This Day In Literary History
On March 9th, 1913, the legendary English writer Virginia Woolf delivered the manuscript for her first novel, The Voyage Out, to her publisher. She was 31 years old at the time. A year earlier, she married writer and activist Leonard Woolf.
During their studies at King's College, Cambridge, and King's College, London, Virginia and Leonard formed the nucleus of a circle of writers, artists, and intellectuals who called themselves the Bloomsbury Group.
E.M. Forster and Lytton Strachey were among the other writers in the group, whose members were famous (or should that be infamous) for being free-thinking, libertine intellectuals (many were openly gay or bisexual, including Virginia Woolf) during the late Victorian and early Edwardian eras.
In The Voyage Out, (1915) in a modern version of the mythic voyage, young Rachel Vinrace embarks on a trip to South America aboard her father's ship, launching her on a course of self-discovery.
Also aboard the ship are a collection of characters whom Woolf uses to satirize Edwardian life. Some characters are modeled after her fellow Bloomsbury Group members, such as St. John Hirst (Lytton Strachey) and Helen Ambrose (artist Vanessa Bell, Woolf's sister).
The novel also features Clarissa Dalloway, who would return as the main character in Woolf's legendary 1925 novel, Mrs. Dalloway.
E.M. Forster described The Voyage Out this way:
[It is] a strange, tragic, inspired book whose scene is a South America not found on any map and reached by a boat which would not float on any sea, an America whose spiritual boundaries touch Xanadu and Atlantis... it is absolutely unafraid... here at last is a book which attains unity as surely as Wuthering Heights, though by a different path.
Virginia Woolf struggled to write her first novel, as she suffered from periods of depression and once attempted suicide. In March of 1941, nearly thirty years after The Voyage Out was published, she committed suicide at the age of 59.
Woolf's London home had been destroyed in the Blitz, she feared the war, and suffered from severe depression. So, she drowned herself in the River Ouse. Her body wouldn't be found for almost a month.
In her suicide note, Virginia wrote the following to her husband, Leonard Woolf:
I feel certain that I am going mad again. I feel we can't go through another of those terrible times. And I can't recover this time. I begin to hear voices, and I can't concentrate. So I am doing what seems the best thing to do.
You have given me the greatest possible happiness. You have been in every way all that anyone could be. I don't think two people could have been happier 'til this terrible disease came. I can't fight any longer. I know that I am spoiling your life, that without me you could work. And you will I know.
You see I can't even write this properly. I can't read. What I want to say is I owe all the happiness of my life to you. You have been entirely patient with me and incredibly good. I want to say that — everybody knows it.
If anybody could have saved me it would have been you. Everything has gone from me but the certainty of your goodness. I can't go on spoiling your life any longer. I don't think two people could have been happier than we have been. V.
Quote Of The Day
"Every secret of a writer's soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind is written large in his works." - Virginia Woolf
Today's video features a rare recording of Virginia Woolf discussing the craft of writing! It's the only surviving recording of her voice, taken from a BBC radio broadcast in 1937 - four years before her death. Enjoy!