Virginia Woolf is one of the most influential figures in twentieth-century literature. She was original, passionate, vivid, dedicated to her art. Yet most biographies of her still revolve around her social life and the Bloomsbury set.
In this fresh, absorbing book, Julia Briggs puts the writing back at the center of the life. Working closely with diaries, letters and original manuscripts, Briggs has created a masterly study of Woolf's writing process, the finished works, and their reception in the wider world. From The Voyage Out (1915) to Between the Acts (1941), Briggs traces the creation of Woolf's major novels and explores the contradictions that recur in her life and her work: her critique of marriage as a hopelessly patriarchal institution along with her enduring, if essentially platonic, devotion to her husband; her need for solitude and contemplation along with the social skills and ambitions that would make her part of the legend of Bloomsbury; her loathing of patriotism and her love of England, its landscapes and literature; her natural reserve and her deep conviction that women need to speak more openly of their bodies and their sexuality. Using Woolf's own matchless commentary on the creative process, Julia Briggs has produced a book which is a convincing, moving portrait of an artist at full stretch, but also a brilliant meditation on the whole nature of creativity.
Virginia Woolf: An Inner Life-a profound new insight into a literary genius.
Briggs is a fluid writer, and she offers astute insights into both Woolf and her work. Making deft use of letters and diaries, Briggs always steps aside to let Woolf express it best: The urge to write was "like being harnessed to a shark," Woolf wrote, while receiving praise was "like being a violin and being played upon." Briggs even allows Woolf to have her say on the subject of biography: "People write what they call 'lives' of other people; that is, they collect a number of events, and leave the person to whom it happened unknown." Wisely, Briggs chooses not to quarrel directly with such comments. Instead, in its entirety, this biography offers a graceful refutation.