Written by Simon Thomas
We’re featuring a few Virginia Woolf titles in this issue, so it seemed a good time to turn attention to her in our Five Fascinating Facts series (a concept borrowed from the Interesting Literature blog).
1. She came from a famous family. Her father was Leslie Stephen, a founding editor of the Dictionary of National Biography. Before he married Virginia’s mother, he had been married to the daughter of William Makepeace Thackeray.
2. Virginia was quite the fashionista. Although most remembered now for high modernism and intellectualism, she also wrote articles for Vogue.
3. She had a pun war with J.B. Priestley. In a 1932 radio broadcast, Priestley subtly invoked Woolf when mocking ‘authors entirely without feeling, who write about human life as an educated wolf might be expected to write about it’. She, in return, described Bloomsbury as ‘a place where lowbrows and highbrows live happily together on equal terms and priests are not, nor priestesses, and, to be quite frank, the adjective “priestly” is neither often heard nor held in high esteem.’
4. And wasn’t above criticising her fellow modernists. Running the Hogarth Press with her husband Leonard, she was offered James Joyce’s Ulysses. It was too long for them to be able to print, but – even so – Woolf wrote in her diary that it was ‘the work of a queasy undergraduate scratching his pimples’.
5. Finally: her name wasn’t Virginia. Well, it was her middle name; her first name was actually Adeline.