Virginia Woolf: A Biography

Quentin Bell
New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1972.

In 1972, at the invitation of Leonard Woolf, Quentin Bell wrote an historical biography of his aunt Virginia Woolf. Perhaps because Quentin and Virginia enjoyed a close familial relationship, his narrative does not recognize Woolf’s erotic life. In fact, Quentin thought “the erotic element in her personality was faint and tenuous.” He supported the stereotype of Woolf as frigid and detached from the world: “there was, both in her personality and in her art, a disconcertingly aetherial quality.” However, Quentin was the first family member to publicly support Virginia’s claim that she was sexually molested by her half-brother George Duckworth.

Virginia Woolf’s diaries and letters provide the reader with firsthand information about her life. Anne Olivier Bell (Quentin’s wife) edited five volumes of Virginia Woolf’s diaries (1977-1984) and Nigel Nicolson (Vita Sackville-West’s youngest son) edited six volumes of Virginia Woolf’s letters (1975-1980).

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

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