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Biography of a Great Writer - Virginia Woolf

Jyoti Babel May 9, 2019
A British writer of great acclaim, Virginia Woolf is considered one of the iconic modernist and feminist writers of the 20th century. Some of her best-known works include Mrs Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, and A Room of One’s Own.

Literary Legacy

Woolf’s writing style is experimental and is known to challenge the traditional style of narration. It can best be described as impressionistic and it focuses on the character's inner voice more than the plot.

From literary history, politics of power, artistic theory to women’s writing, her writing legacy spans all these subjects.
Virginia Woolf’s work includes 10 novels, a number of nonfiction books, essays, and short story collections. She started writing professionally in 1905 for Times Literary Supplement and since then there was no looking back.
Her first novel was ‘The Voyage Out’ and was published in 1915, and her last work – ‘Between the Acts’ was published a few months after her death in 1941.
Many of her works were best sellers of her times and established her as an author of repute. Her most notable work ‘Mrs Dalloway’ has been translated to over 50 languages.
Her fame as a feminist writer saw a rise long after her death. During the 1970s, when the third wave of feminism was underway, she became a feminist icon and her work was looked upon for inspiration.


Born on January 25th, 1882 in Kensington, Middlesex in England, she was named Adeline Virginia Stephen. Her father Sir Leslie Stephen, a historian and an author was a man of letters and her mother Julia Prinsep Duckworth was a model.
Both her parents were widowed and had kids from their previous marriage. Virginia grew up among several half brothers and sisters and siblings and was homeschooled by her parents.


Virginia met her future husband Leonard Woolf in 1900, but it was only much later in 1911 when they started dating and eventually married in 1912.

Together they started a publishing house named Hogarth Press which eventually was Virginia’s publisher. Although her husband was Jewish, Virginia was known to have harsh feeling against Judaism.

Relationship with Vita Sackville-West

Virginia Woolf had a romantic relationship with a fellow woman writer Vita Sackville-West. The relationship was not a secret one and in fact, was openly acknowledged by both of them.

Sackville-West was the inspiration behind Woolf’s novel ‘Orlando’ – considered as one of the most charming and longest love letters in literature.

Mental Health Issues

Virginia Woolf suffered from mental health issues throughout her life. It first began due to incidents of sexual abuse at the hand of her two half-brothers and it got exaggerated with her mother who died when she was just 13 years old.
Her sister's death 2 years later and her father’s death in 1904 traumatized her and she had to be institutionalized in a mental health facility. The bouts of depression continued all her life and she had to undertake various treatments to manage the same.

Bloomsbury Group

Soon after her father’s death, Virginia came in contact with artists and writers who formed Bloomsbury Group. She became one of the notable members of the group that went on to become first of its kind to voice socio-political issues of its time.


It is believed that Woolf suffered from bipolar disorder and had attempted suicide multiple times in her life. In the year 1941, her mental health collapsed and she committed suicide by drowning herself in River Ouse. It took 2 weeks before her body was discovered.
Virginia Woolf was an enigmatic personality. She was a celebrated author, but her life was far from simple. In her lifetime, she made an immense contribution to the literary field and today she is looked upon as a distinguished writer of her times.