Woolf Biography, Letters, Diaries, Autobiography

Updated May 20, 2004

Biographical criticism has been central to Woolf scholarship.  Any Woolf reader needs to read at least one biography, probably more, and to be familiar with her published diaries and letters. 

 Bell, Quentin. Virginia Woolf: A Biography
        New York, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1972.
        PR6045 .O72 Z545 1972

This has been the most authoritative and influential biography of Woolf, though it has been  superseded by the more scholarly 1996 biography by Hermione Lee. Quentin Bell was Woolf’s nephew, her sister Vanessa’s son. He and his sister Angelica inherited the Virginia Woolf Estate, controlling access to her papers.

Gordon, Lyndall. Virginia Woolf: A Writer's Life
        New York: Norton, 1984; 1991.
        PR6045 .O72 Z653 1984B

This feminist biography emphasizes links between Woolf’s life and her work, particularly the major novels. 

King, James.  Virginia Woolf.  New York: Norton, 1995.
        PR6045 .O72 Z76 1995B

Lee, Hermione.  Virginia Woolf.  New York: Knopf, 1997.
        PR6045 .O72 Z774 1997 

Many Woolf scholars view this as the closest we have to a definitive Woolf biography.  A newer biography by Mitchell Leaska, Granite and Rainbow (1998), emphasizes the links between Woolf's life and works (see my personal collection).  Both Lee and Leaska published monographs about Woolf's novels in 1977.

Leaska, Mitchell.  Granite and Rainbow: The Life of Virginia Woolf. New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1998.

Leaska also has written a 1977 book about Woolf’s novels, an 1970 book about To the Lighthouse, and has edited some of her journals and letters.  The Salmon Library has all of these, but does not have the new biography (I do).

 Marder, Herbert.  The Measure of Life:  Virginia Woolf’s Last Years.  Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 2001.
PR6045 .O72 Z8152 2000

                Marder’s focus is on Woolf’s last ten years and the books the wrote then, with a lot of emphasis on water imagery and her suicide by drowning.  Marder also wrote a  book about Woolf and feminism that the library owns, Virginia Woolf: Feminism and Art (1968).

 Reid, Panthea.  Art and Affection:  A Life of Virginia Woolf.  
        New York: Oxford UP, 1996.
        PR6045 .O72 Z8654 1996

Woolf, Virginia. The Letters of Virginia Woolf. Eds. Nigel Nicolson and Joanne Trautmann.
             6 vols. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1975-1980.
        PR6045 .O72 Z525 1975 V.1

Contents: v. 1. 1888-1912 (Virginia Stephen)--v. 2. 1912-1922.--v. 3. 1923-1928.--v. 4. 1929-1931.--v. 5. 1932-1935.--v. 6. 1936-1941. 

Woolf, Virginia. Moments of Being: Unpublished Autobiographical Writings
        Ed. Jeanne Schulkind. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1976.
        PR6045 .O72 Z496 1976   

    Woolf often spoke of writing her autobiography, but these unpublished autobiographical writings are as close as we have to formal autobiography. The earliest, "Reminiscences," was written at the birth of her first nephew, Julian Bell, supposedly as a biography of her sister Vanessa. The latest, "A Sketch of the Past," was written near the end of her life, apparently as the beginning of a formal autobiography. The rest are sketches she read to members of the Memoir Club, who met regularly to read such essays.

Woolf, Virginia. The Diary of Virginia Woolf. Ed. Anne Olivier Bell. 5 vols. 
        New York : Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1977-1984.
PR6045 .O72 Z494 1977

Contents:  v. 1. 1915-1919.--v. 2. 1920-1924.--v. 3. 1925-1930.--v. 4. 1931-1935.--v. 5. 1936-1941. 

Woolf, Virginia. A Writer's Diary, Being Extracts from the Diary of Virginia Woolf
        Ed. Leonard Woolf. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1954. (UK 1953)
        PR6045 .O72 Z5 1954R

These excerpts from Woolf's diary have been very influential.

Created June 30, 1997

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