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Virginia Woolf: The Stamina of the Soul

Updated on February 5, 2015

The Bloomsbury Group

"Writers are like that!"

It was my inceptive remark when asked on the premise that, "writing was often agony but it provided the 'strongest pleasure' we knew."

We see our work as an art form that combines language and story. We got this capacity to imagine the lives of others, make them move from inside our head to inside another in a conversation, love, or conflict and take the reader with us. The aim is not really to be an authority on writing. We are just a voice and an imagination that is more than adequate to its task. The age of Information Technology, or known to us as The Net, where access to massive amounts of information, together with the widespread ability to communicate, has altered the way human beings perceive reality is changing the nature of our language and the nature of the stories we tell, but we still tell stories, and we still think with language.

Allow me to acquaint you to one of my most liked English Writer Virginia Woolf, who became famous for her nonlinear prose style, especially noted in her novels Mrs. Dalloway and To the Lighthouse. She was a significant figure in the London literary society and a central figure in the influential Bloomsbury Group of intellectuals.

Known as the Bloomsbury Set, it was an influential group of associated English writers, intellectuals, philosophers and artists, the best known members of which included Virginia Woolf. This collective body of friends and relatives lived, worked or studied together near Bloomsbury, London during the first half of the 20th century. According to Ian Vaughan Kenneth Ousby, a British historian and editor, "although its members denied being a group in any formal sense, they were united by an abiding belief in the importance of the arts." Their works and outlook deeply influenced literature, aesthetics, criticism, and economics as well as the group's ethos towards feminism, pacifism, and sexuality.

Intellectual Aristocracy

Not everyone are privileged to be raised by remarkable parents of prominent background or origin in terms of education, social and historical status.

Born to Julia Prinsep Stephen and her husband, Sir Leslie, a historian and author and also one of the most prominent figures on the London literary and intellectual scene, in January 25, 1882, Adeline Virginia Stephen was born. She was the third of four children. It was a distinguished English household, raised by free-thinking parents. She grew up in a home full of books. She began writing as a young girl.

It was in August 10, 1912 that Virginia Stephen married Leonard Woolf, a Jewish intellectual who had served in the foreign service. He was also an English political theorist, author and publisher. It was an unconventional marriage that lasts until Virginia's death. Writing her first novel since about 1908, The Voyage Out, her work was finished by 1913, but as a result of a severe mental breakdown after her marriage, it was not published until 1915.

“Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.”  ― Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own
“Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.” ― Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own

Depressive Episodes

Virginia Woolf experienced moods propelling between high and low. Her less-intense elevated moods are called hypomanic episodes, or hypomania. It was known to many that she suffered from a mental disorder termed Bipolar II where most people with this condition endure episodes of depression. This is where the term "manic depression" comes from.

Her first major depression was in 1895 upon the death of her mother, Julia Prinsep Stephen. It made the family submerged into sorrow. Nevertheless, it was from the depths of depression that she seemed to unearth her best inspiration. When she started a novel, according to Dally, who is a psychiatrist: "Virginia's need to write was, among other things, to make sense out of mental chaos and gain control of madness. Through her novels she made her inner world less frightening."

The death of her father in 1904 induced Virginia Woolf's major mental breakdown. She was briefly institutionalized following an attempt to commit suicide by jumping out of a window. There were several breakdowns after, her proness to suicide made her swallow 100 grains of Veronal. It was used as a sleeping aid.

Despite her continued bouts of depression and dramatic mood swings, she had established herself as both an intellectual and an innovative thinker and writer. A lady whose literary works are as famous as her mental illness.

In 1941, at the age of 59, convinced she would not recover from her battle with depression, Virginia Woolf committed suicide. She filled her coat's pockets with stones and drowned herself in the Ouse River near Monk's House.

"Language is wine upon the lips" _ Virginia Woolf
"Language is wine upon the lips" _ Virginia Woolf

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    • Matt Wells profile image

      Matt Wells 16 months ago

      Interesting Hub!

    • rosevillaruz profile image
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      Rosemarie Austria Villaruz 2 years ago from Manila, Philippines

      hello Dip Mtra. no, not all witers need to get depressed to bring out the best in them. it's just unfortunate for these awesome writers like Plath and Woolf to commit suicide. Plath was only 30-yrs old when she passed on. thank you for appreciating my hub.

    • rosevillaruz profile image
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      Rosemarie Austria Villaruz 2 years ago from Manila, Philippines

      i agree mactavers. her life, writings, creativity and imperfection fascinates me. thank you for your comment.

    • rosevillaruz profile image
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      Rosemarie Austria Villaruz 2 years ago from Manila, Philippines

      thank you bigj1969. depression is treatable. everyone gets affected by it. it's how we handle that makes the difference.

    • Dip Mtra profile image

      Dip Mtra 2 years ago from World Citizen

      Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf-do writers need to be depressed to bring out their best? Great hub.

    • mactavers profile image

      mactavers 2 years ago

      It's amazing to me how many writers have come and gone since Virginia Woolf and she is still being read and studied today.

    • bigj1969 profile image

      John Marshall 2 years ago from glasgow

      Very interesting hub,depression is a terrible condition,I suffer from it at the moment.good to see the issue raised in a hub.