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About the Book and Author

[ Edited ]

About To the Lighthouse

The novel that established Virginia Woolf as a leading writer of the 20th century, To the Lighthouse is made up of three powerfully charged visions into the life of one family living in a summer house off the rocky coast of Scotland. As time winds its way through their lives, the Ramsays face, alone and simultaneously, the greatest of human challenges and triumphs -- the capacity for change. A moving portrait in miniature of family life, the novel also has profoundly universal implications, giving language to the silent space that separates people and the space that they transgress to reach each other.

About Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf, who would become one of the 20th century's most celebrated novelists, was born in London on January 25, 1882, to Leslie and Julia Duckworth Stephen. The Stephens were a prominent family among England's literary and cultural elite. Leslie Stephen was a leading author and critic, as well as the founding editor of the Dictionary of National Biography, and his first wife, Harriet, was the daughter of the novelist William Makepeace Thackeray. Virginia had access to the works in her erudite father's extensive library, and she read them voraciously. Unlike her brothers, however, the brilliant, self-taught young woman was denied access to a university education, a fact that would inform her influential feminist works A Room of One's Own and Three Guineas.

When Virginia was 13, her mother died, a traumatic event that triggered a mental breakdown, the first in a life intermittently plagued by severe depression. Virginia suffered another breakdown following the death of her father in 1904. While convalescing at the home of a family friend, she began to publish essays and reviews in the Guardian and the Times Literary Supplement.

Later that year, Virginia moved with her siblings Vanessa, Thoby, and Adrian to a house in the Bloomsbury section of London. There, Thoby began holding informal gatherings of his Cambridge friends. Known as the Bloomsbury Group, this legendary artistic circle included artist Clive Bell, economist John Maynard Keynes, and writers Lytton Strachey and E. M. Forster. It was within this group that Virginia met novelist Leonard Woolf, whom she married in 1912.

In 1917, Virginia and Leonard founded the Hogarth Press, which they ran from their home. Hogarth would become an influential press, publishing works by Katherine Mansfield, T. S. Eliot, James Joyce, and Vita Sackville-West, among others. Woolf wrote prolifically and in many forms: from extensive letters, diary entries, essays, and literary reviews to short stories and novels. She authored some of the most influential novels of the early 20th century, including Mrs. Dalloway (1925), To the Lighthouse (1927), and The Waves (1931). Her superb ear for language and her narrative conception of experience as "moments of being" earned her both renown among her contemporaries, as well as critical and financial success.

Increasing depression and the impending atrocities of World War II proved too much for Woolf's sensitive nature. After completing her final novel, Between the Acts, amid bomb warnings and nationwide anxiety, Woolf penned a short suicide note to Leonard, filled her pockets with stones, and drowned herself in the River Ouse on March 28, 1941.

Learn more about Virginia Woolf in Meet the Writers.

Message Edited by Jessica on 10-26-2007 11:06 AM

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