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Mrs. Dalloway: Virginia Woolf
London: Hogarth Press, 1925. Dust jacket designed by Vanessa Bell.

The portrayal of Virginia Woolf as a virginal ice-maiden in some of the biographies is counterbalanced by the sensuality of her writing. The most famous example is from Mrs. Dalloway in which Clarissa describes her feelings for women:

Mrs. Dalloway cover

It was a sudden revelation, a tinge like a blush which one tried to check and then, as it spread, one yielded to its expansion, and rushed to the farthest verge and there quivered and felt the world come closer, swollen with some astonishing significance, some pressure of rapture, which split its thin skin and gushed and poured with an extraordinary alleviation over the cracks and sores. Then, for that moment, she had seen an illumination; a match burning in a crocus; an inner meaning almost expressed.

The Hours, a prize winning film adaptation of Michael Cunningham's book, is a modern-day version of Mrs. Dalloway. Clarissa Vaughan's Manhattan dinner party is linked to the life of a 1950s mother, Laura Brown, and a fictionalized portrayal of Virginia Woolf, a day in which she wrote the first sentence of her best-selling novel: "Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself."

Frances Hooper Collection of Virginia Woolf
Mortimer Rare Book Room, Smith College

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