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The Symbol

Virginia Woolf, 20 June 1985

... There was​ a little dent on the top of the mountain like a crater on the moon. It was filled with snow, iridescent like a pigeon’s breast, or dead white. There was a scurry of dry particles now and again, covering nothing. It was too high for breathing flesh or fur-covered life. All the same the snow was iridescent one moment; and blood red; and pure white, according to the day ...

Mrs Webb and Mrs Woolf

Michael Holroyd, 7 November 1985

... stood in the scheme of things. Twenty-five years ago, Strachey’s books were not in paperback and Virginia Woolf was not the feminist idol she has since become. The reputation of E.M. Forster was in decline. The paintings of Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell were not privately collected and had been demoted to the cellars of many public galleries. The art ...

Trained to silence

John Mepham, 20 November 1980

The Sickle Side of the Moon: The Letters of Virginia Woolf, Vol. V, 1932-1935 
edited by Nigel Nicolson.
Hogarth, 476 pp., £12.50, September 1979, 0 7012 0469 9
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Leave the Letters till we’re dead: The Letters of Virginia Woolf, Vol. VI, 1936-41 
edited by Nigel Nicolson and Joanne Trautman.
Hogarth, 556 pp., £15, September 1980, 0 7012 0470 2
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The Diary of Virginia Woolf. Vol. III: 1925-1930 
edited by Anne Olivier Bell.
Hogarth, 384 pp., £10.50, March 1980, 0 7012 0466 4
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Virginia Woolf 
by Michael Rosenthal.
Routledge, 270 pp., £7.95, September 1979, 0 7100 0189 4
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Virginia Woolf’s Major Novels: The Fables of Anon 
by Maria DiBattista.
Yale, 252 pp., £11, April 1980, 0 300 02402 9
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... Having read some of Henry Brewster’s letters to Ethel Smyth, Virginia Woolf wrote to Ethel that she found them ‘very witty, easy, well written, full of sparks and faces and shrewdness’, though she admitted that she got ‘a little tired of the lunches and dinners and Pasolinis and Contessa this and that ...

Superchild

John Bayley, 6 September 1984

The Diary of Virginia Woolf. Vol. V: 1936-1941 
edited by Anne Olivier Bell and Andrew McNeillie.
Chatto, 402 pp., £17.50, June 1984, 0 7012 0566 0
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Deceived with Kindness: A Bloomsbury Childhood 
by Angelica Garnett.
Chatto, 181 pp., £9.95, August 1984, 0 7011 2821 6
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... To read Virginia Woolf when young is, or was, to have the feeling of entering a new world, to realise with sudden ecstasy that this was true being, where words and consciousness and the solitary self melted into one. ‘She gave me eyes, she gave me ears,’ wrote Wordsworth of his sister Dorothy. Virginia Woolf gave more than that: she gave, or seemed to give, the pure Private Life, quite separate from the contingent miseries, anxieties and rivalries of adolescence, a free-floating poetic awareness, an otherness wholly and excitingly up-to-date ...

Wild Hearts

Peter Wollen, 6 April 1995

Virginia Woolf 
by James King.
Hamish Hamilton, 699 pp., £25, September 1994, 0 241 13063 8
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... about ‘The Significance of Bloomsbury as a Social and Cultural Group’. He accepted Leonard Woolf’s characterisation of Bloomsbury as consisting ‘of the upper levels of the professional middle class and county families, interpenetrated to a certain extent by the aristocracy’ with ‘an intricate tangle of ancient roots and tendrils stretching far ...

Smashing the Teapots

Jacqueline Rose, 23 January 1997

Virginia Woolf 
by Hermione Lee.
Chatto, 722 pp., £20, September 1996, 0 7011 6507 3
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... One of the strangest things Virginia Woolf ever did was to travel with Leonard to Germany for part of their annual holiday in April 1935. The vigour of German anti-semitism was by this point clear and Hitler’s power and at least some of his worst intentions towards Britain were recorded by Woolf in her diaries (‘There is some reason I suppose to expect that Oxford Street will be flooded with poison gas one of these days ...

What about the aeroplanes?

Gillian Beer, 23 April 1987

The Essays of Virginia WoolfVol. 1 1904-1912 
edited by Andrew McNeillie.
Hogarth, 411 pp., £20, November 1986, 0 7012 0666 7
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The Interrupted Moment: A View of Virginia Woolf’s Novels 
by Lucio Ruotolo.
Stanford, 262 pp., $29.50, November 1986, 0 8047 1342 1
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Virginia Woolf and the Real World 
by Alex Zwerdling.
California, 370 pp., £24.95, October 1986, 0 520 05684 1
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... If one spirit animates the whole, what about the aeroplanes?’ queries a character in Virginia Woolf’s last novel, Between the Acts. Both Alex Zwerdling in Virginia Woolf and the Real World and Lucio Ruotolo in The Interrupted Moment engage with the implications of this question – though neither has much to say about aeroplanes ...

Why we have them I can’t think

Rosemary Hill: ‘Mrs Woolf and the Servants’, 16 August 2007

Mrs Woolf and the Servants: The Hidden Heart of Domestic Service 
by Alison Light.
Fig Tree, 376 pp., £20, August 2007, 978 0 670 86717 2
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... and mistresses, especially mistresses, is the theme of Alison Light’s study of the home life of Virginia Woolf, whose complicated relationship with her own cook, Nellie Boxall, involved a degree of intimidation on both sides. The sight of Virginia and Leonard pacing the squares of Bloomsbury, well out of ...

At the NPG

Jean McNicol: ‘Virginia Woolf’, 11 September 2014

... On​ 16 October​ 1940 the house in Tavistock Square in which Virginia Woolf had lived for 15 years was destroyed by a bomb. The first image in the National Portrait Gallery’s exhibition Virginia Woolf: Art, Life and Vision (until 26 October), which claims to provide ‘a visual narrative akin to a portrait’ by looking at ‘telling ingredients in each period of her life’, is a blown-up photograph of the exposed side wall of the house ...

Doctors’ Orders

Ruth Bernard Yeazell, 18 February 1982

‘All that summer she was mad’: Virginia Woolf and Her Doctors 
by Stephen Trombley.
Junction, 338 pp., £12.50, November 1981, 9780862450397
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... In the summer following the death of Leslie Stephen in 1904, his daughter Virginia lay in bed, listening to the birds singing in Greek and imagining King Edward lurking naked in the azaleas, shouting obscenities; that same summer she apparently attempted to kill herself by leaping out of the window. ‘I have never spent such a wretched 8 months in my life,’ she wrote to a friend when the crisis had passed ...

Vita Longa

Mary-Kay Wilmers, 1 December 1983

Vita: The Life of V. Sackville-West 
by Victoria Glendinning.
Weidenfeld, 430 pp., £12.50, September 1983, 0 297 78306 8
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... was 40: Christopher, Mrs Glendinning writes, was ‘very ugly and in her late fifties’. (Virginia Woolf, called upon to intercede with Vita on Christopher’s behalf, described her as ‘that mule-faced harridan of yours’.) Vita didn’t drop Christopher: she liked people to go on loving her, provided they didn’t expect much in ...

Georgie came, Harry went

Frank Kermode, 25 April 1991

A Passionate Apprentice. The Early Journals of Virginia Woolf, 1897-1909 
edited by Mitchell Leaska.
Hogarth, 444 pp., £25, October 1990, 0 7012 0845 7
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A Very Close Conspiracy: Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf 
by Jane Dunn.
Cape, 338 pp., £16.99, October 1990, 0 224 02234 2
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... Seven journal-notebooks from Virginia Woolf’s early years, six in the Berg Collection of New York Public Library and one in the British Library, are here reprinted without omissions. The editor has done his job with almost extravagant care, providing quantities of information it is just conceivable somebody might want most of ...

Ah, la vie!

Ruth Bernard Yeazell: Lytton Strachey’s letters, 1 December 2005

The Letters of Lytton Strachey 
edited by Paul Levy.
Viking, 698 pp., £30, March 2005, 0 670 89112 6
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... a few sentences of George Meredith’s correspondence in 1912, he felt ‘so nauseated’, he told Virginia Woolf, that he shut the book at once: Is it prejudice, do you think, that makes us hate the Victorians, or is it the truth of the case? They seem to me to be a set of mouthing bungling hypocrites; but perhaps really there is a baroque charm about ...

Englamouring the humdrum

Rosemary Ashton, 23 November 1989

Arguing with the past: Essays in Narrative from Woolf to Sidney 
by Gillian Beer.
Routledge, 206 pp., £25, August 1989, 0 415 02607 5
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Samuel Richardson: Tercentenary Essays 
edited by Margaret Anne Doody and Peter Sabor.
Cambridge, 306 pp., £35, July 1989, 0 521 35383 1
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... notion of the anxiety of influence, is a reasonable one, best illustrated here in the essays on Virginia Woolf. Gillian Beer persuasively suggests that in her first novel, The Voyage Out, not only do Woolf’s descriptions of a South American forest echo those of Darwin in The Voyage of the Beagle, but also her ...

Gloom without Doom

Frank Kermode, 19 April 1990

Letters of Leonard Woolf 
edited by Frederic Spotts.
Weidenfeld, 616 pp., £30, March 1990, 0 297 79635 6
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... Leonard Woolf’s earlier years coincided with the last great age of letter-writing. Moreover his friends were people who had what may now seem an unusually pressing need to keep in touch with one another, even when not very far apart, and this need was well served by the Post Office, which, before 1914, gave London eight deliveries of mail each day ...

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