FOREWORD BY ALI SMITH
WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY FRANCESCA WADE
Who better to serve as a guide to great books and their authors than Virginia Woolf?
In the early years of its existence, the Times Literary Supplement published some of the finest writers in English: T. S. Eliot, Henry James and E. M. Forster among them. But one of the paper’s defining voices was Virginia Woolf, who produced a string of superb essays between the two World Wars.
The weirdness of Elizabethan plays, the pleasure of revisiting favourite novels, the supreme examples of Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot and Henry James, Thomas Hardy and Joseph Conrad: all are here, in anonymously published pieces, in which may be glimpsed the thinking behind Woolf’s works of fiction and the enquiring, feminist spirit of A Room of One’s Own.
Here is Woolf the critical essayist, offering, at one moment, a playful hypothesis and, at another, a judgement laid down with the authority of a twentieth-century Dr Johnson. Here is Woolf working out precisely what’s great about Hardy, and how Elizabeth Barrett Browning made books a “substitute for living” because she was “forbidden to scamper on the grass”. Above all, here is Virginia Woolf the reader, whose enthusiasm for great literature remains palpable and inspirational today.
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About the Author
Virginia Woolf (1882–1941) is one of the world’s great writers. Born Virginia Stephen, she became a professional writer in 1900, and began writing for the TLS a few years later. In 1912, she married Leonard Woolf; they founded the Hogarth Press five years later. Her novels include Mrs Dalloway (1925), To the Lighthouse (1927) and The Waves (1931), but she is also celebrated as the author of short stories and non-fiction, including the feminist essays A Room of One’s Own (1929) and Three Guineas (1938).
Date of Birth:January 25, 1882
Date of Death:March 28, 1941
Place of Birth:London
Place of Death:Sussex, England