Virginia Woolf is one of the most important authors of the 20th century and an English writer who pioneered the use of consciousness as a narrative device. She was born on the 25th January 1882 into a well off family who lived in London, where she developed an interest in art and writing from her parents.
Despite this affluent life, she was not afforded the same education as her brothers and so she was home schooled and in 1895, sadly lost her mother, suffering a breakdown for the first time. She went on to attend King’s College London, studying classics, as well as taking advantage of her brothers and father, who attended Cambridge and held a library full of books.
She started writing in 1900 and after her father’s death a few years later, the family moved to Bloomsbury, a trigger for Woolf and her brothers to set up a literary society known as the Bloomsbury Group. She published her first novel in 1915 called The Voyage Out and followed this up with novels and essays including To the Lighthouse.
Sadly, she suffered from mental health issues throughout her life, leading to multiple suicide attempts and it was in 1941, that she died by drowning herself in the River Ouse. Woolf continued to inspire people across the world after her death, particularly feminists and her work has been translated into over 50 languages.
1. One has to secrete a jelly in which to slip quotations down people’s throats – and one always
secretes too much jelly.
2. Arrange whatever pieces come your way.
3. The beautiful seems right by force of beauty, and the feeble wrong because of weakness.
4. The beauty of the world, which is so soon to perish, has two edges, one of laughter, one of anguish, cutting the heart asunder
5. I read the book of Job last night, I don’t think God comes out well in it.
6. The man who is aware of himself is henceforward independent; and he is never bored, and life is only too short, and he is steeped through and through with a profound yet temperate happiness.
7. The older one grows, the more one likes indecency.
8. 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.
9. Fiction is like a spider’s web, attached ever so slightly perhaps, but still attached to life at all four corners. Often the attachment is scarcely perceptible
10. Masterpieces are not single and solitary births; they are the outcome of many years of thinking in common, of thinking by the body of the people, so that the experience of the mass is behind the single voice.
11. You send a boy to school in order to make friends – the right sort.
10. One of the signs of passing youth is the birth of a sense of fellowship with other human beings as we take our place among them.
12. That great Cathedral space which was childhood.
13. Nothing induces me to read a novel except when I have to make money by writing about it. I
14. If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people.
15. It is fatal to be a man or woman pure and simple: one must be a woman manly, or a man
16. I would venture to guess that Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman.
17. As a woman I have no country. As a woman my country is the whole world.
18. I thought how unpleasant it is to be locked out; and I thought how it is worse, perhaps, to be locked in.
19. One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.
20. Women have served all these centuries as looking glasses possessing the power of reflecting the figure of man at twice its natural size.
21. Thought and theory must precede all salutary action; yet action is nobler in itself than either thought or theory.
22. Literature is strewn with the wreckage of men who have minded beyond reason the opinions of others.
23. Humor is the first of the gifts to perish in a foreign tongue.
24. These are the soul’s changes. I don’t believe in ageing. I believe in forever altering one’s aspect to the sun. Hence my optimism.
25. Indeed, I would venture to guess that Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman.
26. One likes people much better when they’re battered down by a prodigious siege of misfortune than when they triumph.
27. When the shriveled skin of the ordinary is stuffed out with meaning, it satisfies the senses amazingly.
28. Somewhere, everywhere, now hidden, now apparent in what ever is written down, is the form of a human being. If we seek to know him, are we idly occupied?
29. Yet it is in our idleness, in our dreams, that the submerged truth sometimes comes to the top.
30. Great bodies of people are never responsible for what they do.
31. It is the nature of the artist to mind excessively what is said about him. Literature is strewn with the wreckage of men who have minded beyond reason the opinions of others.
32. A masterpiece is something said once and for all, stated, finished, so that it’s there complete in the mind, if only at the back
33. Rigid, the skeleton of habit alone upholds the human frame.
34. 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.
35. A good essay must have this permanent quality about it; it must draw its curtain round us, but it must be a curtain that shuts us in not out.
36. My own brain is to me the most unaccountable of machinery – always buzzing, humming, soaring roaring diving, and then buried in mud. And why? What’s this passion for?
37. The eyes of others our prisons; their thoughts our cages.
38. To depend upon a profession is a less odious form of slavery than to depend upon a father.
39. The poet gives us his essence, but prose takes the mold of the body and mind.
40. Once conform, once do what other people do because they do it, and a lethargy steals over all the finer nerves and faculties of the soul. She becomes all outer show and inward emptiness; dull,
callous, and indifferent.
41. For what Harley Street specialist has time to understand the body, let alone the mind or both in combination, when he is a slave to thirteen thousand a year?
42. The history of men’s opposition to women’s emancipation is more interesting perhaps than the story of that emancipation itself
43. Really I don’t like human nature unless all candied over with art.
44. We can best help you to prevent war not by repeating your words and following your methods but by finding new words and creating new methods.
45. Almost any biographer, if he respects facts, can give us much more than another fact to add to our collection. He can give us the creative fact; the fertile fact; the fact that suggests and engenders.
46. There is much to support the view that it is clothes that wear us, and not we, them; we may make them take the mould of arm or breast, but they mould our hearts, our brains, our tongues to their liking.
47. To enjoy freedom we have to control ourselves
48. Why are women… so much more interesting to men than men are to women
49. It is curious how instinctively one protects the image of oneself from idolatry or any other handling that could make it ridiculous, or too unlike the original to be believed any longer
50. It’s not catastrophes, murders, deaths, diseases, that age and kill us; it’s the way people look and laugh, and run up the steps of omnibuses
51. Mental fight means thinking against the current, not with it. It is our business to puncture gas bags and discover the seeds of truth
52. A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction
53. We are nauseated by the sight of trivial personalities decomposing in the eternity of print
54. There can be no two opinions as to what a highbrow is. He is the man or woman of thoroughbred intelligence who rides his mind at a gallop across country in pursuit of an idea
55. If you insist upon fighting to protect me, or ‘our’ country, let it be understood soberly and rationally between us that you are fighting to gratify a sex instinct which I cannot share; to procure
benefits where I have not shared and probably will not share
56. It is far harder to kill a phantom than a reality
57. Nothing has really happened until it has been recorded
58. You cannot find peace by avoiding life.
59. Odd how the creative power at once brings the whole universe to order.
60. It is far more difficult to murder a phantom than a reality