A passionate apprentice The early journals, 1897-1909

Virginia Woolf, 1882-1941

Book - 1992

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BIOGRAPHY/Woolf, Virginia
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2nd Floor BIOGRAPHY/Woolf, Virginia Checked In
San Diego : Harcourt Brace Jovanovich 1992.
1st Harvest/HBJ ed
Physical Description
xlv, 444 p. : geneal. table ; 23 cm
Includes bibliographical references and index.
Main Author
Virginia Woolf, 1882-1941 (-)
Other Authors
Mitchell Alexander Leaska (-)
Review by Choice Review

The contents of seven holograph notebooks kept by Woolf between the ages of 15 and 27, these journals are slim pickings as compared to the five-volume Diary (1977-1984). It is interesting to learn, for example, that Woolf loved studying models of prose style, such as Walter Pater, but was bored by analysis of diction; and it is surprising to find her practicing descriptive writing, which she evidently found extremely difficult, though she became accomplished at it in both fiction and non-fiction. In a most rewarding introductory essay, Leaska discusses the importance of the journals, which he has edited with obvious affection but perhaps superabundant information: the old-fashioned footnotes cause continual interruption. This is not a particularly informative document, but it cannot be ignored by libraries wishing a complete collection, or by the significant number of readers who cannot get enough of Woolf and who will therefore welcome even her traveling expense account lists. -J. Hafley, St. John's University (NY)

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission. Review by Booklist Review

This is a mixed bag of journals and diaries printed in their entirety, kept by Virginia Woolf (then Virginia Stephen) from age 15 to 27. The earliest entries consist of abbreviated observations of people, places, and events, followed by exercises in extensive essay writing; more detailed reminiscences of people and places from her childhood follow, ending with travel journals and essays. Despite Woolf's 1908 comment that "When I read this book . . . I am struck by the wildness of its statements--the carelessness of its descriptions," still, her work is instructive if only because she ran, even in her younger days, in circles that included the prominent figures in the world of art, literature, politics, law, and education. While these are journals, Woolf, even as a youngster, was fully aware of an invisible reader who made her "put on her dress clothes such as they are." But, mostly, the modern reader herein becomes a partner to Virginia Woolf teaching herself to write--and as the journals progress, we easily discern her signature style (of understatement and contrasting imagery) taking shape. No index. ~--Allen Weakland

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission. Review by Kirkus Book Review

These seven journals of Woolf (1882-1943), begun when she was almost 15 and spanning 12 years, cover her life at home as well as trips to various parts of Great Britain and to Greece and Italy. As Leaska (Communication Arts/N.Y.U.) says in his excellent introduction, these were ""private books, written quickly, spontaneously,"" and they show an apprentice learning her craft. The journal for 1897, ""the first really lived year of my life,"" as Woolf says, would be of little interest were the author not Virginia Woolf. The brief entries are mostly mundane: ""After luncheon Nessa went back to her drawings; Stella to the work house, and Father to Wimbledon."" But they do reveal her absolute compulsion to put down her thoughts and experiences in writing: ""What shall I write tomorrow?"" Beginning with the Warboys 1899 journal, as Leaska says, ""she was practising the art of essay writing for the first time,"" and from then on the daily entries are interspersed with short essays. Clear indications of her later skill become evident: Some relatives ""move awkwardly, & as though they resented the conventionalities of modern life at every step. They all bring with them the atmosphere of the lecture room."" Her career as a fiction writer is clearly indicated by: the 1905 Cornwall entries that recall her childhood, and whose details she would reimagine in To the Lighthouse; an especially moving passage in 1903 speculating on a note left by an unknown drowned woman; and her reflections in the 1906 Greece diary on Prosper MerimÉe's letters to an unknown woman. These later entries plainly reveal Woolf's strengths: accurate vivid details that bring people and places to life; compassion; and truth-telling, even when painful. Although these notebooks do not record the turbulence of her life at this time--her father's death, her own spells of depression--the reader may often infer her state of mind by the calmness or agitation of her entries. The volume also contains full footnotes and useful, interesting appendices. Necessary for Woolf scholars and fascinating for even casual readers. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.