Virginia Woolf in 1902; photograph by George Charles Beresford.
|Born||Adeline Virginia Stephen
25 January 1882
Kensington, Middlesex, England
|Died||28 March 1941
River Ouse, near Lewes, Sussex, England
|Occupation||Novelist, essayist, publisher, critic|
|Alma mater||King’s College London|
|Notable works||To the Lighthouse
Orlando: A Biography
A Room of One’s Own
(m. 1912â€“1941; her death)
The telephone, which interrupts the most serious conversations and cuts short the most weighty observations, has a romance of its own.
Yet, it is true, poetry is delicious; the best prose is that which is most full of poetry.
The man who is aware of himself is henceforward independent; and he is never bored, and life is only too short, and he is steeped through and through with a profound yet temperate happiness.
One likes people much better when they're battered down by a prodigious siege of misfortune than when they triumph.
My own brain is to me the most unaccountable of machinery – always buzzing, humming, soaring roaring diving, and then buried in mud. And why? What's this passion for?
Who shall measure the hat and violence of the poet's heart when caught and tangled in a woman's body?
One of the signs of passing youth is the birth of a sense of fellowship with other human beings as we take our place among them.
Yet it is in our idleness, in our dreams, that the submerged truth sometimes comes to the top.
The history of men's opposition to women's emancipation is more interesting perhaps than the story of that emancipation itself.
Where the Mind is biggest, the Heart, the Senses, Magnanimity, Charity, Tolerance, Kindliness, and the rest of them scarcely have room to breathe.
Masterpieces are not single and solitary births; they are the outcome of many years of thinking in common, of thinking by the body of the people, so that the experience of the mass is behind the single voice.
These are the soul's changes. I don't believe in ageing. I believe in forever altering one's aspect to the sun. Hence my optimism.
Indeed, I would venture to guess that Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman.
One has to secrete a jelly in which to slip quotations down people's throats – and one always secretes too much jelly.
It is fatal to be a man or woman pure and simple: one must be a woman manly, or a man womanly.
There is much to support the view that it is clothes that wear us, and not we, them; we may make them take the mould of arm or breast, but they mould our hearts, our brains, our tongues to their liking.
It is curious how instinctively one protects the image of oneself from idolatry or any other handling that could make it ridiculous, or too unlike the original to be believed any longer.
The truth is, I often like women. I like their unconventionality. I like their completeness. I like their anonymity.
If you insist upon fighting to protect me, or 'our' country, let it be understood soberly and rationally between us that you are fighting to gratify a sex instinct which I cannot share; to procure benefits where I have not shared and probably will not share.
Thought and theory must precede all salutary action; yet action is nobler in itself than either thought or theory.
When the shriveled skin of the ordinary is stuffed out with meaning, it satisfies the senses amazingly.
This is not writing at all. Indeed, I could say that Shakespeare surpasses literature altogether, if I knew what I meant.
If one could be friendly with women, what a pleasure – the relationship so secret and private compared with relations with men. Why not write about it truthfully?
Somewhere, everywhere, now hidden, now apparent in what ever is written down, is the form of a human being. If we seek to know him, are we idly occupied?
Once conform, once do what other people do because they do it, and a lethargy steals over all the finer nerves and faculties of the soul. She becomes all outer show and inward emptiness; dull, callous, and indifferent.
The poet gives us his essence, but prose takes the mold of the body and mind.
We can best help you to prevent war not by repeating your words and following your methods but by finding new words and creating new methods.
It seems as if an age of genius must be succeeded by an age of endeavour; riot and extravagance by cleanliness and hard work.
The connection between dress and war is not far to seek; your finest clothes are those you wear as soldiers.
If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people.
Mental fight means thinking against the current, not with it. It is our business to puncture gas bags and discover the seeds of truth.
This soul, or life within us, by no means agrees with the life outside us. If one has the courage to ask her what she thinks, she is always saying the very opposite to what other people say.
I can only note that the past is beautiful because one never realises an emotion at the time. It expands later, and thus we don't have complete emotions about the present, only about the past.
It is the nature of the artist to mind excessively what is said about him. Literature is strewn with the wreckage of men who have minded beyond reason the opinions of others.
Fiction is like a spider's web, attached ever so slightly perhaps, but still attached to life at all four corners. Often the attachment is scarcely perceptible.
I would venture to guess that Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman.
This is an important book, the critic assumes, because it deals with war. This is an insignificant book because it deals with the feelings of women in a drawing-room.
A good essay must have this permanent quality about it; it must draw its curtain round us, but it must be a curtain that shuts us in not out.
I read the book of Job last night, I don't think God comes out well in it.
Every secret of a writer's soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind is written large in his works.
Let a man get up and say, Behold, this is the truth, and instantly I perceive a sandy cat filching a piece of fish in the background. Look, you have forgotten the cat, I say.
We are nauseated by the sight of trivial personalities decomposing in the eternity of print.
If we help an educated man's daughter to go to Cambridge are we not forcing her to think not about education but about war? – not how she can learn, but how she can fight in order that she might win the same advantages as her brothers?
A masterpiece is something said once and for all, stated, finished, so that it's there complete in the mind, if only at the back.
Nothing induces me to read a novel except when I have to make money by writing about it. I detest them.
To depend upon a profession is a less odious form of slavery than to depend upon a father.
Women have served all these centuries as looking glasses possessing the power of reflecting the figure of man at twice its natural size.
The beautiful seems right by force of beauty, and the feeble wrong because of weakness.
It's not catastrophes, murders, deaths, diseases, that age and kill us; it's the way people look and laugh, and run up the steps of omnibuses.
Almost any biographer, if he respects facts, can give us much more than another fact to add to our collection. He can give us the creative fact; the fertile fact; the fact that suggests and engenders.
I want the concentration and the romance, and the worlds all glued together, fused, glowing: have no time to waste any more on prose.
There can be no two opinions as to what a highbrow is. He is the man or woman of thoroughbred intelligence who rides his mind at a gallop across country in pursuit of an idea.
Literature is strewn with the wreckage of men who have minded beyond reason the opinions of others.
I was in a queer mood, thinking myself very old: but now I am a woman again – as I always am when I write.
For what Harley Street specialist has time to understand the body, let alone the mind or both in combination, when he is a slave to thirteen thousand a year?
I thought how unpleasant it is to be locked out; and I thought how it is worse, perhaps, to be locked in.
It is in our idleness, in our dreams, that the submerged truth sometimes comes to the top.
Each has his past shut in him like the leaves of a book known to him by his heart, and his friends can only read the title.
Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end.
The beauty of the world, which is so soon to perish, has two edges, one of laughter, one of anguish, cutting the heart asunder.