virginia woolf portraits

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Virginia Woolf, Vita Sackville-West and two dogs sitting on a grass bank. Monk’s House (Rodmell, England), 1933.

“I try to invent you for myself, but find I really have only 2 twigs and 3 straws to do it with. I can get the sensation of seeing you—hair, lips, colour, height, even, now and then, the eyes and hands, but I find you going off, to walk in the garden, to play tennis, to dig, to sit smoking and talking, and then I cant invent a thing you say—This proves, what I could write reams about—how little we know anyone, only movements and gestures, nothing connected, continuous, profound. But give me a hint I implore.”

– Virginia Woolf in a letter to Vita Sackville-West

VIRGINIA WOOLF 1882–1941

English modernist writer, and central figure of the Bloomsbury Group, known for Mrs Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, and A Room of One’s Own. Raised in an intellectual and literary home, she was dealt an emotional blow at a young age when her mother, father, and two siblings died in quick succession. This led to her first struggle with mental illness, the bouts of depression which would plague her throughout her life. At 30, she married Leonard Woolf, and together they started a publishing house that began printing her work. Before her marriage, Woolf had enjoyed a few intense friendships with other women, and often linked creativity to female companionship. But those relationships were never sexual until she met Vita Sackville-West—a known “Sapphist"—at the age of 40. Their relationship lasted about three years, during which Woolf wrote Orlando. The book, which casts Vita as a man transformed into a woman who lives for three centuries, is seen as a novel-length love letter, though not the only one of Woolf’s works to address lesbianism either obliquely or openly. They remained close friends up until Woolf’s suicide.

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Virginia Woolf and Lytton Strachey photographed by Lady Ottoline Morrell. c.1923.

“Nothing is easier or more intimate than a talk with Lytton. If he is less witty, he is more humane.”

–Virginia Woolf, from a diary entry dated 22 January 1919.

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Photographs taken by Lady Ottoline Morrell c.1923.

“Do you remember one of Leslie Stephen’s daughters, the younger, I think, called Virginia? She married a chap called Woolf in the Indian, or Ceylon, Civil Service. Well, they write. Indeed she wrote a book, essays and so on; and wants to know if you could help her to correct a misprint or so—that is, if you remember her—a tall girl, she was, rather badly dressed, parted her hair in the middle.”

Virginia Woolf, in a letter to Lytton Strachey dated 8 September 1925.