THE LETTERS OF VIRGINIA WOOLF, Vol. IV: 1929-1931 by Nigel & Joanne Trautmann-Eds. Nicolson


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We shall soon be able to know Virginia Woolf better than we can know almost any other person of this century,"" says Nigel Nicolson. And he is right. VW's autobiographical records continue to mount with publication of the multi-volume diaries and now volume IV of the letters. The 425 pages here cover only three years, the first dominated by VW's relations with Vita Sackville-West, her occasional writing, including publication of A Room of One's Own, and early labors on The Waves; and the next two years devoted chiefly to struggles with and successful completion of that ""exquisitely irritating book"" and to a consuming friendship with Dame Ethel Smyth. Like the earlier volumes, the letters here are artful public documents rather than self-searching meditations--as are the diaries. VW describes her daily life and work and friendships with wit and elegance but only from the outside, giving few clues to the state of her soul. What clues there are come in letters to Ethel Smyth. She tells of a ""terror of real life"" which ""has always kept me in a nunnery,"" and of the uses to art of insanity: ""in its lava I still find most of the things I write about."" As the friendship deepens, VW discovers a few truths about her nature, especially as a woman: ""It is true that I only want to show off to women,"" she confesses, for ""women alone stir my imagination."" Then she wonders: ""What is the line between friendship and perversion?"" But toward the end of 1931, Dame Ethers attentions grow stifling and VW begins to chafe. The well-edited volume ends nicely with the decline of this friendship and the publication to happy praise of The Waves.

Pub Date: March 30th, 1979
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich