally overwhelmed her and she walked into the river near her home, her overcoat weighed down with stones, and drowned. Her body would not be recovered until April 18, despite the tragic incident occurring on March 28.
Woolf’s mental instability began with the sudden death of her mother when she was just 13 years old, followed by the death of her half-sister two years later. Her father’s death some years later was seemingly the final straw for Virginia and she was institutionalised for a short period. Sexual abuse from her half-brothers would also have contributed to her problems.
During her career, Woolf was a member of the Bloomsbury Group – an intellectual group of writers and artists including Rupert Brooke, Lytton Strachey and Leonard Woolf…who later became Virginia’s husband.
Woolf’s literary style is highly regarded as amongst the very best – like James Joyce, she used the stream of consciousness to convey narrative and her descriptive and perhaps rather flowery language evoked both admiration and contempt. Some critics also said her subject matter was too upper class and detached from reality.
Virginia Woolf married Leonard Sidney Woolf (1880-1969), a fellow author and a publisher, who had more than this in common with his wife…he too suffered from mental illness in a fairly significant way.
The pair purchased a printing press – the famous Hogarth Press – in 1917 and as Virginia’s condition grew steadily worse toward the end of her life, her husband devoted himself to caring for her. It was not enough however, to save her from herself.