Virginia Stephen Woolf was born on the 25th January, 1882 in London and was grown surrounded by books from her father’s library, despite the lack of University Education, denied to women in that time.
Her mother died in 1895 and in that year Virginia had her first breakdown. Her father became more melancholic and emotionally weak until he got ill in 1902 and died in 1904, when Virginia suffered another breakdown, during which she heard the birds singing in Greek.
After her father death, Virginia and her brothers moved to Bloomsbury disctrit, where they meet other emergent artist, known by the Bloomsbury Group. In 1912, after a period of nervous illness, Virginia married Leonard Woolf, one of the writers from the Bloomsbury Group. She was often ill with depression and anorexia and in 1913 attempted suicide for the first time. Virginia began to write for publication in the Times Literary Supplement in 1905, but she had long considered herself a writer.
In 1915 Virginia Woolf published her first book, “The voyage out” and two years later, a painting press was installed at Virginia and Leonard house in Richmond. They called it the “Hogarth Press” and it was created especially for Virginia nervous therapy, but it became later a very prestigious editorial house.
In 1922 she published “Jacob’s Room”, by Hogarth Press and in 1925 “Mrs Dalloway” and “Lighthouse” in 1927. “Orlando” a fantastic biography of a man-woman, was a tribute to Virginia’s close friendship with Vita Sackville-West, was published in 1928 with considerable success with the public, after “Mrs Dalloway”.
“A Room of One’s Own” was published in 1929 and is known as the first sustained assay in feminist literary theory and the “Three Guineas” not only as a sequel, but the result of ten years of research during the 30’s, in a polarized British society, in a huge economic recession and massive unemployment, during the rise of Nazism and the Spanish civil war. Virginia Woolf identified the patriarchal power that have led to the growth of Fascism and allowed it in Italy, Germany, Portugal and Spain.
Back to the “A Room of One’s Own”, it was written to give an answer to three issues “women and fiction”, “what women write” and “what is written about women’s writing”. It’s a collection of stories where she shows the prejudice and fear of men about women’s academic skills, the barriers to women education, the lack of space and silence in the family house, economic independence and also the marks of anger and indignation in female fiction.
She insists about women writers have suffered from the lack of a literary tradition and they only reach high literature when they stop complaining themselves for being women. These arguments are very important, even in the XXI century and even for male writers, because Virginia Woolf is very systematic about the literary process as an art and not as method of self expression. She says that writers will have to find a bright spirit, hermaphrodite and permeable to all influences, that could share emotions without barriers and writing without any kind of justification, with no feelings of rage, anger, fear or frustration. Not even as a direct protest or paternalism, not to draw attention to the writer’s ego.
In this book (A room of One’s Own) Virginia Woolf talks about the novel as a living piece with all the contradictory emotions, giving space to the reader, and with the power of suggestion that makes the words having an independent life. “In a good novel its life in conflict with something over life, with the same meaning for an English, a Russian or a Chinese reader. Good novelists give new ideas and they have in their internal balance the secret of eternal life.”
About patriarchal historical violence Virginia doesn’t excuse women for their actions, because women have always been mirrors, giving the picture of male superiority, where only exists instinct of power and possession that leads them to subdue other people by strength and betrayal, to build frontiers, walls, killing weapons, war ships and gas chambers. She also talks about an important issue in modern age, self-esteem and how humans feed it with the inferiority of other, especially men, when they insist about female inferiority.
By the autumn of 1940 the Bloomsbury neighbourhood was hardly damaged by the Nazi bombing – the Blitz. Back at her house in Sussex, she kept writing on her last book, “Between Acts”, finished in February 1941 and on 28 March, when her mental condition became unbearable, Virginia Woolf put on her overcoat, filled the pockets with stones, and walked into the River Ouse near her home and drowned herself. Woolf’s body was not found until 18 April 1941. Her husband buried her cremated remains under an elm in the garden of Monk’s House, their home in Rodmell, Sussex.
In her last note to her husband she wrote:
“I feel certain that I am going mad again. I feel we can’t go through another of those terrible times. And I shan’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.”