Thursday, March 28, 2013


Virginia Woolf committed suicide on this day.
"She leaves notes for her husband and sister, then walks to a nearby river. She selects a large stone from the bank, places it her pocket, and wades into the water."
" A lively, witty, productive, creative person, whose life was overshadowed by her death. She wrote three of her best books in the space of just a few years in the 1920's: Mrs. Dalloway (1925), To the Lighthouse (1927), and Orlando (1928)."
states The Writers Almanac.
But that statement, given her continuing presence as a Literary phenomenon, and object of continual study, is untrue.  Her death has not overshadowed her life.
There are multitudes of theories, from, that her 'Illness' or 'madness' overcame reason,
to that she was simply answering a dare.
Who truly knows why, isn't here to tell.
Her life story, her words in fiction, essay, journals and letters
hint only at the mind behind the deed.
(see The Hours or read "Mrs Dalloway") 
Friends of hers certainly had notions,
but no opinion can be conclusive.
"Each has his past shut in him like the leaves of a book known to him by his heart, and his friends can only read the title."
Virginia Woolf 
by Hermione Lee.
"Not for nothing did Freud, on the only occasion when they met
in 1939, give her a narcissus."
Read the
First Chapter
"This biography brings out Woolf's underlying sanity.
and restores her human dimensions."
"Anyone can be a barbarian;
it requires a terrible effort to remain a civilized man."
Leonard Woolf, A Biography 
by Victoria Glendinning
"Leonard Woolf led an exemplary life, rich in spite of its adversities (in addition to Virginia, two of his siblings and a sister-in-law committed suicide, and another sister was mentally unstable).  Occasionally irascible in his business dealings and persnickety in his personal affairs, grounded in the mundane, he was not glamorous or histrionic in the way of his wife, or of many of their circle. His life was, in some ways, willfully ordinary: even on the day of Virginia’s disappearance, he “entered in his diary the cumulative mileage of his car, plus the mileage for that day,” and on the afternoon of her cremation, he went to have his hair cut. And yet, as Glendinning notes, the page of his diary on March 28, 1941, “is obscured by a brownish-yellow stain which has been rubbed or wiped. It could be tea or coffee or tears. The smudge is unique in all his years of neat diary-keeping.” In recording these small traces, Victoria Glendinning has given us the measure - noble, engaged and quietly passionate - of the man."
That Smudge really moved me.

Her Suicide Letter
"The Hours"
"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness
to the end."
For free readable works by and about her, with an audio component
if you just want to listen, go to

All photographs are screen shots from the films noted herein.


Minerva Black the shoppe keeping cat said...

Thank you for remembering Virginia, it is a wonderful piece. I was just thinking of her and have been haunted by the statue of her which stands near the water at her house. I think so often artistic genius has an undercurrent of melancholy. I like to think she is in a better place and knew what she left behind would stay with us for all time. Minerva ~

Ms. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ms. said...

returned wit typo corrected comment deleted above :-)

Dear Minerva--We know so much more now about temperment, neural pathways and the brain body connection. But that might or might not have been helpful to Virginia. We can't know. Her time you will remember (and the documentary clearly shows, was war time. Here in America, except for 9/ll, we haven't experienced a bombarded City under siege. She did and was terribly depressed as the war commenced. However, her childhood, set as it was in the oppressive stifle of Victorian England, after a brief happy time at the beginning, was rather miraculous. Despite all the strictures, Virginia was a survivor, and it was miraculous really that her character survived as long as it did, and produced as much good work as it did. Each of us is, after all the product of a cultural and genetic history we had no control over. Each one is tasked with taking that material and making the best of it. She did well. The biography by Hermione Lee is useful in revealing some of the particulars of her history in a way I haven't seen elsewhere.

By the way, i cannot comment on your wonderful blog because blogger will only allow me to comment on blogs with pop up windows (who knows why)...and you seem to have no way to email you either. So if you return to see this comment--do email me (address is in the left column (scroll down). Thank you for visiting again.