Woolf’s Social and Cultural Milieu

When one looks at it today, Gordon Square is not one of the most romantic of the Bloomsbury squares…But I can assure you that in October 1904, it was the most beautiful, the most exciting, the most romantic place in the world…We were full of experiments and reforms. We were going to do without table napkins…we were going to paint; to write; to have coffee after dinner instead of tea at nine o’clock.” *

Woolf came of age in the late Victorian era, a period of social flux. The colonial infrastructure of the British Empire was crumbling, socialist movements were gaining traction, Freud was publishing his psychoanalytic theories, and concepts of modernism were taking root. Women were still denied the right to vote, but the suffrage movement was gaining strength.

Born to an upper middle class family of intellectual fame, comfortable but not rich, Woolf lived a life of relative ease. Her income level played an important role in her mental health care. Asylums offered institutional, often substandard, care to the masses. Once interned, patients had difficulty getting out. In contrast, Woolf recuperated from her breakdowns in private rest homes or with hired nurses in the homes of friends.


Victoria and Albert Museum: Gender, Health, Medicine and Sexuality in Victorian England

Explore Bethlem: Inside a Nineteenth Century Psychiatric Hospital

New approaches to Art, Literature, Sexuality and Society in Bloomsbury

A Bloomsbury Time Line

The Freud Museum of London

Conflict: Freud and Culture

Virginia Woolf's London





___References for this Section____

* Woolf, V. (1985). Moments of Being. 2d ed. (J. Schulkind, Ed.) New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.