To the Lighthouse
To the Lighthouse was published in 1927 by Hogarth Press two years after Mrs Dalloway and a year before Orlando. The plot – not the most important aspect at all – concerns a... More > family’s decision to visit a lighthouse on two separate occasions, the first, unsuccessfully, when the children are young and the second, successfully, when the children are ten years older but the mother has died. The essential parts of the plot, the death of the mother and the demise of a son, are merely referred to (the first in brackets!), but are central to the tone and feel of the second part in which the initially maligned father proves his worth in the eyes of his children.< Less
The Voyage Out
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
Published in 1937 by Hogarth Press, The Years was the last novel released during Woolf’s lifetime. It was also the longest in development, having gone through a steady flow of refinements since... More > it was first conceived as a novel-essay in 1931. Much like the previous novel, The Waves, this is as much or more about structure than it is about plot, following the progress or otherwise of the Pargiter family from 1880 up to ‘the present’. Again like The Waves, the stages of narrative presented as brief snapshots are interspersed with poetic vistas of British weather.
That the dates coincide with Woolf’s life are not coincidence, writing to Hugh Walpole in 1932 she declared that, “ … only autobiography is literature – novels are what we peel off …” This can be taken in two ways: that a writer is obliged to get through the novels before coming to the more worthy autobiography; or that what’s presented as a novel is no more than the thin outer skin covering up the autobiography underneath.< Less
Originally published in 1938 by Hogarth, Three Guineas is a work of non-fiction composed of replies to three imaginary letters, the first asking Woolf how to prevent war, the second asking her how... More > women could enter the professions, and the third how women can become educated. While the latter themes are familiar enough to Woolf, the first is less so and is necessarily difficult for Woolf to advocate. As a feminist, she was against fascism because it advocated a society in which women play no part in public life, yet as a pacifist – she'd seen the effects of the First World War – she was opposed to waging war to fight it.
Given when it was published and further the manner of its writing – it was intended to act as a counterpoint to the fictional elements of The Years – Three Guineas was a book Woolf could easily have left in manuscript form. That she didn't provides modern day readers with a record of her beliefs and how they might have developed in subsequent years.< Less