Virginia Woolf's only autobiographical writing is to be found in this collection of five unpublished pieces. Despite Quentin Bell's comprehensive biography and numerous recent studies of her, the author's own account of her early life holds new fascination - for its unexpected detail, the strength of its emotion, and its clear-sighted judgement of Victorian values. In 'Reminiscences' Virginia Woolf focuses on the death of her mother, 'the greatest disaster that could happen', and its effect on her father, the demanding patriarch who took a high toll of the women in his household. She surveys some of the same ground in 'A Sketch of the Past', the most important memoir in this collection, which she wrote with greater detachment and supreme command of her art shortly before her death. Readers will be struck by the extent to which she drew on these early experiences for her novels, as she tells how she exorcised the obsessive presence of her mother by writing To the Lighthouse. The last three papers were composed to be read to the Memoir Club, a postwar regrouping of Bloomsbury, which exacted absolute candour of its members.
Virginia Woolf's contributions were not only bold but also original and amusing. She describes George Duckworth's passionate efforts to launch the Stephen girls; gives her own version of 'Old Bloomsbury'; and, with wit and some malice, reflects on her connections with titled society.
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(235mm x 154mm x 16mm)
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
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UK Kirkus Review »
These autobiographical pieces by Virginia Woolf interest all those who wish to know more about her life and the historical and social details reflected in her writing. They were written between 1907 and 1940, but not published until after her death. Virginia Woolf was particularly interested in autobiography, especially that written by women, and the essays in Moment of Being (a phrase taken from the final essay) are a clue to her own inner life. There are certainly some vivid accounts of some parts of her life, ranging from minute details of everyday objects and occurrences to considerations of the effect of the family and environment on the individual, the power of memory and difficulties of communication, expanding on themes found elsewhere in her work, but also illuminating more directly personal events such as her mother's death. In the first essay, addressed to her nephew, her poignant comments underline the long-term effect this had on her, yet we will not find any detailed information here on her breakdowns, or on her relationship with her husband, for example. Much here is dark and disturbing, particularly in 'Sketch of the Past', where she reflects on the damage of the early deaths of those close to her, and the difficulties of living with her father, but there are lighter touches too. The three pieces entitled 'The Memoir Club Contributions' were written to be read aloud to members of the Bloomsbury Group and are meant to entertain. They are full of mockery of self and others and many scenes have a sting in their tail. It is fascinating to see the development of Woolf's writing, from the experimental to the later accomplished work, as well as to get a glimpse of her family and her past. (Kirkus UK)
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Author Biography - Virginia Woolf
Virginia Woolf was born in London in 1882, the daughter of Sir Leslie Stephen, first editor of The Dictionary of National Biography. After his death in 1904 Virginia and her sister, the painter Vanessa Bell, moved to Bloomsbury and became the centre of 'The Bloomsbury Group'. This informal collective of artists and writers which included Lytton Strachey and Roger Fry, exerted a powerful influence over early twentieth-century British culture. In 1912 Virginia married Leonard Woolf, a writer and social reformer. Three years later, her first novel The Voyage Out was published, followed by Night and Day (1919) and Jacob's Room (1922). These first novels show the development of Virginia Woolf's distinctive and innovative narrative style. It was during this time that she and Leonard Woolf founded The Hogarth Press with the publication of the co-authored Two Stories in 1917, hand-printed in the dining room of their house in Surrey. Between 1925 and 1931 Virginia Woolf produced what are now regarded as her finest masterpieces, from Mrs Dalloway (1925) to the poetic and highly experimental novel The Waves (1931). She also maintained an astonishing output of literary criticism, short fiction, journalism and biography, including the playfully subversive Orlando (1928) and A Room of One's Own (1929) a passionate feminist essay. This intense creative productivity was often matched by periods of mental illness, from which she had suffered since her mother's death in 1895. On 28 March 1941, a few months before the publication of her final novel, Between the Acts, Virginia Woolf committed suicide.