Updated February 14, 1998
Created January 1998 by UAH graduate students Sheri Stanley and Mary Beth Walker
What were the circumstances of writing The Voyage Out?
Virginia Stephen was 25 when she began writing Melymbrosia, the manuscript that would later become the novel The Voyage Out. Her father had been dead just three years and her sister Vanessa had married Clive Bell that year (1907). The birth of her nephew, Julian Bell, in 1908 coincided with an "intense flirtation" with her sister Vanessas husband, Clive, who would encourage Virginia during her writing of Melymbrosia. She was Virginia Stephen during most of this period of composition, and still struggling to shake off the influence of her father, as suggested by a letter she wrote to Clive about a dream she had had of showing her father a copy of the manuscript (cited in King 132; see Letters I, #406). Between 1908 and 1909, Virginia shaped the plot of Melymbrosia, which was almost identical to that of Voyage. Hussey cites Louise DesSalvo as reporting that Virginia began a new version of Melymbrosia in March 1909 and another in 1910, referring to it as The Voyage Out by December of that year. Lorna Sage, in her introduction to the Oxford UP edition of Voyage, writes that Virginia happened upon the title while on a trip to Portugal with her brother Adrian, before she began writing Melymbrosia. Sage writes: "...she had put a name to one of the archetypal subtexts of first novels" (xii).
Several of Virginias letters to Clive document her concern with the "conception" of her work. There were numerous other revisions to Melymbrosia; James Haule writes that "none of her novels was as long in preparation or more difficult for her to complete" (309). Following her honeymoon with Leonard Woolf in August 1912, she began a massive revision to the text. She completed a final draft in February 1913. A suicide attempt delayed proofing until late 1914. The Voyage Out was finally published in England in 1915.
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