THE LETTERS OF VIRGINIA WOOLF, Vol. II: 1912-1922 by Nigel & Joanne Trautmann--Eds. Nicolson
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Between the ages of 30 and 40, Virginia Woolf suffered two mental collapses, married happily, and attained artistic maturity. Her letters of those years (19121922) betray her bouts with unreason only in allusions to illness and gaps of silence, but they abundantly display her attentions to people, life, and art. Toward people she was emphatic: profoundly devoted (as to her husband, Leonard, and her sister, Vanessa, to whom she wrote most), unabashedly familiar (as with Vanessa's lover, Duncan Grant, and Lytton Strachey), or thrashingly critical, although not always to the face (as with T. S. Eliot, whose maladroit response to her fund-raising on his behalf provoked a flash of anger against the American ""race""). Toward public life she was disdainful, convinced that ""the chief harm to human character comes from taking an interest in politics,"" yet material life often preoccupied her--sanitary arrangements, domestic expenses, and relations with the obviously vanishing servant class, not to mention the founding of the Hogarth Press. In art, Virginia's self-confidence grew as she published her first three novels and envisioned ""new shapes"" for literature, rejecting Joyce and emulating Proust along the way. Although there is less inwardness and self-doubt evident in her letters than in her diaries and Quentin Bell's biography, her private dedication to literature as ""the only spiritual and humane career"" shines through. The editors took some knocks for the sparse documentation of Volume I, and their practice hasn't changed--most wanting is a glossary of names to assist readers unfamiliar with the correspondents. Yet modest scholarship does not undo the achievement of making Virginia Woolf's vivid, artful letters available.

Pub Date: Nov. 19th, 1976
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich