Published posthumously by Hogarth Press shortly after Wooolf’s suicide, Between The Acts was her last novel and, strangely perhaps, closest to the first. It takes place over a day before,... More > during and after the staging of an amateur pageant in an English village just before the onset of the Second World War. Unlike her major fictional works, Between The Acts is dialogue driven, rather than introspective, and there is also an omniscient sense to it, as though Woolf is directing the characters much as they would later be directed in the pageant. The play itself takes place in three scenes disconnected by years of history leading from a Shakespearian romance, onto a Restoration comedy and finally a triumphant Victorian parade in a notional Hyde Park.< Less
Published in 1933 by Hogarth, Flush is an experiment in biography, using the medium of a pet dog, the eponymous character, to examine the imagined life of the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning. While... More > Woolf's approach is essentially fictional, she used existing correspondence between Browning and her husband, combined with poems about Flush the dog to create non-fictional threads. On these factual underpinnings, Woolf then layered themes that she wished to explore.
Connections to A Room of One's Own come across in the way Woolf deals with Browning's life as a woman writer and intellectual, existing in a patriarchal city environment. In choosing such an approach, Woolf certainly betrays the autobiographical elements in the text, given her own status and also allows her to cover the pressures imposed by her private ailments.< Less
Published in 1922, the first of Woolf’s novels to come out of Hogarth Press, Jacob’s Room, also represents her first truly modernist work. If there is a plot to speak of, it is more a... More > story arc, tracing the life of Jacob Flanders from his first appearance trying to climb a rock on a Cornish Beach, to his last reference, a report of his death during the war. Though Woolf does choose at times to give Jacob his own point of view – starting on the beach with a change of tense – for the most part he is dealt with second or third hand, through the views and impressions of other characters.
That the novel represents two firsts – for Hogarth and for Woolf’s Modernism – is no surprise; it’s unlikely that any of the major publishing houses would have gone with such an experimental shift from her previous two novels. The novel was, in the opinion of T.S. Eliot –more than a mere literary acquaintance – without compromise, by which he meant that it didn’t seek to conform to the expectations of the commercial market.< Less
Published by Hogarth in 1921, Monday or Tuesday is a collection of eight short stories. The set includes the title piece, Monday or Tuesday, which, along with Blue and Green, and, to a lesser extent,... More > A Haunted House, suggest themselves as literary pastiches, closer to impressionism than conventional, plot-driven episodes. Even the longer stories, such as A Society and An Unwritten Novel are insular, relying on stream of consciousness methods to create an approach to expressing a character's feeling towards the exterior world.
Where ordinarily, a short story collection will provide a suitable introduction to a novelist, this set serves to push the reader straight into the depths of Woolf's mind set and in doing so gives a strong impression of the modernist bent as it existed in the early twenties. By the time of publication, Woolf would most likely have read Joyce's Ulysses in manuscript form and she would also have been in close contact with T.S. Eliot.< Less
Originally published in October 1929, A Room of One's Own was based on a series of lectures Woolf gave at Girton and Newnham Colleges in Cambridge during the previous year. The overriding theme... More > concerns the conditions necessary to allow a woman to write for a living in a society (her own) that is a patriarchy. The requirements, Woolf suggests, are that she have a room of her own in which to work – hence the title – and a yearly income, ideally a trust from which to draw.
Of course, these are merely the pegs onto which Woolf hangs a treatise that is an essential feminist text. At times the writing is disjointed and in some places extravagant, but throughout we see one of the great novelists turn her ire upon a society that excludes women physically and mentally from what they every right to enjoy in life. Whether those exclusions are educational – Woolf begins with an anecdote about being barred from a college library – social or sexual, the writing is, in contemporary terms, unflinching.< Less
Considered by many critics to be Woolf’s masterpiece, Mrs Dalloway was published by Hogarth Press in 1925. The plot follows a single day in the lead up to a party being hosted by Clarissa... More > Dalloway, interspersed with flashbacks and switches in point of view to other principal characters so as to provide a background of their lives and comment on the social structure of the 1920s.
In addition to Mrs Dalloway, the other focus is Septimus Warren Smith, a veteran of the war who suffers from ‘shell shock’. Though the two never meet, the hinge of the day’s activities is Smith’s suicide and the subsequent impact it has on Mrs Dalloway’s thoughts – she thinks him quite admirable.< Less
Night and Day, Woolf’s second novel, was published in 1919 and for the most part is conventional, dealing with current issues including women’s suffrage, marriage and not-marriage through... More > the lives of a few principal characters. Katherine Hilbery represents the autobiographical element, the grand-daughter of a famous poet and with a mother who, combined with the past, exercises a significant impression on her life.
Another of the principal characters, Mary Datchett, chooses to work even though, with a private income, she had no need to. In Mary, there are elements of the emancipated female found in A Room of One’s Own, a woman, with a secure financial footing, stepping out with her own agenda. Yet Mary also shows sign of that ‘Angle in the Room’, mode in that she serves as a sounding board for troubles hoisted upon her by the other characters. Though she loves Ralph Denham, the third of the main characters, she rejects him finally because she sees through his insincerity.< Less
Published by Hogarth Press in 1928, Orlando is at once an oddity, an indulgence, but also a slice of genius. The novel – because despite masquerading as a biography, it is a work of narrative... More > fiction – tells the unlikely, impossible story of Orlando through his years as a male member of the Elizabethan Court, an affair with a Russian Princess, a subdued period of contemplation during the reign of James 1, his time as an ambassador in Constantinople and the sudden transformation into a woman.
Not content with such a plot twist Woolf allows her character to live on through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, using the journey to trace the female place in society while allowing Orlando the freedom to seduce, be seduced and to love in equal measure. After 80,000 words, Woolf leaves her heroine in the England of 1928 having completed a poem, The Oak Tree, that had been started some four centuries earlier.< Less
With the first volume published in 1925 and the second in 1932, The Common Reader brings together a collection of Woolf's critical essays and articles, in total forty entries covering historical and... More > contemporary authors and themes. By no means is this a complete collection of her critical work – she was reviewing in established magazines well before she'd published any of her own work – but it is representative of her views at the height of her abilities.
It's also a reflection of Woolf's working life. By all accounts, she wrote for publication only at certain times of the day – usually in the morning – but she also put a considerable amount of time aside to read, typically amassing a pile of intended volumes or immersing herself in a single author for a few days at a time. Unfortunately, the use of the word 'common' in the title served to open her up for subsequent criticism because by and large these are subjects not especially appealing to the common man or woman.< Less
Published in 1915, but written and revised in stages from 1912, The Voyage Out was Woolf’s first novel. The plot follows Rachel Vinrace on her voyage aboard her father’s ship to South... More > America. During the voyage, Rachel meets a number of well-constructed characters that include Clarissa Dalloway (later given her own novel), and others that have been shown to be based on Llyton Strachey and Vanessa Bell.
Outwardly, this arrangement allows Woolf to run through a satire of Edwardian life, but deeper down the novel shows evidence of autobiographical elements. The father’s ship, for example, might represent Woolf’s perception of a life as set out by her own father, dead perhaps six or seven years prior to her writing the novel. Also the plot features a recollection of a mother’s death which the principal character is unable to bring herself to remember and certain dream sequences have been highlighted for their insight into Woolf’s own mental predisposition.< Less