1922–24: Her Own Voice

  • John Mepham
Part of the Macmillan Literary Lives book series


It has been pointed out that by 1918, in spite of the fact that she had published more than a quarter of a million words of reviews and essays, Virginia Woolf was known only for two works, The Voyage Out and the story ‘The Mark on the Wall’ (E III xi). With very few exceptions all her other writing had been anonymous. Night and Day did not do much for her reputation, but the volume of eight stories and other short pieces, Monday or Tuesday, was well received when it was published in 1921. Reviews highlighted the originality of these pieces, and noted that they were mostly attempts to capture the activity of minds thinking. But the word most frequently used was ‘beauty’. ‘No one who values beauty in words should miss “The Haunted House”’, said the Daily News. ‘It is a new thing, made up of a new way of using words and a new way of suggesting emotions’ (Woman’s Leader). The novelty of what she was attempting was pointed out by everyone, and the analogy with the revolution in painting was clear. ‘And how amazingly it is rendered! No one interested in the expression of modern thought through modern art should miss these consummate renderings … her pictures do not seem made with words, but with the very stuff of our mental processes’, said the reviewer in the Observer.


White Space Railway Carriage Short Piece Literary Convention Young Writer 
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  1. 1.
    On the drafts of Jacob’s Room see E. L. Bishop, ‘The Shaping of Jacob’s Room: Woolf’s Manuscript revisions’, Twentieth Century Literature, vol. 32, no. 1, Spring 1986, pp. 115–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. For useful contributions to other topics relevant to my discussion of Jacob’s Room see Barry Morgenstern, ‘The Self-Conscious Narrator in Jacob’s Room’ in Modern Fiction Studies, vol. 18, no. 3, 1972, p. 351f.Google Scholar
  3. and Judy Little, ‘Jacob’s Room as Comedy: Woolf’s Parodic Bildungsroman’ in ed. Jane Marcus, New Feminist Essays on Virginia Woolf (University of Nebraska Press, 1981).Google Scholar
  4. Alex Zwerdling’s discussion in his Virginia Woolf and the Real World (University of California Press, 1986) is particularly good and in tune with the basic strategy of the present book, as he discusses Woolf’s innovations in form in relation to her purposes as a writer, as means to her broader ends.Google Scholar
  5. 4.
    John Mepham, ‘Mourning and Modernism’, in eds Patricia Clements and Isobel Grundy, Virginia Woolf: New Critical Essays (Vision Press, 1983) pp. 137–56.Google Scholar
  6. 5.
    Richard Jenkyns, The Victorians and Ancient Greece (Oxford University Press, 1980) p. 338.Google Scholar
  7. 6.
    Peter Parker, The Old Lie: The Great War and the Public School Ethos (Constable, 1987) p. 218.Google Scholar
  8. 9.
    On Rupert Brooke see Samuel Hynes, Edwardian Occasions: Essays on English Writing in the Early Twentieth Century (Oxford University Press, 1972) pp. 144–52.Google Scholar
  9. 11.
    B. J. Kirkpatrick, A Bibliography of Virginia Woolf, 3rd edn (Clarendon Press, 1980) p. 16.Google Scholar
  10. 12.
    This and many other letters from Forster to Virginia Woolf are in Monks House Papers, Sussex University Library and in eds Mary Lago and P. N. Furbank, Selected Letters of E. M. Forster, vol. 2, 1921–70 (Collins, 1985).Google Scholar
  11. 13.
    See also Beth Rigel Daugherty, ‘The Whole Contention Between Mr Bennett and Mrs Woolf Revisited’ in eds Elaine Ginsberg and Laura Moss Gottlieb, Virginia Woolf: Centennial Essays (Whitston, 1983).Google Scholar

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© John Mepham 1991

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  • John Mepham

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