When Lord Mahon edited the letters of Lord Chesterfield he thought it necessary to warn the intending reader that they are “by no means fitted for early or indiscriminate perusal”. Only “those people whose understandings are fixed and whose principles are matured” can, so his Lordship said, read them with impunity. But that was in 1845. And 1845 looks a little distant now. It seems to us now the age of enormous houses without any bathrooms. Men smoke in the kitchen after the cook has gone to bed. Albums lie upon drawing-room tables. The curtains are very thick and the women are very pure. But the eighteenth century also has undergone a change. To us in 1930 it looks less strange, less remote than those early Victorian years. Its civilisation seems more rational and more complete than the civilisation of Lord Mahon and his contemporaries. Then at any rate a small group of highly educated people lived up to their ideals. If the world was smaller it was also more compact; it knew its own mind; it had its own standards. Its poetry is affected by the same security. When we read the Rape of the Lock we seem to find ourselves in an age so settled and so circumscribed that masterpieces were possible. Then, we say to ourselves, a poet could address himself whole-heartedly to his task and keep his mind upon it, so that the little boxes on a lady’s dressing-table are fixed among the solid possessions of our imaginations. A game at cards or a summer’s boating party upon the Thames has power to suggest the same beauty and the same sense of things vanishing that we receive from poems aimed directly at our deepest emotions. And just as the poet could spend all his powers upon a pair of scissors and a lock of hair, so too, secure in his world and its values, the aristocrat could lay down precise laws for the education of his son. In that world also there was a certainty, a security that we are now without. What with one thing and another times have changed. We can now read Lord Chesterfield’s letters without blushing, or, if we do blush, we blush in the twentieth century at passages that caused Lord Mahon no discomfort whatever.
When the letters begin, Philip Stanhope, Lord Chesterfield’s natural son by a Dutch governess, was a little boy of seven. And if we are to make any complaint against the father’s moral teaching, it is that the standard is too high for such tender years. “Let us return to oratory, or the art of speaking well; which should never be entirely out of our thoughts”, he writes to the boy of seven. “A man can make no figure without it in Parliament, or the Church, or in the law”, he continues, as if the little boy were already considering his career. It seems, indeed, that the father’s fault, if fault it be, is one common to distinguished men who have not themselves succeeded as they should have done and are determined to give their children — and Philip was an only child — the chances that they have lacked. Indeed, as the letters go on one may suppose that Lord Chesterfield wrote as much to amuse himself by turning over the stores of his experience, his reading, his knowledge of the world, as to instruct his son. The letters show an eagerness, an animation, which prove that to write to Philip was not a task, but a delight. Tired, perhaps, with the duties of office and disillusioned with its disappointments, he takes up his pen and, in the relief of free communication at last, forgets that his correspondent is, after all, only a schoolboy who cannot understand half the things that his father says to him. But, even so, there is nothing to repel us in Lord Chesterfield’s preliminary sketch of the unknown world. He is all on the side of moderation, toleration, ratiocination. Never abuse whole bodies of people, he counsels; frequent all churches, laugh at none; inform yourself about all things. Devote your mornings to study, your evenings to good society. Dress as the best people dress, behave as they behave, never be eccentric, egotistical, or absent-minded. Observe the laws of proportion, and live every moment to the full.
So, step by step, he builds up the figure of the perfect man — the man that Philip may become, he is persuaded, if he will only — and here Lord Chesterfield lets fall the words which are to colour his teaching through and through — cultivate the Graces. These ladies are, at first, kept discreetly in the background. It is well that the boy should be indulged in fine sentiments about women and poets to begin with. Lord Chesterfield adjures him to respect them both. “For my own part, I used to think myself in company as much above me when I was with Mr. Addison and Mr. Pope, as if I had been with all the Princes in Europe”, he writes. But as time goes on the Virtues are more and more taken for granted. They can be left to take care of themselves. But the Graces assume tremendous proportions. The Graces dominate the life of man in this world. Their service cannot for an instant be neglected. And the service is certainly exacting. For consider what it implies, this art of pleasing. To begin with, one must know how to come into a room and then how to go out again. As human arms and legs are notoriously perverse, this by itself is a matter needing considerable dexterity. Then one must be dressed so that one’s clothes seem perfectly fashionable without being new or striking; one’s teeth must be perfect; one’s wig beyond reproach; one’s finger-nails cut in the segment of a circle; one must be able to carve, able to dance, and, what is almost as great an art, able to sit gracefully in a chair. These things are the alphabet of the art of pleasing. We now come to speech. It is necessary to speak at least three languages to perfection. But before we open our lips we must take a further precaution — we must be on our guard never to laugh. Lord Chesterfield himself never laughed. He always smiled. When at length the young man is pronounced capable of speech he must avoid all proverbs and vulgar expressions; he must enunciate clearly and use perfect grammar; he must not argue; he must not tell stories; he must not talk about himself. Then, at last, the young man may begin to practise the finest of the arts of pleasing — the art of flattery. For every man and every woman has some prevailing vanity. Watch, wait, pry, seek out their weakness, “and you will then know what to bait your hook with to catch them”. For that is the secret of success in the world.
It is at this point, such is the idiosyncrasy of our age, that we begin to feel uneasy. Lord Chesterfield’s views upon success are far more questionable than his views upon love. For what is to be the prize of this endless effort and self-abnegation? What do we gain when we have learnt to come into rooms and to go out again; to pry into people’s secrets; to hold our tongues and to flatter, to forsake the society of low-born people which corrupts and the society of clever people which perverts? What is the prize which is to reward us? It is simply that we shall rise in the world. Press for a further definition, and it amounts perhaps to this: one will be popular with the best people. But if we are so exacting as to demand who the best people are we become involved in a labyrinth from which there is no returning. Nothing exists in itself. What is good society? It is the society that the best people believe to be good. What is wit? It is what the best people think to be witty. All value depends upon somebody else’s opinion. For it is the essence of this philosophy that things have no independent existence, but live only in the eyes of other people. It is a looking-glass world, this, to which we climb so slowly; and its prizes are all reflections. That may account for our baffled feeling as we shuffle, and shuffle vainly, among these urbane pages for something hard to lay our hands upon. Hardness is the last thing we shall find. But, granted the deficiency, how much that is ignored by sterner moralists is here seized upon, and who shall deny, at least while Lord Chesterfield’s enchantment is upon him, that these imponderable qualities have their value and these shining Graces have their radiance? Consider for a moment what the Graces have done for their devoted servant, the Earl.
Here is a disillusioned politician, who is prematurely aged, who has lost his office, who is losing his teeth, who, worst fate of all, is growing deafer day by day. Yet he never allows a groan to escape him. He is never dull; he is never boring; he is never slovenly. His mind is as well groomed as his body. Never for a second does he “welter in an easy-chair”. Private though these letters are, and apparently spontaneous, they play with such ease in and about the single subject which absorbs them that it never becomes tedious or, what is still more remarkable, never becomes ridiculous. It may be that the art of pleasing has some connection with the art of writing. To be polite, considerate, controlled, to sink one’s egotism, to conceal rather than to obtrude one’s personality, may profit the writer even as they profit the man of fashion.
Certainly there is much to be said in favour of the training, however we define it, which helped Lord Chesterfield to write his Characters. The little papers have the precision and formality of some old-fashioned minuet. Yet the symmetry is so natural to the artist that he can break it where he likes; it never becomes pinched and formal, as it would in the hands of an imitator. He can be sly; he can be witty; he can be sententious, but never for an instant does he lose his sense of time, and when the tune is over he calls a halt. “Some succeeded, and others burst” he says of George the First’s mistresses: the King liked them fat. Again, “He was fixed in the house of lords, that hospital of incurables.” He smiles: he does not laugh. Here the eighteenth century, of course, came to his help. Lord Chesterfield, though he was polite to everything, even to the stars and Bishop Berkeley’s philosophy, firmly refused, as became a son of his age, to dally with infinity or to suppose that things are not quite as solid as they seem. The world was good enough and the world was big enough as it was. This prosaic temper, while it keeps him within the bounds of impeccable common sense, limits his outlook. No single phrase of his reverberates or penetrates as so many of La Bruyère’s do. But he would have been the first to deprecate any comparison with that great writer; besides, to write as La Bruyère wrote, one must perhaps believe in something, and then how difficult to observe the Graces! One might perhaps laugh; one might perhaps cry. Both are equally deplorable.
But while we amuse ourselves with this brilliant nobleman and his views on life we are aware, and the letters owe much of their fascination to this consciousness, of a dumb yet substantial figure on the farther side of the page. Philip Stanhope is always there. It is true that he says nothing, but we feel his presence in Dresden, in Berlin, in Paris, opening the letters and poring over them and looking dolefully at the thick packets which have been accumulating year after year since he was a child of seven. He had grown into a rather serious, rather stout, rather short young man. He had a taste for foreign politics. A little serious reading was rather to his liking. And by every post the letters came — urbane, polished, brilliant, imploring and commanding him to learn to dance, to learn to carve, to consider the management of his legs, and to seduce a lady of fashion. He did his best. He worked very hard in the school of the Graces, but their service was too exacting. He sat down half-way up the steep stairs which lead to the glittering hall with all the mirrors. He could not do it. He failed in the House of Commons; he subsided into some small post in Ratisbon; he died untimely. He left it to his widow to break the news which he had lacked the heart or the courage to tell his father — that he had been married all these years to a lady of low birth, who had borne him children.
The Earl took the blow like a gentleman. His letter to his daughter-inlaw is a model of urbanity. He began the education of his grandsons. But he seems to have become a little indifferent to what happened to himself after that. He did not care greatly if he lived or died. But still to the very end he cared for the Graces. His last words were a tribute of respect to those goddesses. Someone came into the room when he was dying; he roused himself: “Give Dayrolles a chair,” he said, and said no more.
This article is about the British modernist author. For the American children's author, see Virginia Euwer Wolff. For the British rock band, see Virginia Wolf.
Adeline Virginia Woolf (; née Stephen; 25 January 1882 – 28 March 1941) was an English writer who is considered one of the most important modernist twentieth century authors and a pioneer in the use of stream of consciousness as a narrative device.
She was born in an affluent household in South Kensington, London, attended the Ladies' Department of King's College and was acquainted with the early reformers of women's higher education. Having been home-schooled for the most part of her childhood, mostly in English classics and Victorian literature, Woolf began writing professionally in 1900. During the interwar period, Virginia Woolf was an important part of London's literary society as well as a central figure in the group of intellectuals known as the Bloomsbury Group. She published her first novel titled The Voyage Out in 1915, through her half-brother’s publishing house, Gerald Duckworth and Company. Her best-known works include the novelsMrs Dalloway (1925), To the Lighthouse (1927) and Orlando (1928). She is also known for her essayA Room of One's Own (1929), where she wrote the much-quoted dictum, "A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction."
Woolf became one of the central subjects of the 1970s movement of feminist criticism, and her works have since garnered much attention and widespread commentary for "inspiring feminism", an aspect of her writing that was unheralded earlier. Her works are widely read all over the world and have been translated into more than fifty languages. She suffered from severe bouts of mental illness throughout her life and took her own life by drowning in 1941 at the age of 59.
Family of origin
See also: Julia Stephen
Virginia Woolf was born Adeline Virginia Stephen on 25 January 1882 at 22 Hyde Park Gate in South Kensington, London to Julia (née Jackson) (1846–1895) and Leslie Stephen (1832–1904). Julia Jackson was born in 1846 in Calcutta, Bengal, British India to Dr John and Maria (Mia) Pattle Jackson, from two Anglo-Indian families. Dr Jackson FRCS was the third son of George Jackson and Mary Howard of Bengal, a physician who spent 25 years with the Bengal Medical Service and East India Company and a professor at the fledgling Calcutta Medical College. While Dr Jackson was an almost invisible presence, the Pattle family (seePattle family tree) were famous beauties, and moved in the upper circles of Bengali society. The seven Pattle sisters all married into important families.Julia Margaret Cameron was a celebrated photographer while Virginia married Earl Somers, and their daughter, Julia Jackson's cousin, was Lady Henry Somerset, the temperance leader. Julia moved to England with her mother at the age of two and spent much of her early life with another of her mother's sister, Sarah. Sarah and her husband Henry Thoby Prinsep, conducted an artistic and literary salon at Little Holland House where she came into contact with a number of Pre-Raphaelite painters such as Edward Burne-Jones, who she modelled for. Julia was the youngest of three sisters and Adeline Virginia Stephen was named after her mother's oldest sister Adeline Maria (1837–1881) and her mother's aunt Virginia (seePattle family tree and Table of ancestors). The Jacksons were a well educated, literary and artistic proconsular middle-class family. In 1867, Julia Jackson married Herbert Duckworth, a barrister, but within three years was left a widow with three infant children. She was devastated and entered a prolonged period of mourning, abandoning her faith and turning to nursing and philanthropy. Julia and Herbert Duckworth had three children;
Leslie Stephen was born in 1832 in South Kensington to Sir James and Lady Jane Catherine Stephen (née Venn), daughter of John Venn, rector of Clapham. The Venns were the centre of the evangelicalClapham sect. Sir James Stephen was the under secretary at the Colonial Office, and with another Clapham member, William Wilberforce, was responsible for the passage of the Slavery Abolition Bill in 1833. As a family of educators, lawyers and writers the Stephens represented the elite intellectual aristocracy. While his family were distinguished and intellectual, they were less colourful and aristocratic than Julia Jackson's. A graduate and fellow of Cambridge University he renounced his faith and position to move to London where he became a notable man of letters. In the same year as Julia Jackson's marriage, he wed Harriet Marian (Minny) Thackeray (1840–1875), youngest daughter of William Makepeace Thackeray, who bore him a daughter, Laura (1870–1945),[c] but died in childbirth in 1875. Laura turned out to be developmentally handicapped. and was eventually institutionalised.
The widowed Julia Duckworth knew Leslie Stephen through her friendship with Minny's older sister Anne (Anny) Isabella Ritchie and had developed an interest in his agnostic writings. She was present the night Minny died and added Lesley Stephen to her list of people needing care, and helped him move next door to her on Hyde Park Gate so Laura could have some companionship with her own children. Both were preoccupied with mourning and although they developed a close friendship and intense correspondence, agreed it would go no further.[d] Lesley Stephen proposed to her in 1877, an offer she declined, but when Anny married later that year she accepted him and they were married on March 26, 1878. He and Laura then moved next door into Julia's house, where they lived till his death in 1904. Julia was 32 and Leslie was 46.
Their first child, Vanessa, was born on May 30, 1879. Julia, having presented her husband with a child, and now having five children to care for, had decided to limit her family to this. However, despite the fact that the couple took "precautions", "contraception was a very imperfect art in the nineteenth century" resulting in the birth of three more children over the next four years.[e]
22 Hyde Park Gate (1882–1904)
Virginia provides insight into her early life in her autobiographical essays, including Reminiscences (1908),22 Hyde Park Gate (1921) and A Sketch of the Past (1940). She also alludes to her childhood in her fictional writing. In To The Lighthouse (1927) Her depiction of the life of the Ramsays in the Hebrides is an only thinly disguised account of the Stephens in Cornwall and the Godrevy Lighthouse they would visit there. However, Woolf's understanding of her mother and family evolved considerably between 1907 and 1940, in which the somewhat distant, yet revered figure of her mother becomes more nuanced and filled in. In 1891, Vanessa and Virginia Stephen began the Hyde Park Gate News,chronicling life and events within the Stephen family, while the following year the Stephen sisters also used photography to supplement their insights, as did Stella Duckworth. Vanessa Bell's 1892 portrait of her sister and parents in the Library at Talland House (see image) was one of the family's favourites, and was written about lovingly in Leslie Stephen's memoir.
Virginia was born into a literate and well-connected household of six children, with two half brothers and a half sister (the Duckworths, from her mother's first marriage), another half sister, Laura (from her father's first marriage, and an older sister, Vanessa and brother Thoby. The following year, another brother Adrian followed. The handicapped Laura Stephen lived with the family until she was institutionalised in 1891. Julia and Leslie had four children together:
Virginia was born at 22 Hyde Park Gate and lived there till her father's death in 1904. Number 22 Hyde Park Gate, South Kensington, lay at the south east end of Hyde Park Gate, a narrow cul-de-sac running south from Kensington Road, just west of the Royal Albert Hall, and opposite Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park, where the family regularly took their walks (seeMap). Built in the early nineteenth century as one of a row of single family townhouses for the upper middle class, it soon became too small for their expanding family. At the time of their marriage, it consisted of a basement, two stories and an attic. In 1886 substantial renovations added a new top floor, converted the attic into rooms, and added the first bathroom.[f] It was a tall but narrow townhouse, that at that time had no running water. The servants worked "downstairs" in the basement. The ground floor had a drawing room, separated by a curtain from the servant's pantry and a library. Above this on the first floor were Julia and Leslie's bedrooms. On the next floor were the Duckworth children's rooms, and above them the day and night nurseries of the Stephen children occupied two further floors. Finally in the attic, under the eaves, were the servant's bedrooms, accessed by a back staircase. The house was described as dimly lit and crowded with furniture and paintings. Within it the younger Stephens formed a close-knit group. Life in London differed sharply from that in Cornwall, their outdoor activities consisting mainly of walks in nearby Hyde Park, and their daily activities around their lessons.
Sir Leslie Stephen's eminence as an editor, critic, and biographer, and his connection to William Thackeray, meant that his children were raised in an environment filled with the influences of Victorian literary society. Henry James, George Henry Lewes, and Virginia's honorary godfather, James Russell Lowell, were among the visitors to the house. Julia Stephen was equally well connected. Her aunt was a pioneering early photographer Julia Margaret Cameron who was also a visitor to the Stephen household. The two Stephen sisters, Vanessa and Virginia, were almost three years apart in age, and exhibited some sibling rivalry. Virginia christened her older sister "the saint" and was far more inclined to exhibit her cleverness than her more reserved sister. Virginia resented the domesticity Victorian tradition forced on them, far more than her sister. They also competed for Thoby's affections. Virginia would later confess her ambivalence over this rivalry to Duncan Grant in 1917. "indeed one of the concealed worms of my life has been a sister's jealousy — of a sister I mean; and to feed this I have invented such a myth about her that I scarce know one from t'other".
Virginia showed an early affinity for writing. Although both parents disapproved of formal education for females, writing was considered a respectable profession for women, and her father encouraged her in this respect. Later she would describe this as "ever since I was a little creature, scribbling a story in the manner of Hawthorne on the green plush sofa in the drawing room at St. Ives while the grown-ups dined". By the age of five she was writing letters and could tell her father a story every night. Later she, Vanessa and Adrian would develop the tradition of inventing a serial about their next-door neighbours, every night in the nursery, or in the case of St. Ives, of spirits that resided in the garden. It was her fascination with books that formed the strongest bond between her and her father.
Talland House (1882–1894)
Leslie Stephen was in the habit of hiking in Cornwall, and in the spring of 1881 he came across a large white house in St. Ives, Cornwall, and took out a lease on it that September. Although it had limited amenities[g], its main attraction was the view overlooking Porthminster Bay towards the Godrevy Lighthouse, which the young Virginia could see from the upper windows and was to be the central figure in her To the Lighthouse (1927). It was a large square house, with a terraced garden, divided by hedges, sloping down towards the sea. Each year between 1882 and 1894 from mid-July to mid-September the Stephen's leased Talland House[h] as a summer residence. Leslie Stephen, who referred to it thus: "a pocket-paradise", described it as "The pleasantest of my memories... refer to our summers, all of which were passed in Cornwall, especially to the thirteen summers (1882-1894) at St. Ives. There we bought the lease of Talland House: a small but roomy house, with a garden of an acre or two all up and down hill, with quaint little terraces divided by hedges of escallonia, a grape-house and kitchen-garden and a so-called ‘orchard’ beyond". It was in Leslie's words, a place of "intense domestic happiness".
In both London and Cornwall, Julia was perpetually entertaining, and was notorious for her manipulation of her guests' lives, constantly matchmaking in the belief everyone should be married, the domestic equivalence of her philanthropy. As her husband observed "My Julia was of course, though with all due reserve, a bit of a matchmaker". While Cornwall was supposed to be a summer respite, Julia Stephen soon immersed herself in the work of caring for the sick and poor there, as well as in London.[i] Both at Hyde Park Gate and Talland House, the family mingled with much of the country's literary and artistic circles. Frequent guests included literary figures such as Henry James and George Meredith, as well as James Russell Lowell, and the children were exposed to much more intellectual conversations than their mother's at Little Holland House. The family did not return, following Julia Stephen's death in May 1895.
For the children it was the highlight of the year, and Virginia's most vivid childhood memories were not of London but of Cornwall. In a diary entry of 22 March 1921, she described why she felt so connected to Talland House, looking back to a summer day in August 1890. "Why am I so incredibly and incurably romantic about Cornwall? One’s past, I suppose; I see children running in the garden … The sound of the sea at night … almost forty years of life, all built on that, permeated by that: so much I could never explain". Cornwall inspired aspects of her work, in particular the "St Ives Trilogy" of Jacob's Room (1922),To the Lighthouse (1927), and The Waves (1931).
Julia Stephen fell ill with influenza in February 1895, and never properly recovered, dying on 5 May, when Virginia was only 13. This was a pivotal moment in her life and the beginning of her struggles with mental illness. The Duckworths were travelling abroad at the time of their mother's death, and Stella returned immediately to take charge and assume her role. That summer, rather than return to the memories of St Ives, the Stephens went to Freshwater, Isle of Wight, where a number of their mother's family lived. It was there that Virginia had the first of her many nervous breakdowns, and Vanessa was forced to assume some of her mother's role in caring for Virginia's mental state. Stella became engaged to Jack Hills the following year and they were married on 10 April 1897, making Virginia even more dependent on her older sister. The death of Stella Duckworth, her pregnant surrogate mother, on 19 July 1897, after a long illness, was a further blow to Virginia's sense of self, and the family dynamics. In April 1902 their father became ill, and although he underwent surgery later that year he never fully recovered, dying on 22 February 1904. Virginia's father's death precipitated a further breakdown. Later, Virginia would describe this time as one in which she was dealt successive blows as a "broken chrysalis" with wings still creased. Chrysalis occurs many times in Woolf's writing but the "broken chrysalis" was an image that became a metaphor for those exploring the relationship between Woolf and grief. At his death, Leslie Stephen's net worth was £15,715 6s. 6d.[j] (probate 23 March 1904)[k]
In the late nineteenth century, education was sharply divided along gender lines, a tradition that Virginia would note and condemn in her writing.. Boys were sent to school, and in upper middle class families such as the Stephens, this involved private boys schools, often boarding schools, and university.[l] Girls, if they were afforded the luxury of education, received it from their parents, governesses and tutors. Virginia was educated by her parents who shared the duty. There was a small classroom off the back of the drawing room, with its many windows, which they found perfect for quiet writing and painting. Julia taught the children Latin, French and History, while Leslie taught them mathematics. They also received piano lessons. Supplementing their lessons was the children's unrestricted access to Leslie Stephen's vast library, exposing them to much of the literary canon, resulting in a greater depth of reading than any of their Cambridge contemporaries, Virginia's reading being described as "greedy". After Public School, the boys in the family all attended Cambridge University. The girls derived some indirect benefit from this, as the boys introduced them to their friends.
Later, between the ages of 15 and 19 she was able to pursue higher education. She took courses of study, some at degree level, in beginning and advanced Ancient Greek, intermediate Latin and German, together with continental and English history at the Ladies' Department of King's College London at nearby 13 Kensington Square between 1897 and 1901.[m] She studied Greek under the eminent scholar George Charles Winter Warr, professor of Classical Literature at King's. In addition she had private tutoring in German, Greek and Latin. One of her Greek tutors was Clara Pater (1899–1900), who taught at King's. Another was Janet Case, who involved her in the women's rights movement, and whose obituary Virginia would later write in 1937. Her experiences there led to her 1925 essay On Not Knowing Greek. Her time at King's also brought her into contact with some of the early reformers of women's higher education such as the principal of the Ladies' Department, Lilian Faithfull (one of the so-called Steamboat ladies), in addition to Pater. Her sister Vanessa also enrolled at the Ladies' Department (1899–1901). Although the Stephen girls could not attend Cambridge, they were to be profoundly influenced by their brothers' experiences there. When Thoby went up to Trinity in 1899 he became friends with a circle of young men, including Clive Bell, Lytton Strachey, Leonard Woolf, Saxon Sydney-Turner, that he would soon introduce to his sisters at the Trinity May Ball in 1900. These men formed a reading group they named the Midnight Society.
Bloomsbury: life in squares (1904–1941)
Gordon Square (1904–1907)
On their father's death, the Stephens first instinct was to escape from the dark house of yet more mourning, and this they did immediately, accompanied by George, travelling to Manorbier, on the coast of Pembrokeshire on 27 February. There they spent a month, and it was there that Virginia first came to realise her destiny was as a writer, as she recalls in her diary of 3 September 1922. They then further pursued their new found freedom by spending April in Italy and France, where they met up with Clive Bell again. Virginia then suffered her second nervous breakdown, and first suicidal attempt on 10 May, and convalesced over the next three months.
Before their father died, the Stephens had discussed the need to leave South Kensington in the West End, with its tragic memories and their parents' relations. George Duckworth was 35, his brother Gerald 33. The Stephen children were now between 24 and 20. Virginia was 22. Vanessa and Adrian decided to sell 22 Hyde Park Gate in respectable South Kensington and move to Bloomsbury. Bohemian Bloomsbury, with its characteristic leafy squares seemed sufficiently far away, geographically and socially, and was a much cheaper neighbourhood to rent in (seeMap). They had not inherited much and they were unsure about their finances. Also Bloomsbury was close to the Slade School which Vanessa was then attending. While Gerald was quite happy to move on and find himself a bachelor establishment, George who had always assumed the role of quasi-parent decided to accompany them, much to their dismay. It was then that Lady Margaret Herbert[n]appeared on the scene, George proposed, was accepted and married in September, leaving the Stephens to their own devices.
Vanessa found a house at 46 Gordon Square in Bloomsbury, and they moved in November, to be joined by Virginia now sufficiently recovered. it was at Gordon Square thast the Stephens began to regularly entertain Thoby's intellectual friends in February 1905. The circle now included Lytton Strachey, Clive Bell, Rupert Brooke, E. M. Forster, Saxon Sydney-Turner, Duncan Grant, Leonard Woolf, John Maynard Keynes, David Garnett, and Roger Fry, with Thursday evening "At Homes" that became known as the Thursday Club. This circle formed the nucleus of the intellectual circle of writers and artists known as the Bloomsbury Group. Also in 1905 Virginia and Adrian visited Portugal and Spain, Clive Bell proposed to Vanessa, but was declined, while Virginia began teaching evening classes at Morley College and Vanessa added another event to their calendar with the Friday Club, dedicated to the fine arts. The following year, 1906, Virginia suffered two further losses. Her cherished brother Thoby, who was only 26, died of typhoid, following a trip they had all taken to Greece, and immediately after Vanessa accepted Clive's third proposal. Vanessa and Clive were married in February 1907 and as a couple, their interest in avant garde art would have an important influence on Woolf's further development as an author. With Vanessa's marriage, Virginia and Adrian needed to find a new home.
Fitzroy Square (1907–1911) and Brunswick Square (1911–1912)
Virginia moved into 29 Fitzroy Square in April 1907, a house on the west side of the street, formerly occupied by George Bernard Shaw. It was in Fitzrovia, immediately to the west of Bloomsbury but still relatively close to her sister at Gordon Square. The two sisters continued to travel together, visiting Paris in March. Adrian was now to play a much larger part in Virginia's life, and they resumed the Thursday Club in October at their new home, while Gordon Square became the venue for the Play Reading Society in December. Meanwhile Virginia began work on her first novel, Melymbrosia that eventually became The Voyage Out (1915). Vanessa's first child, Julian was born in February 1908, and in September Virginia accompanied the Bells to Italy and France. It was during this time that Virginia's rivalry with her sister resurfaced, flirting with Clive, which he reciprocated, and which lasted on and off from 1908 to 1914, by which time her sister's marriage was breaking down. Several members of the group attained notoriety in 1910 with the Dreadnought hoax, which Virginia participated in disguised as a male Abyssinian royal. Her complete 1940 talk on the hoax was discovered and is published in the memoirs collected in the expanded edition of The Platform of Time (2008). It was while she was at Fitzroy Square that the question arose of Virginia needing a quiet country retreat, which she started looking for in December 2010 and soon found a property in Sussex (seebelow), maintaining a relationship with that area for the rest of her life.
In 1911 Virginia and Adrian decided to give up their home on Fitzroy Square in favour of a different living arrangement, moving to 38 Brunswick Square in Bloomsbury proper[o] in November, with Maynard Keynes and Duncan Grant, and in December they were joined by the writer, Leonard Woolf, an arrangement that continued till late 1912. The house was adjacent to the Foundling Hospital, much to Virginia's amusement since she was an unchaperoned single woman. Duncan Grant decorated Adrian Stephen's rooms (see image).
In May 1912 Virginia agreed to marry Woolf, and the marriage took place on 10 August. The Woolfs continued to live at Brunswick Square till October 1912, when they moved to a small flat at 13 Clifford's Inn, further to the east. Despite his low material status (Woolf referring to Leonard during their engagement as a "penniless Jew") the couple shared a close bond. Indeed, in 1937, Woolf wrote in her diary: "Love-making—after 25 years can't bear to be separate ... you see it is enormous pleasure being wanted: a wife. And our marriage so complete."
In October 1914, Leonard and Virginia Woolf moved away from Bloomsbury and central London to Richmond, living at 17 The Green, a home discussed by Leonard in his autobiography Beginning Again (1964). In early March 1915, the couple moved again, to nearby Hogarth House, Paradise Road, after which they named their publishing house. Between 1924 and 1939 the Woolfs returned to Bloomsbury, living at 52 Tavistock Square, from where they ran the Hogarth Press from the basement, where Virginia also had her writing room, and is commemorated with a bust of her in the square (see illustration). Their final residence in London was at 37 Mecklenburgh Square (1939–1940), destroyed during the Blitz in September 1940, a month later their previous home on Tavistock Square was also destroyed. After that they made Sussex their permanent home. For descriptions and illustrations of all Virginia Woolf's London homes, see Wilson (1987).
Hogarth Press (1917–1938)
Main article: Hogarth Press
Virginia had taken up book-binding as a pastime in October 1901, at the age of 19, and the Woolfs had been discussing setting up a publishing house for some time, and at the end of 1916 started making plans. Having discovered that they were not eligible to enroll in the St Bride School of Printing, they started purchasing supplies after seeking advice from the Excelsior Printing Supply Company on Farringdon Road in March 1917, and soon they had a printing press set up on their dining room table at Hogarth House, and the Hogarth Press was born.
The press subsequently published Virginia's novels along with works by T. S. Eliot, Laurens van der Post, and others. The Press also commissioned works by contemporary artists, including Dora Carrington and Vanessa Bell. Woolf believed that to break free of a patriarchal society that women writers needed a "room of their own" to develop and often fantasised about an "Outsider's Society" where women writers would create a virtual private space for themselves via their writings to develop a feminist critique of society. Though Woolf never created the "Outsider's society", the Hogarth Press was the closest approximation as the Woolfs chose to publish books by writers that took unconventional points of view to form a reading community. Initially the press concentrated on small expermental publications, of little interwest to large commercial publishers. Until 1930, Woolf often helped her husband print the Hogarth books as the money for employees was not there. Virginia relinquished her interest in 1938. After it was bombed in September 1940, the press was moved to Letchworth for the remainder of the war. Both the Woolfs were internationalists and pacifists who believed that promoting understanding between peoples was the best way to avoid another world war and chose quite consciously to publish works by foreign authors of whom the British reading public were unaware. The first non-British author to be published was the Soviet writer Maxim Gorky, the book Reminiscences of Leo Nikolaiovich Tolstoy in 1920, dealing with his friendship with Count Leo Tolstoy.
The ethos of the Bloomsbury group encouraged a liberal approach to sexuality, and in 1922 she met the writer and gardener Vita Sackville-West, wife of Harold Nicolson. At the time, Sackville-West was the more successful writer both commercially and critically, and it was not until after Woolf's death that she became considered the better writer. After a tentative start, they began a sexual relationship, which, according to Sackville-West in a letter to her husband dated 17 August 1926, was only twice consummated. However, Virginia's intimacy with Vita seems to have continued into the early 1930s. Woolf was also inclined to brag of her affairs with other women within her intimate circle, such as Sibyl Colefax and Comtesse de Polignac.
Virginia (3rd from left) with her mother and the Stephen children at their lessons, Talland House c. 1894
13 Kensington Square, former home of the Ladies' Department, King's College
Life in squares
46 Gordon Square
29 Fitzroy Square
Woolf's in Richmond
17 The Green