London Library Women: Virginia Woolf and George Eliot

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Archive Advent Calendar: 13 December 2013

It could only be Virginia Woolf who wrote the piece on George Eliot which appeared in the Times Literary Supplement on November 20, 1919.  Woolf reconfigured Eliot’s reputation in the piece viewing Eliot and her literary reputation from a distinctly female perspective and concluding in her final sentence:

“We must lay upon her grave whatever we have it in our power to bestow of laurel and rose”.

VWoolf

The joining for to the Library of Virginia Woolf dating from 1904 the year in which her father died. She gives her occupation as “Spinster”.

Sissinghurst

From the Library’s Special Collections, Sissinghurst by Vita Sackville West dedicated “To V.W.” Printed by hand by Leonard & Virginia Woolf at the Hogarth Press in 1931, it is signed by Vita and is one of only 500 copies printed.

Sackville West (1)

From the Library’s Special Collections, Sissinghurst by Vita Sackville West dedicated “To V.W.” Printed by hand by Leonard & Virginia Woolf at the Hogarth Press in 1931, it is signed by Vita and is one of only 500 copies printed.

Woolf’s own joining form to the London Library dates from 1904 when she was 22 years old.  It is richly revealing.  Note her self-described occupation or position “Spinster”.  The £40 she paid for life membership at the age of twenty-two makes a clear statement about her future career direction and the date is significant too.  Virginia took out life membership of the London Library four days after the death of her father, Leslie Stephen who had been President of the London Library from 1892 until his death. Within three years of Virginia signing her joining form she was writing Melymbrosia later published as her ground breaking novel The Voyage Out”.

© Helen O’Neill        Archive, Heritage and Development Librarian