BOOKS AND PORTRAITS by Virginia Woolf

BOOKS AND PORTRAITS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A novelist of unusual inwardness and delicacy, VW was also a critic of rich curiosity and persuasive intelligence. Some four dozen previously uncollected pieces are gathered here--mainly reviews, with a few fictional vignettes and topical essays tossed in. They are marked by VW's now familiar sensibility (her taste for subjectivity, devotion to art, openness of mind, and lacerating wit), but they also provide sharp, objective observations of their disparate subjects. We read of the history of fashion as the history not ""of ourselves, but of our disguises""; of the intolerant Conventry Patmore: a man ""never restrained by sloth or cowardice from coming into the open and testifying to his faith like a bright little bantam""; of Pepys, a modern observer of himself in a pre-modern world; of Ruskin: an arrogant scold, whose truly touching autobiography flows like a ""beautiful stream"" that ""wanders out of his control and loses itself in the sands;""; of Sarah Bernhardt--""No emotion that could express itself in gesture or action was lost upon her eye."" Although brief, these pieces, like those already reprinted in the Collected Essays, seem larger than their size, for at their best they perfectly satisfy the obligation of the critic--even the casual reviewer, as VW often was--to give illumination and provoke thought.

Pub Date: Feb. 20th, 1977
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich