Virginia Woolf Quotes

Adeline Virginia Woolf was a British writer, considered one of the most important modernist 20th-century authors and a pioneer in the use of stream of consciousness as a narrative device. Woolf was born into an affluent household in South Kensington, London, the seventh child in a blended family of eight.

May these Virginia Woolf quotes on many subjects inspire you to never give up and keep working towards your goals. Who knows—success could be just around the corner. Please DO page find from your browser for your SEARCH.

 

. . . clumsiness is often mated with a love of solitude. – Virginia Woolf

. . . to walk alone in London is the greatest rest. – Virginia Woolf

… I doubt the capacity of the human animal for being dignified in ceremony. – Virginia Woolf

… if we can imagine the art of fiction come alive and standing in our midst, she would undoubtedly bid us to break her and bullyher, as well as honour and love her, for so her youth is renewed and her sovereignty assured. – Virginia Woolf

… it’s been a perpetual discovery, my life. A miracle. – Virginia Woolf

… like all very handsome men who die tragically, he left not so much a character behind him as a legend. Youth and death shed a halo through which it is difficult to see a real face … – Virginia Woolf

… pure honesty is a doubtful quality; it means often lack of imagination. – Virginia Woolf

… the public and the private worlds are inseparably connected … the tyrannies and servilities of the one are the tyrannies and servilities of the other. – Virginia Woolf

… the random talk of people who have no chance of immortality and thus can speak their minds out has a setting, often, of lights, streets, houses, human beings, beautiful or grotesque, which will weave itself into the moment for ever. – Virginia Woolf

… why do people who live in the country always give themselves such airs? – Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf

[Final diary entry:] Occupation is essential. And now with some pleasure I find that it’s seven; and must cook dinner. Haddock and sausage meat. I think it is true that one gains a certain hold on sausage and haddock by writing them down. – Virginia Woolf

[She was singing] a senseless singsong, so that several park keepers looked at her with suspicion and were only brought to a favorable opinion of her sanity by noticing the pearl necklace she wore. – Virginia Woolf

[Ulysses is] the work of a queasy undergraduate scratching his pimples. – Virginia Woolf

‘Here is Percival,’ said Bernard, ‘[…] We […] now come nearer; and shuffling closer on our perch in this restaurant where everybody’s interests are at variance, and the incessant passage of traffic chafes us with distractions, and the door opening perpetually its glass cage solicits us with myriad temptations and offers insults and wounds to our confidence—sitting together here we love each other and believe in our own endurance.’ – Virginia Woolf

‘Now,’ said Neville, ‘my tree flowers. My heart rises. All oppression is relieved. All impediment is removed. The reign of chaos is over. He has imposed order. Knives cut again.’ […] – Virginia Woolf

‘The flower,’ said Bernard, ‘the red carnation that stood in the vase on the table of the restaurant when we dined together with Percival, is become a six-sided flower; made of six lives.’ – Virginia Woolf

A biography is considered complete if it merely accounts for six or seven selves, whereas a person may well have as many as a thousand. – Virginia Woolf

A good essay must have this permanent quality about it; it must draw its curtain round us, but it must be a curtain that shuts us in not out.

A learned man is a sedentary, concentrated solitary enthusiast, who searches through books to discover some particular grain of truth upon which he has set his heart. If the passion for reading conquers him, his gains dwindle and vanish between his fingers. A reader, on the other hand, must check the desire for learning at the outset; if knowledge sticks to him well and good, but to go in pursuit of it, to read on a system, to become a specialist or an authority, is very apt to kill what suits us to consider the more humane passion for pure and disinterested reading. – Virginia Woolf

A light here required a shadow there. – Virginia Woolf

A masterpiece is something said once and for all, stated, finished, so that it’s there complete in the mind, if only at the back. – Virginia Woolf

A million candles burnt in him without his being at the trouble of lighting a single one – Virginia Woolf

A perfect treat must include a trip to a second-hand bookshop. – Virginia Woolf

A self that goes on changing is a self that goes on living. – Virginia Woolf

A sort of transaction went on between them, in which she was on one side, and life was on another, and she was always trying to get the better of it, as it was of her. – Virginia Woolf

A veil of insanity everywhere: Oh why I was born in this age? It is a terrible age. – Virginia Woolf

A very elementary exercise in psychology, not to be dignified by the name of psycho-analysis, showed me, on looking at my notebook, that the sketch of the angry professor had been made in anger. Anger had snatched my pencil while I dreamt. But what was anger doing there? Interest, confusion, amusement, boredom–all these emotions I could trace and name as they succeeded each other throughout the morning. Had anger, the black snake, been lurking among them? Yes, said the sketch, anger had. – Virginia Woolf

A woman knows very well that, though a wit sends her his poems, praises her judgment, solicits her criticism, and drinks her tea, this by no means signifies that he respects her opinions or admires her understanding. – Virginia Woolf

A woman must have money and a room of her own. – Virginia Woolf

About here, she thought, dabbling her fingers in the water, a ship had sunk, and she muttered, dreamily half asleep, how we perished, each alone. – Virginia Woolf

After all, what is a lovely phrase? One that has mopped up as much Truth as it can hold. – Virginia Woolf

All extremes are dangerous. – Virginia Woolf

All extremes of feeling are allied with madness. – Virginia Woolf

All looked distant and peaceful and strange. The shore seemed refined, far away, unreal. Already the little distance they had sailed had put them far from it and given it the changed look, the composed look, of something receding in which one has no longer any part. – Virginia Woolf

All the months are crude experiments, out of which the perfect September is made. – Virginia Woolf

All the time she writing the world had continued. – Virginia Woolf

All this pitting of sex against sex, of quality against quality; all this claiming of superiority and imputing of inferiority, belong to the private-school stage of human existence where there are ‘sides,’ and it is necessary for one side to beat another side, and of the utmost importance to walk up to a platform and receive from the hands of the Headmaster himself a highly ornamental pot. – Virginia Woolf

All this pitting of sex against sex, of quality against quality; all this claiming of superiority and imputing of inferiority belong to the private-school stage of human existence where there are sides, and it is necessary for one side to beat another side. – Virginia Woolf

Almost any biographer, if he respects facts, can give us much more than another fact to add to our collection. He can give us the creative fact; the fertile fact; the fact that suggests and engenders. – Virginia Woolf

Alone, condemned, deserted, as those who are about to die are alone, there was a luxury in it, an isolation full of sublimity; a freedom which the attached can never know – Virginia Woolf

Alone, I often fall down into nothingness. I must push my foot stealthily lest I should fall off the edge of the world into nothingness. I have to bang my head against some hard door to call myself back to the body. – Virginia Woolf

Am I a weed, carried this way, that way, on a tide that comes twice a day without a meaning? – Virginia Woolf

Am I alone in my egotism when I say that never does the pale light of dawn filter through the blinds of 52 Tavistock Square but I open my eyes and exclaim, “Good God! Here I am again!” not always with pleasure, often with pain; sometimes in a spasm. – Virginia Woolf

Am I too fast, too facile? I do not know. I do not know myself sometimes, or how to measure and name and count out the grains that make me what I am. – Virginia Woolf

Among the tortures and devestations of life is this then – our friends are not able to finish their stories. – Virginia Woolf

And all the lives we ever lived and all the lives to be are full of trees and changing leaves. – Virginia Woolf

… and even a tea party means apprehension, breakage. – Virginia Woolf

And I will now rock the brown basin from side to side so that my ships may ride the waves. Some will founder. Some will dash themselves against the cliffs. One sails alone. That is my ship. It sails into icy caverns where the sea-bear barks and stalactites swing green chairs. The waves rise, their crests curl; look at the lights on the mastheads. They have scattered, they have foundered, all except my ship which mounts the wave and sweeps before the gale and reaches the islands where the parrots chatter and then the creepers… – Virginia Woolf

And now more than anything I want beautiful prose. I relish it more and more exquisitely. – Virginia Woolf

And the poem, I think, is only your voice speaking. – Virginia Woolf

and then he could not see her come into a room without a sense of the flowing of robes, of the flowering of blossoms, of the purple waves of the sea, of all things that are lovely and mutable on the surface but still and passionate in their heart. – Virginia Woolf

And yet, the only exciting life is the imaginary one. – Virginia Woolf

And you wish to be a poet; and you wish to be a lover. – Virginia Woolf

Anecdote: A house that is rooted to one spot but can travel as quickly as you change your mind and is complete in itself is surely the most desirable of houses. Our modern house with its cumbersome walls and its foundations planted deep in the ground is nothing better than a prison and more and more prison like does it become the longer we live there, and wear fetters of a association and sentiment. – Virginia Woolf

Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman. – Virginia Woolf

Anyone who has the temerity to write about Jane Austen is aware of [two] facts: first, that of all great writers she is the most difficult to catch in the act of greatness; second, that there are twenty-five elderly gentlemen living in the neighbourhood of London who resent any slight upon her genius as if it were an insult to the chastity of their aunts. – Virginia Woolf

Arrange whatever pieces come your way. – Virginia Woolf

As a creator of character his peculiarity is that he creates wherever his eyes rest … With such a power at his command Dickens made his books blaze up, not by tightening the plot or sharpening the wit, but by throwing another handful of people upon the fire. – Virginia Woolf

As a woman I have no country. As a woman I want no country. As a woman, my country is the whole world. – Virginia Woolf

As a woman I have no country. As a woman my country is the whole world. – Virginia Woolf

As an experience, madness is terrific … and in its lava I still find most of the things I write about. – Virginia Woolf

As for ‘drawing you out,’ please believe I don’t do such things deliberately, with an object — It’s only that I am, as a rule, far more interested in people than they are in me — But it makes me a nuisance, I know: only an innocent nuisance. – Virginia Woolf

At 46 one must be a miser; only have time for essentials. – Virginia Woolf

At any rate, when a subject is highly controversial-and any question about sex is that-one cannot hope to tell the truth. One can only show how one came to hold whatever opinion one does hold. – Virginia Woolf

At last she shut the book sharply, lay back, and drew a deep breath, expressive of the wonder which always marks the transition from the imaginary world to the real world. – Virginia Woolf

At one and the same time, therefore, society is everything and society is nothing. Society is the most powerful concoction in the world and society has no existence whatsoever – Virginia Woolf

Be truthful, and the result is bound to be amazingly interesting. – Virginia Woolf

Besides, in this random miscellaneous company we may rub against some complete stranger who will, with luck, turn into the best friend we have in the world. – Virginia Woolf

Better was it to go unknown and leave behind you an arch, then to burn like a meteor and leave no dust. – Virginia Woolf

Biography is to give a man some kind of shape after his death. – Virginia Woolf

Blame it or praise it, there is no denying the wild horse in us. – Virginia Woolf

Books are the mirrors of the soul. – Virginia Woolf

Books should stand on their own feet … If they need shoring up by a preface here, an introduction there, they have no more right to exist than a table that needs a wad of paper under one leg in order to stand steady. – Virginia Woolf

Boredom is the legitimate kingdom of the philanthropic. – Virginia Woolf

But can we go to posterity with a sheaf of loose pages, or ask the readers of those days, with the whole of literature before them, to sift our enormous rubbish heaps for our tiny pearls? Such are the questions which the critics might lawfully put to their companions at table, the novelists and poets. – Virginia Woolf

But delightful though it is to indulge in righteous indignation, it is misplaced if we agree with the lady’s-maid that high birth is a form of congenital insanity, that the sufferer merely inherits the diseases of his ancestors, and endures them, for the most part very stoically, in one of those comfortably padded lunatic asylums which are known, euphemistically, as the stately homes of England. – Virginia Woolf

But he could not taste, he could not feel. In the teashop among the tables and the chattering waiters the appalling fear came over him- he could not feel. He could reason; he could read, Dante for example, quite easily…he could add up his bill; his brain was perfect; it must be the fault of the world then- that he could not feel. – Virginia Woolf

But how entirely I live in my imagination; how completely depend upon spurts of thought, coming as I walk, as I sit; things churning up in my mind and so making a perpetual pageant, which is to be my happiness. – Virginia Woolf

But I beneath a rougher sea, And whelmed in deeper gulfs than he. – Virginia Woolf

But I do adore you – every part of you from heel to hair. Never will you shake me off, try as you may. – Virginia Woolf

But I don’t think of the future, or the past, I feast on the moment. This is the secret of happiness, but only reached now in middle age. – Virginia Woolf

But I think I’m coloured by my own wishes, & experimental mood. – Virginia Woolf

But it is just when opinions universally prevail and we have added lip service to their authority that we become sometimes most keenly conscious that we do not believe a word that we are saying. – Virginia Woolf

But look—he flicks his hand to the back of his neck. For such gesture one falls hopelessly in love for a lifetime. – Virginia Woolf

But nevertheless, the fact remained, it was almost impossible to dislike anyone if one looked at them. – Virginia Woolf

But nothing is so strange when one is in love (and what was this except being in love?) as the complete indifference of other people. – Virginia Woolf

But our hatred is almost indistinguishable from our love. – Virginia Woolf

But Sasha was from Russia, where the sunsets are longer, the dawns less sudden and sentences are often left unfinished from doubt as how to best end them. – Virginia Woolf

But the close withdrew: the hand softened. It was over– the moment. – Virginia Woolf

But then anyone who’s worth anything reads just what he likes, as the mood takes him, and with extravagant enthusiasm. – Virginia Woolf

But Time, unfortunately, though it makes animals and vegetables bloom and fade with amazing punctuality has no such simple effect upon the mind of man. – Virginia Woolf

But what a little I can get down into my pen of what is so vivid to my eyes, and not only to my eyes; also to some nervous fibre, or fanlike membrane in my species. – Virginia Woolf

But what can one make in loneliness? – Virginia Woolf

But when the door shuts on us, all that vanishes. The shell-like covering which our souls have excreted to house themselves, to make for themselves a shape distinct from others, is broken, and there is left of all these wrinkles and roughnesses a central oyster of perceptiveness, an enormous eye. How beautiful a street is in winter! – Virginia Woolf

But when the self speaks to the self, who is speaking? The entombed soul, the spirit driven in, in, in to the central catacomb; the self that took the veil and left the world — a coward perhaps, yet somehow beautiful, as it flits with its lantern restlessly up and down the dark corridors. – Virginia Woolf

But when we sit together, close,’ said Bernard, ‘we melt into each other with phrases. We are edged with mist. We make an unsubstantial territory. – Virginia Woolf

But why do I notice everything? She thought. Why must I think? She did not want to think. She wanted to force her mind to become a blank and lie back, and accept quietly, tolerantly, whatever came. – Virginia Woolf

But with you I am deeply passionately, unrequitedly in love. – Virginia Woolf

But words have been used too often; touched and turned, and left exposed to the dust of the street. The words we seek hang close to the tree. We come at dawn and find them sweet beneath the leaf. – Virginia Woolf

By hook or by crook, I hope that you will possess yourselves of money enough to travel and to idle, to contemplate the future or the past of the world, to dream over books and loiter at street corners and let the line of thought dip deep into the stream – Virginia Woolf

By virtue of her pen she has won her freedom. She ranges the world, free like any other human being to laugh, to scold, to say what she likes, to be what she is. – Virginia Woolf

Clear-cut and unequivocal am I too. Yet a vast inheritance of experience is packed in me. I have lived thousands of years. I am like a worm that has eaten its way through the wood of a very old oak beam. But now I am compact; now I am gathered together this fine morning. – Virginia Woolf

Clothes are but a symbol of something hid deep beneath. – Virginia Woolf

Come indoors then, and open the books on your library shelves. For you have a library and a good one. A working library, a living library; a library where nothing is chained down and nothing is locked up; a library where the songs of the singers rise naturally from the lives of the livers. – Virginia Woolf

Consolation for those moments when you can’t tell whether you’re the divinest genius or the greatest fool in the world. – Virginia Woolf

Conversation, fastidious goddess, loves blood better than brick, and feasts most subtly on the human will. – Virginia Woolf

Could loving, as people called it, make her and Mrs Ramsay one? for it was not knowledge but unity that she desired, not inscription on tablets, nothing that could be written in any language known to men, but intimacy itself, which is knowledge, she had thought, leaning her head on Mrs Ramsay’s knee. – Virginia Woolf

Different though the sexes are, they inter-mix. In every human being a vacillation from one sex to the other takes place, and often it is only the clothes that keep the male or female likeness, while underneath the sex is very opposite of what it is above. – Virginia Woolf

Directly the mulberry tree begins to make you circle, break off. Pelt the tree with laughter. – Virginia Woolf

Distorted realities have always been my cup of tea. – Virginia Woolf

Do not move, do not go. Sink within this moment. Hold it for ever. – Virginia Woolf

Do you realise how devoted I am to you, all the same? There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for you, dearest Honey. – Virginia Woolf

Does Nature supplement what man advanced? Or does she complete what he began? – Virginia Woolf

Doesn’t one always think of the past, in a garden with men and women lying under the trees? Aren’t they one’s past, all that remains of it, those men and women, those ghosts lying under the trees … one’s happiness, one’s reality? – Virginia Woolf

Each has his past shut in him like the leaves of a book known to him by heart and his friends can only read the title. – Virginia Woolf

Effort ceases. Time flaps on the mast. There we stop; there we stand. Rigid, the skeleton of habit alone upholds the human frame. – Virginia Woolf

Every face, every shop, bedroom window, public-house, and dark square is a picture feverishly turned–in search of what? It is the same with books. What do we seek through millions of pages? – Virginia Woolf

Everything is strange. Things are huge and very small. – Virginia Woolf

Facts must be manipulated; some must be brightened; others shaded; yet, in the process, they must never lose their integrity. – Virginia Woolf

Fatigue is the safest sleeping draught. – Virginia Woolf

Fear no more, says the heart, committing its burden to some sea, which sighs collectively for all sorrows, and renews, begins, collects, lets fall. – Virginia Woolf

Fear no more, says the heart… – Virginia Woolf

Few people ask from books what books can give us. Most commonly we come to books with blurred and divided minds, asking of fiction that it shall be true, of poetry that it shall be false, of biography that it shall be flattering, of history that it shall enforce our own prejudices. If we could banish all such preconceptions when we read, that would be an admirable beginning. – Virginia Woolf

Fiction is like a spider’s web, attached ever so lightly perhaps, but still attached to life at all four corners. – Virginia Woolf

Finally, I would thank, had I not lost his name and address, a gentleman in America, who has generously and gratuitously corrected the punctuation, the botany, the entomology, the geography, and the chronology of previous works of mine and will, I hope, not spare his services on the present occasion. – Virginia Woolf

First a warning, musical; then the hour, irrevocable. The leaden circles dissolved in the air. – Virginia Woolf

fishing teaches a stern morality; inculcates a remorseless honesty. – Virginia Woolf

For beyond the difficulty of communicating oneself, there is the supreme difficulty of being oneself. – Virginia Woolf

For books continue each other, in spite of our habit of judging them separately. – Virginia Woolf

For I am more selves than Neville thinks. We are not simple as our friends would have us to meet their needs. Yet love is simple. – Virginia Woolf

For if Chloe likes Olivia and Mary Carmichael knows how to express it she will light a torch in that vast chamber where nobody has yet been. – Virginia Woolf

For it is a curious fact that though human beings have such imperfect means of communication, that they can only say ‘good to eat’ when they mean ‘beautiful’ and the other way about, they will yet endure ridicule and misunderstanding rather than keep any experience to themselves. – Virginia Woolf

For it is probable that when people talk aloud, the selves (of which there may be more than two thousand) are conscious of disserverment, and are trying to communicate but when communication is established there is nothing more to be said. – Virginia Woolf

For it needs little skill in psychology to be sure that a highly gifted girl who had tried to use her gift for poetry would have been so thwarted and hindered by other people, so tortured and pulled asunder by her own contrary instincts, that she must have lost her health and sanity to a certainty. – Virginia Woolf

for it was not knowledge but unity that she desired, not inscriptions on tablets, nothing that could be written in any language known to men, but intimacy itself, which is knowledge. – Virginia Woolf

For love… has two faces; one white, the other black; two bodies; one smooth, the other hairy. It has two hands, two feet, two tails, two, indeed, of every member and each one is the exact opposite of the other. Yet, so strictly are they joined together. – Virginia Woolf

For nothing was simply one thing.

For now she need not think of anybody. She could be herself, by herself. And that was what now she often felt the need of – to think; well not even to think. To be silent; to be alone. All the being and the doing, expansive, glittering, vocal, evaporated; and one shrunk, with a sense of solemnity, to being oneself, a wedge-shaped core of darkness, something invisible to others… and this self having shed its attachments was free for the strangest adventures. – Virginia Woolf

For our penitence deserves a glimpse only; our toil respite only. – Virginia Woolf

For pleasure has no relish unless we share it. – Virginia Woolf

For she had come to feel that it was the only thing worth saying–what one felt. Cleverness was silly. One must simply say what one felt. – Virginia Woolf

For she was a child, throwing bread to the ducks, between her parents who stood by the lake, holding her life in her arms which, as she neared them, grew larger and larger in her arms, until it became a whole life, a complete life, which she put down by them and said, “This is what I have made of it! This!” And what had she made of it? What, indeed? – Virginia Woolf

For some time she observed a great yellow butterfly, which was opening and closing its wings very slowly on a little flat stone. “What is it to be in love?” she demanded, after a long silence; each word as it came into being seemed to shove itself out into an unknown sea. Hypnotized by the wings of the butterfly, and awed by the discovery of a terrible possibility in life, she sat for some time longer. When the butterfly flew away, she rose, and within, her two books beneath her arm returned again, much as a soldier prepares for battle. – Virginia Woolf

For such will be our ruin if you, in the immensity of your public abstractions, forget the private figure, or if we in the intensity of our private emotions forget the public world. Both houses will be ruined, the public and the private, the material and the spiritual, for they are inseparably connected. – Virginia Woolf

For the film maker must come by his convention, as painters and writers and musicians have done before him. – Virginia Woolf

For the young people could not talk. And why should they? Shout, embrace, swing, be up at dawn… – Virginia Woolf

For there is a virtue in truth; it has an almost mystic power. Like radium, it seems to give off forever and ever grains of energy, atoms of light. – Virginia Woolf

For they might be parted for hundreds of years, she and Peter; she never wrote a letter and his were dry sticks; but suddenly it would come over her, If he were with me now what would he say? –some days, some sights bringing him back to her calmly, without the old bitterness; which perhaps was the reward of having cared for people; they came back in the middle of St. James’s Park on a fine morning–indeed they did. – Virginia Woolf

For this is the truth about our soul, he thought, who fish-like inhabits deep seas and plies among obscurities threading her way between the boles of giant weeds, over sun-flickered spaces and on and on into gloom, cold, deep, inscrutable; suddenly she shoots to the surface and sports on the wind-wrinkled waves; that is, has a positive need to brush, scrape, kindle herself, gossiping. – Virginia Woolf

For this moment, this one moment, we are together. I press you to me. Come, pain, feed on me. Bury your fangs in my flesh. Tear me asunder. I sob, I sob. – Virginia Woolf

For what Harley Street specialist has time to understand the body, let alone the mind or both in combination when he is a slave to thirteen thousand a year? – Virginia Woolf

For while directly we say that it [the length of human life] is ages long, we are reminded that it is briefer than the fall of a rose leaf to the ground. – Virginia Woolf

Great bodies of people are never responsible for what they do. – Virginia Woolf

Green in nature is one thing, green in literature another. Nature and letters seem to have a natural antipathy; bring them together and they tear each other to pieces. – Virginia Woolf

Habits and customs are a convenience devised for the support of timid natures who dare not allow their souls free play. – Virginia Woolf

Half the time she did things not simply, not for themselves; but to make people think this or that; perfect idiocy she knew for no one was ever for a second taken in. – Virginia Woolf

Happily, at forty-six I still feel as experimental and on the verge of getting at the truth as ever. – Virginia Woolf

Happiness is to have a little string onto which things will attach themselves. – Virginia Woolf

He began to search among the infinite series of impressions which time had laid down, leaf upon leaf, fold upon fold softly, incessantly upon his brain; among scents, sounds; voices, harsh, hollow, sweet; and lights passing, and brooms tapping; and the wash and hush of the sea. – Virginia Woolf

He called her a melon, a pineapple, an olive tree, an emerald, and a fox in the snow all in the space of three seconds; he did not know whether he had heard her, tasted her, seen her, or all three together. – Virginia Woolf

He lay on his chair with his hands clasped above his paunch not reading, or sleeping, but basking like a creature gorged with existence. – Virginia Woolf

He looked very old. He looked, James thought, getting his head now against the Lighthouse, now against the waste of waters running away into the open, like some old stone lying on the sand; he looked as if he had become physically what was always at the back of both of their minds-that loneliness which was for both of them the truth about things. – Virginia Woolf

He loved, beneath all this summer transiency, to feel the earth’s spine beneath him; for such he took the hard root of the oak tree to be; or, for image followed image, it was the back of a great horse that he was riding, or the deck of a tumbling ship — it was anything indeed, so long as it was hard, for he felt the need of something which he could attach his floating heart to; the heart that tugged at his side; the heart that seemed filled with spiced and amorous gales every evening about this time when he walked out. – Virginia Woolf

He smiled the most exquisite smile, veiled by memory, tinged by dreams. – Virginia Woolf

He thought her beautiful, believed her impeccably wise; dreamed of her, wrote poems to her, which, ignoring the subject, she corrected in red ink. – Virginia Woolf

He was a thorough good sort; a bit limited; a bit thick in the head; yes; but a thorough good sort. Whatever he took up he did in the same matter-of-fact sensible way; without a touch of imagination, without a sparkle of brilliancy, but with the inexplicable niceness of his type. – Virginia Woolf

He who robs us of our dreams robs us of our life. – Virginia Woolf

Her life was a tissue of vanity and deceit. – Virginia Woolf

Her life-that was the only chance she had-the short season between two silences. – Virginia Woolf

Her only gift was knowing people almost by instinct, she thought, walking on. If you put her in a room with someone, up went her back like a cat’s; or she purred. – Virginia Woolf

Here was a woman about the year 1800 writing without hate, without bitterness, without fear, without protest, without preaching. That was how Shakespeare wrote, I thought, looking at Antony and Cleopatra; and when people compare Shakespeare and Jane Austen, they may mean that the minds of both had consumed all impediments; and for that reason we do not know Jane Austen and we do not know Shakespeare, and for that reason Jane Austen pervades every word that she wrote, and so does Shakespeare. – Virginia Woolf

His eyes were bright, and, indeed, he scarcely knew whether they held dreams or realities…and in five minutes she had filled the shell of the old dream with the flesh of life… – Virginia Woolf

History is too much about wars; biography too much about great men. – Virginia Woolf

How are we to account for the strange human craving for the pleasure of feeling afraid which is so much involved in our love of ghost stories? – Virginia Woolf

How can I express the darkness? – Virginia Woolf

How far we are going to read a poet when we can read about a poet is a problem to lay before biographers. – Virginia Woolf

How lovely goodness is in those who, stepping lightly, go smiling through the world. – Virginia Woolf

How many times have people used a pen or paintbrush because they couldn’t pull the trigger? – Virginia Woolf

How much better is silence; the coffee cup, the table. How much better to sit by myself like the solitary sea-bird that opens its wings on the stake. Let me sit here for ever with bare things, this coffee cup, this knife, this fork, things in themselves, myself being myself. – Virginia Woolf

How then did it work out, all this? How did one judge people, think of them? How did one add up this and that and conclude that it is liking one felt, or disliking? – Virginia Woolf

Human beings have neither kindness, nor faith, nor charity beyond what serves to increase the pleasure of the moment. – Virginia Woolf

Humour is the first of the gifts to perish in a foreign tongue. – Virginia Woolf

I [who] am perpetually making notes in the margin of my mind for some final statement… – Virginia Woolf

I always had the deepest affection for people who carried sublime tears in their silences. – Virginia Woolf

I am agitated and restless and tired all at once. – Virginia Woolf

I am all the time thinking about poetry and fiction and you. – Virginia Woolf

I am born entire, out of hatred, out of discord. – Virginia Woolf

I am in the mood to dissolve in the sky. – Virginia Woolf

I am like the foam that races over the beach or the moonlight that falls arrow-like here on a tin can, here on a spike of the mailed sea holly, or a bone or a half-eaten boat. – Virginia Woolf

I am made and remade continually. Different people draw different words from me. – Virginia Woolf

I am not so gifted as at one time seemed likely. – Virginia Woolf

I am obsessed at nights with the idea of my own worthlessness, and if it were only to turn a light on to save my life I think I would not do it. These are the last footprints of a headache I suppose. Do you ever feel that? – like an old weed in a stream. What do you feel, lying in bed? – Virginia Woolf

I am overwhelmed with things I ought to have written about and never found the proper words. – Virginia Woolf

I am reading Henry James…and feel myself as one entombed in a block of smooth amber. – Virginia Woolf

I am reading six books at once, the only way of reading; since, as you will agree, one book is only a single unaccompanied note, and to get the full sound, one needs ten others at the same time. – Virginia Woolf

I am rooted, but I flow. – Virginia Woolf

I am the seasons, I think sometimes, January, May, November; the mud, the mist, the dawn. I cannot be tossed about, or float gently, or mix with other people. – Virginia Woolf

I am tied down with single words. But you wander off; you slip away; you rise up higher, with words and words in phrases. – Virginia Woolf

I am to be broken. I am to be derided all my life. I am to be cast up and down among these men and women, with their twitching faces, with their lying tongues, like a cork on a rough sea. Like a ribbon of weed I am flung far every time the door opens. – Virginia Woolf

I am volatile for one, rigid for another, angular as an icicle in silver, or voluptuous as a candle flame in gold. – Virginia Woolf

I begin to long for some little language such as lovers use, broken words, inarticulate words, like the shuffling of feet on pavement. – Virginia Woolf

I can only note that the past is beautiful because one never realizes an emotion at the time. It expands later, and thus we don’t have complete emotions about the present, only about the past. – Virginia Woolf

I cannot remember my past, my nose, or the colour of my eyes, or what my general opinion of myself is. Only in moments of emergency, at a crossing, at a kerb, the wish to preserve my body springs out and seizes me and stops me , here, before this omnibus. We insist, it seems, on living. Then again, indifference descends. – Virginia Woolf

I detest the masculine point of view. I am bored by his heroism, virtue, and honour. I think the best these men can do is not talk about themselves anymore. – Virginia Woolf

I do not know myself sometimes, or how to measure and name and count out the grains that make me what I am. – Virginia Woolf

I don’t believe in aging. I believe in forever altering one’s aspect to the sun. – Virginia Woolf

I don’t believe that you can possibly separate expression from thought in an imaginative work. The better a thing is expressed, the more completely it is thought. – Virginia Woolf

I enjoy almost everything. Yet I have some restless searcher in me. Why is there not a discovery in life? Something one can lay hands on and say “This is it”? My depression is a harassed feeling. I’m looking: but that’s not it – that’s not it. What is it? And shall I die before I find it? – Virginia Woolf

I enjoy the spring more than the autumn now. One does, I think, as one gets older. – Virginia Woolf

I find myself saying briefly and prosaically that it is much more important to be oneself than anything else. Do not dream of influencing other people, I would say, if I knew how to make it sound exalted. Think of things in themselves. – Virginia Woolf

I find that when I’ve seen a certain number of people my mind becomes like an old match box — the part one strikes on, I mean. – Virginia Woolf

I got out this diary and read, as one always reads one’s own writing; with a kind of guilty intensity. – Virginia Woolf

I grow numb; I grow stiff. How shall I break up this numbness which discredits my sympathetic heart? – Virginia Woolf

I have a deeply hidden and inarticulate desire for something beyond the daily life. – Virginia Woolf

I have a feeling I shall go mad. I cannot go on longer in these terrible times. I shan’t recover this time. I hear voices and cannot concentrate on my work. I have fought against it but cannot fight any longer. – Virginia Woolf

I have had my vision. – Virginia Woolf

I have made up thousands of stories; I have filled innumerable notebooks with phrases to be used when I have found the true story, the one story to which all these phrases refer. But I have never yet found the story. And I begin to ask, Are there stories? – Virginia Woolf

I have sometimes dreamt … that when the Day of Judgment dawns and the great conquerors and lawyers and statesmen come to receive their rewards — their crowns, their laurels, their names carved indelibly upon imperishable marble — the Almighty will turn to Peter and will say, not without a certain envy when He sees us coming with our books under our arms, “Look, these need no reward. We have nothing to give them here. They have loved reading. – Virginia Woolf

I have sought happiness through many ages and not found it. – Virginia Woolf

I’ is only a convenient term for somebody who has no real being. – Virginia Woolf

I like books whose virtue is all drawn together in a page or two. I like sentences that don’t budge though armies cross them. – Virginia Woolf

I like going from one lighted room to another, such is my brain to me; lighted rooms. – Virginia Woolf

I like observing people. I like looking at things. – Virginia Woolf

I like people to be unhappy because I like them to have souls. – Virginia Woolf

I like the unreality of your mind; the whole thing is very splendid and voluptuous and absurd. – Virginia Woolf

I like to have space to spread my mind out in. – Virginia Woolf

I like your energy. I love your legs. I long to see you. – Virginia Woolf

I meant to write about death, only life came breaking in as usual. – Virginia Woolf

I must try to set aside half an hour in some part of my day, and consecrate it to diary writing. Give it a name and a place, and then perhaps, such is the human mind, I shall come to think it a duty, and disregard other duties for it. – Virginia Woolf

I need a little language such as lovers use, words of one syllable such as children speak when they come into the room and find their mother sewing and pick up some scrap of bright wool, a feather, or a shred of chintz. I need a howl; a cry. When the storm crosses the marsh and sweeps over me where I lie in the ditch unregarded I need no words. Nothing neat. Nothing that comes down with all its feet on the floor. None of those resonances an – Virginia Woolfd lovely echoes that break and chime from nerve to nerve in our breasts making wild music, false phrases. I have done with phrases.

I need not hate any man; he cannot hurt me. I need not flatter any man; he has nothing to give me. – Virginia Woolf

I often wish I’d got on better with your father,’ he said. – Virginia Woolf

I prefer men to cauliflowers. – Virginia Woolf

I press to my centre, and find there is something there. – Virginia Woolf

I ransack public libraries, and find them full of sunk treasure. – Virginia Woolf

I really don’t advise a woman who wants to have things her own way to get married. – Virginia Woolf

I ride rough waters, and shall sink with no one to save me. – Virginia Woolf

I see nothing. We may sink and settle on the waves. The sea will drum in my ears. The white petals will be darkened with sea water. They will float for a moment and then sink. Rolling over the waves will shoulder me under. Everything falls in a tremendous shower, dissolving me. – Virginia Woolf

I see through most people; I’m hardly ever wrong. I see at once what they’ve got in them. – Virginia Woolf

I see you everywhere, in the stars, in the river, to me you’re everything that exists; the reality of everything. – Virginia Woolf

I spent an hour looking at pots and carpets in the museums the other day, until the desire to describe them became like the desire for the lusts of the flesh. – Virginia Woolf

I think it is likely that the best of everything is made in solitude. – Virginia Woolf

I think you understand better than most people. – Virginia Woolf

I thought how unpleasant it is to be locked out; and I thought how it is worse, perhaps, to be locked in. – Virginia Woolf

I want everything – love, adventure, intimacy, work. – Virginia Woolf

I want some one to sit beside after the day’s pursuit and all its anguish, after its listening, its waitings, and its suspicions. After quarreling and reconciliation I need privacy–to be alone with you, to set this hubbub in order. For I am as neat as a cat in my habits. – Virginia Woolf

I want the concentration and the romance, and the worlds all glued together, fused, glowing: have no time to waste any more on prose. – Virginia Woolf

I want to think quietly, calmly, spaciously, never to be interrupted, never to have to rise from my chair, to slip easily from one thing to another, without any sense of hostility, or obstacle. I want to sink deeper and deeper, away from the surface, with its hard separate facts. – Virginia Woolf

I want to write a novel about silence. The things people don’t say. – Virginia Woolf

I was always going to the bookcase for another sip of the divine specific. – Virginia Woolf

I was in a queer mood, thinking myself very old: but now I am a woman again – as I always am when I write. – Virginia Woolf

I was lying in bed this morning and saying to myself, ‘the remarkable thing about Ethel is her stupendous self-satisfaction’ when in came your letter to confirm this profound psychological observation. How delighted I was! – Virginia Woolf

I was so pleased and excited by your letter that I trotted about all day like a puppy with a bone. – Virginia Woolf

I will achieve in my life – Heaven grant that it be not long – some gigantic amalgamation between the two discrepancies so hideously apparent to me. Out of my suffering I will do it. I will knock. I will enter. – Virginia Woolf

I will dream today; for I must unscrew my head somehow. – Virginia Woolf

I will go down with my colors flying. – Virginia Woolf

I will not be “famous,” “great.” I will go on adventuring, changing, opening my mind and my eyes, refusing to be stamped and stereotyped. The thing is to free one’s self: to let it find its dimensions, not be impeded. – Virginia Woolf

I wish you’d find the exit out of my head. – Virginia Woolf

I worship you, but I loathe marriage. I hate its smugness, its safety, its compromise and the thought of you interfering with my work, hindering me; what would you answer? – Virginia Woolf

I would venture to guess that Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman. – Virginia Woolf

I’m not clear enough in the head to feel anything but varieties of dull anger and arrows of sadness. – Virginia Woolf

I’m sick to death of this particular self. I want another. – Virginia Woolf

If behind the erratic gunfire of the press the author felt that there was another kind of criticism, the opinion of people reading for the love of reading, slowly and unprofessionally, and judging with great sympathy and yet with great severity, might this not improve the quality of his work? And if by our means books were to become stronger, richer, and more varied, that would be an end worth reaching. – Virginia Woolf

If it were now to die, ’twere now to be most happy. – Virginia Woolf

If one is to deal with people on a large scale and say what one thinks, how can one avoid melancholy? I don’t admit to being hopeless, though: only the spectacle is a profoundly strange one; and as the current answers don’t do, one has to grope for a new one, and the process of discarding the old, when one is by no means certain what to put in their place, is a sad one. – Virginia Woolf

If only she could put them together, she felt, write them out in some sentence, then she would have got at the truth of things. – Virginia Woolf

If Shakespeare had never existed, he asked, would the world have differed much from what it is today? Does the progress of civilization depend upon great men? Is the lot of the average human being better now that in the time of the Pharaohs?v

If this were the time or the place to uphold a paradox, I am half inclined to state that Norfolk is one of the most beautiful of counties. – Virginia Woolf

If we didn’t live adventurously, plucking the wild goat by the beard, and trembling over precipices, we should never be depressed, I’ve no doubt; but already should be faded, fatalistic and aged. – Virginia Woolf

If we face the fact, for it is a fact, that there is no arm to cling to, but that we go alone and that our relation is to the world of reality and not only to the world of men and women… – Virginia Woolf

If we help an educated man’s daughter to go to Cambridge are we not forcing her to think not about education but about war? – not how she can learn, but how she can fight in order that she might win the same advantages as her brothers? – Virginia Woolf

If woman had no existence save in the fiction written by men, one would imagine her a person of utmost importance; very various; heroic and mean; splendid and sordid; infinitely beautiful and hideous in the extreme; as great as a man; some think even greater. – Virginia Woolf

If you insist upon fighting to protect me, or ‘our’ country, let it be understood soberly and rationally between us that you are fighting to gratify a sex instinct which I cannot share; to procure benefits where I have not shared and probably will not share. – Virginia Woolf

Illness is a part of every human being’s experience. It enhances our perceptions and reduces self-consciousness. It is the great confessional; things are said, truths are blurted out which health conceals. – Virginia Woolf

Illusions are to the soul what atmosphere is to the earth. – Virginia Woolf

I’m terrified of passive acquiescence. I live in intensity. – Virginia Woolf

In certain favorable moods, memories — what one has forgotten — come to the top. Now if this is so, is it not possible — I often wonder — that things we have felt with great intensity have an existence independent of our minds; are in fact still in existence? And if so, will it not be possible, in time, that some device will be invented by which we can tap them? – Virginia Woolf

In fact, though their acquaintance had been so short, they had guessed, as always happens between lovers, everything of any importance about each other in two seconds at the utmost, and it now remained only to fill in such unimportant details as what they were called; where they lived; and whether they were beggars or people of substance. – Virginia Woolf

In illness words seem to possess a mystic quality.v

in marriage a little licence, a little independence there must be between people living together day in and day out in the same house … – Virginia Woolf

In people’s eyes, in the swing, tramp, and trudge; in the bellow and uproar; the carriages, motor cars, omnibuses, vans, sandwich men shuffling and swinging; brass bands; barrel organs; in the triumph and the jingle and the strange high singing of some aeroplane overhead was what she loved; life; London; this moment in June. – Virginia Woolf

In the 18th century we knew how everything was done, but here I rise through the air, I listen to voices in America, I see men flying- but how is it done? I can’t even begin to wonder. So my belief in magic returns. – Virginia Woolf

Incessant company is as bad as solitary confinement. – Virginia Woolf

Indeed there has never been any explanation of the ebb and flow in our veins–of happiness and unhappiness. – Virginia Woolf

Indeed, I thought, slipping the silver into my purse, it is remarkable, remembering the bitterness of those days, what a change of temper a fixed income will bring about. – Virginia Woolf

Indeed, I would venture to guess that Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman. – Virginia Woolf

Inevitably we look upon society, so kind to you, so harsh to us, as an ill-fitting form that distorts the truth; deforms the mind; fetters the will. – Virginia Woolf

Intellectual freedom depends upon material things. – Virginia Woolf

Intimacy is a difficult art … – Virginia Woolf

It becomes clear that I am not one and simple, but complex and many. – Virginia Woolf

It doesn’t have to be the truth, just your vision of it, written down. – Virginia Woolf

It is a thousand pities never to say what one feels. – Virginia Woolf

It is as if Emily Brontë could tear up all that we know human beings by, and fill these unrecognizable transparencies with such a gust of life that they transcend reality. – Virginia Woolf

It is curious how instinctively one protects the image of oneself from idolatry or any other handling that could make it ridiculous, or too unlike the original to be believed any longer. – Virginia Woolf

It is equally vain,” she thought, “for you to think you can protect me, or for me to think I can worship you. The light of truth beats upon us without shadow, and the light of truth is damnably unbecoming to us both. – Virginia Woolf

It is far harder to kill a phantom than a reality. – Virginia Woolf

It is far more difficult to murder a phantom than a reality. – Virginia Woolf

It is fatal to be a man or woman pure and simple: one must be a woman manly, or a man womanly. – Virginia Woolf

It is impossible for human beings, constituted as they are, both to fight and to have ideals. – Virginia Woolf

It is in our idleness, in our dreams, that the submerged truth sometimes comes to the top. – Virginia Woolf

It is in our idleness, in our dreams, that the submerged truth sometimes makes its way to the surface. – Virginia Woolf

It is no use trying to sum people up. – Virginia Woolf

It is no use trying to sum people up. One must follow hints, not exactly what is said, nor yet entirely what is done. – Virginia Woolf

It is only by putting it into words that I make it whole. This wholeness means that it has lost its power to hurt me; it gives me, perhaps because by doing so I take away the pain, a great delight to put the severed parts together. – Virginia Woolf

It is part of the novelist’s convention not to mention soup and salmon and ducklings, as if soup and salmon and ducklings were of no importance… – Virginia Woolf

It is permissible even for a dying hero to think before he dies how men will speak of him hereafter. His fame lasts perhaps two thousand years. And what are two thousand years?… What, indeed, if you look from a mountain top down the long wastes of the ages? The very stone one kicks with one’s boot will outlast Shakespeare. – Virginia Woolf

It is so beautiful, so exciting, this love, that I tremble on the verge of it. – Virginia Woolf

It is strange how a scrap of poetry works in the mind and makes the legs move in time to it along the road. – Virginia Woolf

it is strange how the dead leap out on us at street corners, or in dreams. – Virginia Woolf

It is strange that we who are capable of so much suffering should inflict so much suffering. – Virginia Woolf

It is true that the surface may have some connection with the depths, but if we are to help you to prevent war we must try to penetrate deeper beneath the skin. – Virginia Woolf

It is useless to read Greek in translation; translators can but offer us a vague equivalent. – Virginia Woolf

It is worth mentioning, for future reference, that the creative power which bubbles so pleasantly in beginning a new book quiets down after a time, and one goes on more steadily. Doubts creep in. Then one becomes resigned. Determination not to give in, and the sense of an impending shape keep one at it more than anything. – Virginia Woolf

It might be possible that the world itself is without meaning. – Virginia Woolf

It rasped her, though, to have stirring about in her this brutal monster! to hear twigs cracking and feel hooves planted down in the depths of that leaf-encumbered forest, the soul; never to be content quite, or quite secure, for at any moment the brute would be stirring, this hatred… – Virginia Woolf

It seemed to her such nonsense-inventing differences, when people, heaven knows, were different enough without that. – Virginia Woolf

It seems as if an age of genius must be succeeded by an age of endeavor; riot and extravagance by cleanliness and hard work. – Virginia Woolf

It was a miserable machine, an inefficient machine, she thought, the human apparatus for painting or for feeling; it always broke down at the critical moment; heroically, one must force it on. – Virginia Woolf

It was a silly, silly dream, being unhappy. – Virginia Woolf

It was enemies one wanted, not friends. – Virginia Woolf

It was love, she thought, love that never clutch its object; but, like the love which mathematicians bear their symbols, or poets their phrases, was meant to be spread over the world and become part of human gain. The world by all means should have shared it, could Mr Bankes have said why that woman pleased him so; why the sight of her reading a fairy tale to her boy had upon him precisely the same effect as the solution of a scientific problem. – Virginia Woolf

It was odd, she thought, how if one was alone, one leant to inanimate things; trees, streams, flowers; felt they expressed one; felt they became one; felt they knew one, in a sense were one; felt an irrational tenderness thus (she looked at that long steady light) as for oneself. – Virginia Woolf

It was the intimacy, a sort of spiritual suppleness, when mind prints upon mind indelibly. – Virginia Woolf

It will be all over this day week – comfort – discomfort; and the zest and rush that no engagements, hours, habits give. Then we shall take them up again with more than the zest of traveling. – Virginia Woolf

It would have been impossible, completely and entirely, for any woman to have written the plays of Shakespeare in the age of Shakespeare. – Virginia Woolf

It’s my choice, to choose how to live my life. – Virginia Woolf

It’s not catastrophes, murders, deaths, diseases, that age and kill us; it’s the way people look and laugh, and run up the steps of omnibuses. – Virginia Woolf

jealousy … survives every other passion of mankind … – Virginia Woolf

Just in case you ever foolishly forget; I’m never not thinking of you. – Virginia Woolf

King old ladies assure us that cats are often the best judges of character. A cat will always to to a good man, they say. – Virginia Woolf

Language is wine upon the lips. – Virginia Woolf

Let a man get up and say, Behold, this is the truth, and instantly I perceive a sandy cat filching a piece of fish in the background. Look, you have forgotten the cat, I say. – Virginia Woolf

Let it be fact, one feels, or let it be fiction; the imagination will not serve under two masters simultaneously. – Virginia Woolf

Let us again pretend that life is a solid substance, shaped like a globe, which we turn about in our fingers. Let us pretend that we can make out a plain and logical story, so that when one matter is despatched—love for instance—we go on, in an orderly manner, to the next. – Virginia Woolf

Let us enjoy what we do enjoy. – Virginia Woolf

Lies will flow from my lips, but there may perhaps be some truth mixed up with them … – Virginia Woolf

Like most uneducated Englishwomen, I like reading–I like reading books in the bulk. – Virginia Woolf

Like” and “like” and “like”–but what is the thing that lies beneath the semblance of the thing? – Virginia Woolf

Lines slip easily down the accustomed grooves. The old designs are copied so glibly that we are half inclined to think them original, save for that very glibness. – Virginia Woolf

Listening (had there been any one to listen) from the upper rooms of the empty house only gigantic chaos streaked with lightning could have been heard tumbling and tossing, as the winds and waves disported themselves like the amorphous bulks of leviathans whose brows are pierced by no light of reason, and mounted one on top of another, and lunged and plunged in the darkness or the daylight (for night and day, month and year ran shapelessly together) in idiot games, until it seemed as if the universe were battling and tumbling, in brute confusion and wanton lust aimlessly by itself. – Virginia Woolf

Literature is no one’s private ground, literature is common ground; let us trespass freely and fearlessly and find our own way for ourselves. – Virginia Woolf

Literature is strewn with the wreckage of those who have minded beyond reason the opinion of others. – Virginia Woolf

literature is the record of our discontent. – Virginia Woolf

Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind. – Virginia Woolf

London perpetually attracts, stimulates, gives me a play and a story and a poem, without any trouble, save that of moving my legs through the streets… To walk alone through London is the greatest rest. – Virginia Woolf

Long ago I realized that no other person would be to me what you are. – Virginia Woolf

Lord, how tired one gets of one’s own writing. – Virginia Woolf

Lord, how utterly disgusting life is! What dirty tricks it plays us, one moment free; the next, this. – Virginia Woolf

Love and religion! thought Clarissa, going back into the drawing room, tingling all over. How detestable, how detestable they are! – Virginia Woolf

Love had a thousand shapes. – Virginia Woolf

Love ought to stop on both sides, don’t you think, simultaneously?’ He spoke without any stress on the words, so as not to wake the sleepers. ‘But it won’t – that’s the devil,’ he added in the same undertone. – Virginia Woolf

Love, the poet said, is woman’s whole existence. – Virginia Woolf

loveliness is infernally sad. – Virginia Woolf

Madam,” the man cried, leaping to the ground, “you’re hurt!” “I’m dead, sir!” she replied. A few minutes later, they became engaged. – Virginia Woolf

Madness is terrific I can assure you, and not to be sniffed at; and in its lava I still find most of the things I write about. It shoots out of one everything shaped, final, not in mere driblets, as sanity does. – Virginia Woolf

Marvelous are the innocent. – Virginia Woolf

Masterpieces are not single and solitary births; they are the outcome of many years of thinking in common, of thinking by the body of the people, so that the experience of the mass is behind the single voice. – Virginia Woolf

Memory is the seamstress, and a capricious one at that. Memory runs her needle in and out, up and down, hither and thither. We know not what comes next, or what follows after. Thus, the most ordinary movement in the world, such as sitting down at a table and pulling the inkstand towards one, may agitate a thousand odd, disconnected fragments, now bright, now dim, hanging and bobbing and dipping and flaunting, like the underlinen of a family of fourteen on a line in a gale of wind. – Virginia Woolf

Men felt a chill in their hearts; a damp in their minds. In a desperate effort to snuggle their feelings into some sort of warmth,one subterfuge was tried after another sentences swelled, adjectives multiplied, lyrics became epics. – Virginia Woolf

Mental fight means thinking against the current, not with it. It is our business to puncture gas bags and discover the seeds of truth. – Virginia Woolf

Methinks the human method of expression by sound of tongue is very elementary, and ought to be substituted for some ingenious invention which should be able to give vent to at least six coherent sentences at once. – Virginia Woolf

Middlemarch, the magnificent book which with all its imperfections is one of the few English novels for grown-up people. – Virginia Woolf

Moments like this are buds on the tree of life. Flowers of darkness they are. – Virginia Woolf

Money dignifies what is frivolous if unpaid for. – Virginia Woolf

more and more I come to loathe any dominion of one over another; any leadership, any imposition of the will. – Virginia Woolf

Moreover, a book is not made of sentences laid end to end, but of sentences built, if an image helps, into arcades or domes. – Virginia Woolf

Most of a modest woman’s life was spent, after all, in denying what, in one day at least of every year, was made obvious. – Virginia Woolf

Mr. Beerbohm in his way is perfect … He has brought personality into literature, not unconsciously and impurely, but so consciously and purely that we do not know whether there is any relation between Max the essayist and Mr. Beerbohm the man. We only know that the spirit of personality permeates every word that he writes … He is without doubt the prince of his profession. – Virginia Woolf

Mrs Dalloway is always giving parties to cover the silence – Virginia Woolf

Mrs Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself. – Virginia Woolf

Mrs Ramsay sat silent. She was glad, Lily thought, to rest in silence, uncommunicative; to rest in the extreme obscurity of human relationships. Who knows what we are, what we feel? Who knows even at the moment of intimacy, This is knowledge? Aren’t things spoilt then, Mrs Ramsay may have asked (it seemed to have happened so often, this silence by her side) by saying them? – Virginia Woolf

Mrs Swithin took her knitting from the table. ‘Did you feel,’ she asked, ‘what he said: we act different parts but are the same?’ – Virginia Woolf

Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself. – Virginia Woolf

My boldness terrifies me. – Virginia Woolf

My brain hums with scraps of poetry and madness. – Virginia Woolf

My heart currently resembles the ashes of my cigarettes. – Virginia Woolf

My imagination tells lies, too. – Virginia Woolf

My mind is so impatient, so quick, in some ways so desperate. – Virginia Woolf

My mind turned by anxiety, or other cause, from its scrutiny of blank paper, is like a lost child–wandering the house, sitting on the bottom step to cry. – Virginia Woolf

My mind works in idleness. To do nothing is often my most profitable way. – Virginia Woolf

My notion’s to think of the human beings first and let the abstract ideas take care of themselves. – Virginia Woolf

My own brain is to me the most unaccountable of machinery – always buzzing, humming, soaring roaring diving, and then buried in mud. And why? What’s this passion for? – Virginia Woolf

Neither of us knows what the public will think. There’s no doubt in my mind that I have found out how to begin (at forty) to say something in my own voice; and that interests me so that I feel I can go ahead without praise. – Virginia Woolf

Never are voices so beautiful as on a winter’s evening, when dusk almost hides the body, and they seem to issue from nothingness with a note of intimacy seldom heard by day. – Virginia Woolf

Never did anybody look so sad. Bitter and black, halfway down, in the darkness, in the shaft which ran from the sunlight to the depths, perhaps a tear formed; a tear fell; the waves swayed this way and that, received it, and were at rest. Never did anybody look so sad. – Virginia Woolf

Never let anybody guess that you have a mind of your own. Above all be pure – Virginia Woolf

Never pretend that the things you haven’t got are not worth having. – Virginia Woolf

Night had come—night that she loved of all times, night in which the reflections in the dark pool of the mind shine more clearly than by day. – Virginia Woolf

No need to hurry. No need to sparkle. No need to be anybody but oneself. – Virginia Woolf

No one has ever known you as I know you. – Virginia Woolf

No one would think of bringing a dog into church. For though a dog is all very well on a gravel path, and shows no disrespect to flowers, the way he wanders down an aisle, looking, lifting a paw, and approaching a pillar with a purpose that makes the blood run cold with horror … a dog destroys the service completely. – Virginia Woolf

No passion is stronger in the breast of a man than the desire to make others believe as he believes. Nothing so cuts at the root of his happiness and fills him with rage as the sense that another rates low what he prizes high. – Virginia Woolf

No passion is stronger in the breast of man than the desire to make others believe as he believes – Virginia Woolf

No, I’m not clever. I’ve always cared more for people than for ideas. – Virginia Woolf

No, she thought, one could say nothing to nobody. The urgency of the moment always missed its mark. Words fluttered sideways and struck the object inches too low. – Virginia Woolf

Nothing could be slow enough, nothing lasts too long. No pleasure could equal, she thought, straightening the chairs, pushing in one book on the shelf, this having done with the triumphs of youth, lost herself in the process of living, to find it with a shock of delight, as the sun rose, as the day sank. Many a time had she gone, at Barton when they were all talking, to look at the sky; seen it between peoples shoulders at dinner; seen it in London when she could not sleep. She walked to the window. – Virginia Woolf

Nothing has really happened until it has been recorded. – Virginia Woolf

Nothing is stronger than the position of the dead among the living. – Virginia Woolf

Nothing shakes my opinion of a book. Nothing — nothing. Only perhaps if it’s the book of a young person — or of a friend — no, even so, I think myself infallible. – Virginia Woolf

Nothing thicker than a knife’s blade separates happiness from melancholy. – Virginia Woolf

Novels so often provide an anodyne and not an antidote, glide one into torpid slumbers instead of rousing one with a burning brand. – Virginia Woolf

Now begins to rise in me the familiar rhythm; words that have lain dormant now lift, now toss their crests, and fall and rise, and fall and rise again. I am a poet, yes. Surely I am a great poet. Boats and youth passing and distant trees, ‘the falling fountains of the pendent trees.’ I see it all. I feel it all. I am inspired. My eyes fill with tears. Yet even as I feel this, I lash my frenzy higher and higher. It foams. It becomes artificial, insincere. Words and words and words, how they gallop – how they lash their long manes and tails, but for some fault in me I cannot give myself to their backs; I cannot fly with them. – Virginia Woolf

Now begins to rise in me the familiar rhythm; words that have lain dormant now lift, now toss their crests, and fall and rise, and falls again. I am a poet, yes. Surely I am a great poet. – Virginia Woolf

Now this is very profound, what rhythm is, and goes far deeper than words. A sight, an emotion, creates this wave in the mind, long before it makes words to fit it … – Virginia Woolf

Now to sum it up,’ said Bernard. ‘Now to explain to you the meaning of my life. Since we do not know each other (though I met you once I think, on board a ship going to Africa), we can talk freely. The illusion is upon me that something adheres for a moment, has roundness, weight, depth, is completed. This, for the moment, seems to be my life. If it were possible, I would hand it you entire. I would break it off as one breaks off a bunch of grapes. I would say, “Take it. This is my life. – Virginia Woolf

Now, aged 50, I’m just poised to shoot forth quite free straight and undeflected my bolts whatever they are. – Virginia Woolf

O how blessed it would be never to marry, or grow old; but to spend one’s life innocently and indifferently among the trees and rivers which alone can keep one cool and childlike in the midst of the troubles of the world! – Virginia Woolf

O why do I ever let anyone read what I write! Every time I have to go through a breakfast with a letter of criticism I swear I will write for my own praise or blame in future. It is a misery. – Virginia Woolf

Odd how the creative power at once brings the whole universe to order. – Virginia Woolf

Often on a wet day I begin counting up; what I’ve read and what I haven’t read. – Virginia Woolf

Oh, but she never wanted James to grow a day older or Cam either. These two she would have liked to keep for ever just as the way they were, demons of wickedness, angels of delight, never to see them grow up into long-legged monsters. – Virginia Woolf

Oh, I am in love with life! – Virginia Woolf

Oh, is this your buried treasure? The light in the heart. – Virginia Woolf

Oh, this is pain, this is anguish! I faint, I fail. Now my body thaws; I am unsealed, I am incandescent. – Virginia Woolf

old emotions like old families have intermarried and have many connections. – Virginia Woolf

Old Madame du Deffand and her friends talked for fifty years without stopping. And of it all, what remains? Perhaps three witty sayings. So that we are at liberty to suppose either that nothing was said, or that nothing witty was said, or that the fraction of three witty sayings lasted eighteen thousand two hundred and fifty nights, which does not leave a liberal allowance of wit for any one of them. – Virginia Woolf

On or about December 1910, human character changed. – Virginia Woolf

On the outskirts of every agony sits some observant fellow who points. – Virginia Woolf

Once conform, once do what other people do because they do it, and a lethargy steals over all the finer nerves and faculties of the soul. She becomes all outer show and inward emptiness; dull, callous, and indifferent. – Virginia Woolf

Once conform, once do what other people do because they do it, and a lethargy steals over all the finer nerves and faculties of the soul. – Virginia Woolf

Once she knows how to read there’s only one thing you can teach her to believe in and that is herself. – Virginia Woolf

Once you fall, Septimus repeated to himself, human nature is on you. Holmes and Bradshaw are on you. They scour the desert. They fly screaming into the wilderness. The rack and the thumbscrew are applied. Human nature is remorseless. – Virginia Woolf

One can only believe entirely, perhaps, in what one cannot see. – Virginia Woolf

One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well. – Virginia Woolf

One could say nothing to nobody. The urgency of the moment always missed its mark. Words fluttered sideways and struck the object inches too low. Then one gave it up; then the idea sunk back again; then one became like most middle-aged people, cautious, furtive, with wrinkles between the eyes and a look of perpetual apprehension. For how could one express in words these emotions of the body? express that emptiness there? – Virginia Woolf

One has to secrete a jelly in which to slip quotations down people’s throats – and one always secretes too much jelly. – Virginia Woolf

One likes people much better when they’re battered down by a prodigious siege of misfortune than when they triumph. – Virginia Woolf

One must learn to be silent just as one must learn to talk. – Virginia Woolf

One must love everything. – Virginia Woolf

One of the signs of passing youth is the birth of a sense of fellowship with other human beings as we take our place among them. – Virginia Woolf

One ought to sink to the bottom of the sea, probably, and live alone with one’s words. – Virginia Woolf

One should be a painter. As a writer, I feel the beauty, which is almost entirely colour, very subtle, very changeable, running over my pen, as if you poured a large jug of champagne over a hairpin. – Virginia Woolf

One wanted, she thought, dipping her brush deliberately, to be on a level with ordinary experience, to feel simply that’s a chair, that’s a table, and yet at the same time, It’s a miracle, it’s an ecstasy. – Virginia Woolf

One’s children so often gave one’s own perceptions a little thrust forwards. – Virginia Woolf

Only longing can fill with more of itself. – Virginia Woolf

Orlando naturally loved solitary places, vast views, and to feel himself for ever and ever and ever alone. – Virginia Woolf

Other people have faces; Susan and Jinny have faces; they are here. Their world is the real world. The things they lift are heavy. They say Yes, they say No; whereas I shift and change and am seen through in a second. If they meet a housemaid she looks at them without laughing. But she laughs at me. They know what to say if spoken to. They laugh really; they get angry really; while I have to look first and do what other people do when they have done it. – Virginia Woolf

Our apparitions, the things you know us by, are simply childish. Beneath it is all dark, it is all spreading, it is unfathomably deep; but now and again we rise to the surface and that is what you see us by. – Virginia Woolf

Our friends, how seldom visited, how little known—it is true; and yet, when I meet an unknown person, and try to break off, here at this table, what I call “my life”, it is not one life that I look back upon; I am not one person; I am many people; I do not altogether know who I am—Jinny, Susan, Neville, Rhoda, or Louis; or how to distinguish my life from theirs. – Virginia Woolf

Outside the trees dragged their leaves like nets through the depths of the air; the sound of water was in the room and through the waves came the voices of birds singing. – Virginia Woolf

Peace was the third emotion. Love. Hate. Peace. Three emotions made the ply of human life. – Virginia Woolf

People are–nothing more. – Virginia Woolf

People have no meaning to her. She has no answer for them. – Virginia Woolf

Peter would think her sentimental. So she was. For she had come to feel that it was the only thing worth saying – what one felt. Cleverness was silly. One must say simply what one felt. – Virginia Woolf

Praise and blame alike mean nothing. No, delightful as the pastime of measuring may be, it is the most futile of all occupations, and to submit to the decrees of the measurers the most servile of attitudes. – Virginia Woolf

Ransack the language as he might, words failed him. He wanted another landscape, and another tongue. – Virginia Woolf

reading [poetry], you know, is rather like opening the door to a horde of rebels who swarm out attacking one in twenty places at once – hit, roused, scraped, bared, swung through the air, so that life seems to flash by; then again blinded, knocked on the head – all of which are agreeable sensations for a reader (since nothing is more dismal than to open the door and get no response) … – Virginia Woolf

Rhoda comes now, having slipped in while we were not looking. She must have made a tortuous course, taking cover now behind a waiter, now behind some ornamental pillar, so as to put off as long as possible the shock of recognition, so as to be secure for one more moment to rock her petals in her basin. We wake her. We torture her. She dreads us, she despises us, yet she comes cringing to our sides because for al our cruelty there is always some name, some face which sheds a radiance, which lights up her pavements and makes it possible for her to replenish her dreams. – Virginia Woolf

Rigid, the skeleton of habit alone upholds the human frame. – Virginia Woolf

Romantic Love is only an Illusion. A story one makes up in One’s Mind about Another Person. – Virginia Woolf

Safe! safe! safe!’ the pulse of the house beats wildly. Waking, I cry ‘Oh, is this your buried treasure? The light in the heart. – Virginia Woolf

Scarcely a human being in the course of history has fallen to a woman’s rifle; the vast majority of birds and beasts have been killed by you, not by us. Obviously there is for you some glory, some necessity, some satisfaction in fighting which we have never felt or enjoyed. – Virginia Woolf

Second hand books are wild books, homeless books; they have come together in vast flocks of variegated feather, and have a charm which the domesticated volumes of the library lack. – Virginia Woolf

She alone spoke the truth; to her alone could he speak it. That was the source of her everlasting attraction for him, perhaps; she was a person to whom one could say what came into one’s head. – Virginia Woolf

She belonged to a different age, but being so entire, so complete, would always stand up on the horizon, stone-white, eminent, like a lighthouse marking some past stage on this adventurous, long, long voyage, this interminable — this interminable life. – Virginia Woolf

She came into a room; she stood, as he had often seen her, in a doorway with lots of people round her. But it was Clarissa one remembered. Not that she was striking; not beautiful at all; there was nothing picturesque about her; she never said anything specially clever; there she was however; there she was. – Virginia Woolf

She dares me to pour myself out like a living waterfall. She dares me to enter the soul that is more than my own; she extinguishes fear in mere seconds. She lets light come through. – Virginia Woolf

She did not want to move, or to speak. She wanted to rest, to lean, to dream. She felt very tired. – Virginia Woolf

She fell into a deep pool of sticky water, which eventually closed over her head. She saw nothing and heard nothing but a faint booming sound, which was the sound of the sea rolling over her head. While all her tormentors thought that she was dead, she was not dead, but curled up at the bottom of the sea. – Virginia Woolf

She felt drawing further from her and further from her an Archduke, (she did not mind that) a fortune, (she did not mind that) the safety and circumstance of married life, (she did not mind that) but life she heard going from her, and a lover. – Virginia Woolf

She felt… how life, from being made up of little separate incidents which one lived one by one, became curled and whole like a wave which bore one up with it and threw one down with it, there, with a dash on the beach. – Virginia Woolf

She had known happiness, exquisite happiness, intense happiness, and it silvered the rough waves a little more brightly, as daylight faded, and the blue went out of the sea and it rolled in waves of pure lemon which curved and swelled and broke upon the beach and the ecstasy burst in her eyes and waves of pure delight raced over the floor of her mind and she felt, It is enough! It is enough! – Virginia Woolf

She had read a wonderful play about a man who scratched on the wall of his cell and she had felt that was true of life – one scratched on the wall. – Virginia Woolf

She tapped on the window with her embossed hairbrush. They were too far off to hear. The drone of the trees was in their ears; the chirp of birds; other incidents of garden life, inaudible, invisible to her in the bedroom, absorbed them. Isolated on a green island, hedged about with snowdrops, laid with a counterpane of puckered silk, the innocent island floated under her window. Only George lagged behind. – Virginia Woolf

She was like a crinkled poppy; with the desire to drink dry dust. – Virginia Woolf

She would not say of any one in the world that they were this or were that. She felt very young; at the same time unspeakably aged. She sliced like a knife through everything; at the same time was outside, looking on. – Virginia Woolf

Sir, I would trust you with my heart. Moreover, we have left our bodies in the banqueting hall. Those on the turf are the shadows of our souls. – Virginia Woolf

So fine was the morning except for a streak of wind here and there that the sea and sky looked all one fabric, as if sails were stuck high up in the sky, or the clouds had dropped down into the sea. – Virginia Woolf

So he was deserted. The whole world was clamouring: Kill yourself, kill yourself, for our sakes. But why should he kill himself for their sakes? Food was pleasant; the sun hot; and this killing oneself, how does one set about it, with a table knife, uglily, with floods of blood, – by sucking a gaspipe? He was too weak; he could scarcely raise his hand. Besides, now that he was quite alone, condemned, deserted, as those who are about to die are alone, there was a luxury in it, an isolation full of sublimity; a freedom which the attached can never know. – Virginia Woolf

So that is marriage, Lily thought, a man and a woman looking at a girl throwing a ball. – Virginia Woolf

So that the monotonous fall of the waves on the beach, which for the most part beat a measured and soothing tattoo to her thoughts seemed consolingly to repeat over and over again… – Virginia Woolf

So the days pass, and I ask myself whether one is not hypnotized, as a child by a silver globe, by life, and whether this is living. – Virginia Woolf

Some collaboration has to take place in the mind between the woman and the man before the art of creation can be accomplished. Some marriage of opposites has to be consummated. The whole of the mind must lie wide open if we are to get the sense that the writer is communicating his experience with perfect fullness. – Virginia Woolf

Some we know to be dead even though they walk among us; some are not yet born though they go through all the forms of life; other are hundreds of years old though they call themselves thirty-six. – Virginia Woolf

Someone has to die in order that the rest of us should value life more. – Virginia Woolf

Something now leaves me; something goes from me to meet that figure who is coming, and assures me that I know him before I see who it is. How curiously one is changed by the addition, even at a distance, of a friend. How useful an office one’s friends perform when they recall us. Yet how painful to be recalled, to be mitigated, to have one’s self adulterated, mixed up, become part of another. As he approaches I become not myself but Neville mixed with somebody – with whom? – with Bernard? Yes, it is Bernard, and it is to Bernard that I shall put the question, Who am I? – Virginia Woolf

Sometimes I think heaven must be one continuous unexhausted reading. – Virginia Woolf

Somewhere, everywhere, now hidden, now apparent in what ever is written down, is the form of a human being. If we seek to know him, are we idly occupied? – Virginia Woolf

Soup is cuisines kindest course – Virginia Woolf

Speech is an old torn net, through which the fish escape as one casts it over them. – Virginia Woolf

Still, life had a way of adding day to day – Virginia Woolf

Style is a very simple matter; it is all rhythm. Once you get that, you can’t use the wrong words. But on the other hand here am I sitting after half the morning, crammed with ideas, and visions, and so on, and can’t dislodge them, for lack of the right rhythm. Now this is very profound, what rhythm is, and goes far deeper than any words. A sight, an emotion, creates this wave in the mind, long before it makes words to fit it. – Virginia Woolf

Submit to me.” So she said nothing, but looked doggedly and sadly at the shore, wrapped in its mantle of peace; as if the people there had fallen asleep, she thought; were free like smoke, were free to come and go like ghosts. They have no suffering there, she thought. – Virginia Woolf

Suppose the looking glass smashes, the image disappears, and the romantic figure with the green of forest depths all about it is there no longer, but only that shell of a person which is seen by other people – what an airless, shallow, bald, prominent world it becomes! A world not to be lived in. As we face each other in omnibuses and underground railways we are looking into the mirror that accounts for the vagueness, the gleam of glassiness, in our eyes. – Virginia Woolf

Surely it was time someone invented a new plot, or that the author came out from the bushes. – Virginia Woolf

Tears rose slowly in her eyes and stood there, brimming but contained. The tears of some profound emotion, happiness, grief, renunciation; an emotion so complex in its nature that to express it was impossible. – Virginia Woolf

Tell me”, he wanted to say, “everything in the whole world” – for he had the wildest, most absurd, extravagant ideas about poets and poetry – but how to speak to a man who does not see you? who sees ogres, satyrs, perhaps the depth of the sea instead? – Virginia Woolf

That complete statement which is literature. – Virginia Woolf

That perhaps is your task–to find the relation between things that seem incompatible yet have a mysterious affinity, to absorb every experience that comes your way fearlessly and saturate it completely so that your poem is a whole, not a fragment; to re-think human life into poetry and so give us tragedy again and comedy by means of characters not spun out at length in the novelist’s way, but condensed and synthesized in the poet’s way–that is what we look to you to do now. – Virginia Woolf

‘That was the burden,’ she mused, ‘laid on me in the cradle; murmured by waves; breathed by restless elm trees; crooned by singing women; what we must remember; what we would forget.’ – Virginia Woolf

That would be a glorious life, to addict oneself to perfection; to follow the curve of the sentence wherever it might lead, into deserts, under drifts of sand, regardless of lures, of seductions; to be poor always and unkempt; to be ridiculous in Piccadilly. – Virginia Woolf

The best letters of our time are precisely those that can never be published. – Virginia Woolf

The birds sang passionate songs addressed to one ear only and then stopped. Bubbling and chuckling they carried little bits of straw and twig to the dark knots in the higher branches of the trees. Gilt and purpled they perched in the garden, where cones of laburnum and purple shook down gold and lilac, for now at midday the garden was all blossom and profusion and even the tunnels under the plants were green and purple and tawny as the sun beat through the red petal, or the broad yellow petal, or was barred by some thickly furred green stalk. – Virginia Woolf

The chief glory of a woman is not to be talked of, said Pericles, himself a much-talked-of-man. – Virginia Woolf

The cold stream of visual impressions failed him now as if the eye were a cup that overflowed and let the rest run down its china walls unrecorded. – Virginia Woolf

The comparison between Coleridge and Johnson is obvious in so far as each held sway chiefly by the power of his tongue. The difference between their methods is so marked that it is tempting, but also unnecessary, to judge one to be inferior to the other. Johnson was robust, combative, and concrete; Coleridge was the opposite. The contrast was perhaps in his mind when he said of Johnson: “his bow-wow manner must have had a good deal to do with the effect produced. – Virginia Woolf

The connection between dress and war is not far to seek; your finest clothes are those you wear as soldiers. – Virginia Woolf

The current flows fast and furious. It issues in a spate of words from the loudspeakers and the politicians. Every day they tell us that we are a free people fighting to defend freedom. That is the current that has whirled the young airman up into the sky and keeps him circulating there among the clouds. Down here, with a roof to cover us and a gas mask handy, it is our business to puncture gasbags and discover the seeds of truth. – Virginia Woolf

The depths of the sea are only water after all. – Virginia Woolf

The English tourist in American literature wants above all things something different from what he has at home. For this reason the one American writer whom the English wholeheartedly admire is Walt Whitman. There, you will hear them say, is the real American undisguised. In the whole of English literature there is no figure which resembles his – among all our poetry none in the least comparable to Leaves of Grass – Virginia Woolf

The extraordinary woman depends on the ordinary woman. – Virginia Woolf

The first duty of a lecturer is to hand you after an hour’s discourse a nugget of pure truth to wrap up between the pages of your notebooks and keep on the mantelpiece forever. – Virginia Woolf

The flower bloomed and faded. The sun rose and sank. The lover loved and went. – Virginia Woolf

The flower bloomed and faded. The sun rose and sank. The lover loved and went. And what the poets said in rhyme, the young translated into practice. – Virginia Woolf

The flowers flashed before they faded. She watched them flash. – Virginia Woolf

The future is dark, which is the best thing the future can be, I think. – Virginia Woolf

The good diarist writes either for himself alone or for a posterity so distant that it can safely hear every secret and justly weigh every motive. For such an audience there is need neither of affectation nor of restraint. Sincerity is what they ask, detail, and volume; skill with the pen comes in conveniently, but brilliance is not necessary; genius is a hindrance even; and should you know your business and do it manfully, posterity will let you off mixing with great men, reporting famous affairs, or having lain with the first ladies in the land. – Virginia Woolf

The great revelation perhaps never did come. Instead there were little daily miracles, illuminations, matches struck unexpectedly in the dark. – Virginia Woolf

The grey nurse resumed her knitting as Peter Walsh, on the hot seat beside her, began snoring. In her grey dress, moving her hands indefatigably yet quietly, she seemed like the champion of the rights of sleepers, like one of those spectral presences which rise in twilight in woods made of sky and branches. The solitary traveler, haunter of lanes, disturber of ferns, and devastator of hemlock plants, looking up, suddenly sees the giant figure at the end of the ride. – Virginia Woolf

The hatchet must fall on the block; the oak must be cleft to the centre. The weight of the world is on my shoulders. Here is the pen and the paper; on the letters in the wire basket I sign my name, I, I, and again I. – Virginia Woolf

The human frame being what it is, heart, body and brain all mixed together, and not contained in separate compartments as they will be no doubt in another million years, a good dinner is of great importance to good talk. One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well. – Virginia Woolf

The immense success of our life is, I think, that our treasure is hid away; or rather in such common things that nothing can touch it. – Virginia Woolf

The intellect, divine as it is, and all worshipful, has a habit of lodging in the most seedy of carcasses, and often, alas, acts the cannibal among the other faculties so that often, where the Mind is biggest, the Heart, the Senses, Magnanimity, Charity, Tolerance, Kindliness, and the rest of them scarcely have room to breathe. – Virginia Woolf

The interest in life does not lie in what people do, nor even in their relations to each other, but largely in the power to communicate with a third party, antagonistic, enigmatic, yet perhaps persuadable, which one may call life in general. – Virginia Woolf

The large shiny black forehead of the first whale was no more than two yards from us when it sank beneath the surface of the water, then we saw the huge blue-black bulk glide quietly under the raft right beneath our feet. It lay there for some time, dark and motionless, and we held our breath as we looked down on the gigantic curved back of a mammal a good deal longer than the raft. – Virginia Woolf

The light struck upon the trees in the garden, making one leaf transparent and then another. One bird chirped high up; there was a pause; another chirped lower down. The sun sharpened the walls of the house, and rested like the tip of a fan upon a white blind and made a fingerprint of a shadow under the leaf by the bedroom window. The blind stirred slightly, but all within was dim and unsubstantial. The birds sang their blank melody outside. – Virginia Woolf

The Lighthouse was then a silvery, misty-looking tower with a yellow eye, that opened suddenly, and softly in the evening. Now – James looked at the Lighthouse. He could see the white-washed rocks; the tower, stark and straight; he could see that it was barred with black and white; he could see windows in it; he could even see washing spread on the rocks to dry. So that was the Lighthouse, was it? No, the other was also the Lighthouse. For nothing was simply one thing. The other Lighthouse was true too. – Virginia Woolf

The man who is aware of himself is henceforward independent; and he is never bored, and life is only too short, and he is steeped through and through with a profound yet temperate happiness. – Virginia Woolf

The melancholy river bears us on. When the moon comes through the trailing willow boughs, I see your face, I hear your voice and the bird singing as we pass the osier bed. What are you whispering? Sorrow, sorrow. Joy, joy. Woven together, like reeds in moonlight. – Virginia Woolf

The merest schoolgirl [school girl,] when she falls in love, has Shakespeare or Keats to speak her mind for her; but let a sufferer [try to] describe a pain in his head to a doctor and language at once runs dry. – Virginia Woolf

The mind is the most capricious of insects – flitting, fluttering. – Virginia Woolf

The mind must be allowed to settle undisturbed over the object in order to secrete the pearl. – Virginia Woolf

The mind which is most capable of receiving impressions is very often the least capable of drawing conclusions. – Virginia Woolf

The most important thing is not to think very much about oneself. To investigate candidly the charge; but not fussily, not very anxiously. – Virginia WoolfOn no account to retaliate by going to the other extreme — thinking too much. – Virginia Woolf

The older one grows, the more one likes indecency. – Virginia Woolf

The only advice … that one person can give another about reading is to take no advice, to follow your own instincts, to use your own reason, to come to your own conclusions. – Virginia Woolf

The poet gives us his essence, but prose takes the mold of the body and mind. – Virginia Woolf

The poet is always our contemporary. – Virginia Woolf

the profound difference that divides the human race is a question of bait – whether to fish with worms or not … – Virginia Woolf

The proper stuff of fiction’ does not exist; everything is the proper stuff of fiction, every feeling, every thought; every quality of brain and spirit is drawn upon; no perception comes amiss. – Virginia Woolf

The real novelist, the perfectly simple human being, could go on, indefinitely imaging. – Virginia Woolf

The roar of the traffic, the passage of undifferentiated faces, this way and that way, drugs me into dreams; rubs the features from faces. People might walk through me. And what is this moment of time, this particular day in which I have found myself caught? The growl of traffic might be any uproar – forest trees or the roar of wild beasts. Time has whizzed back an inch or two on its reel; our short progress has been cancelled. I think also that our bodies are in truth naked. We are only lightly covered with buttoned cloth; and beneath these pavements are shells, bones and silence. – Virginia Woolf

The sea was indistinguishable from the sky, except that the sea was slightly creased as if a cloth had wrinkles in it. – Virginia Woolf

The sigh of all the seas breaking in measure round the isles soothed them; the night wrapped them; nothing broke their sleep, until, the birds beginning and the dawn weaving their thin voices in to its whiteness – Virginia Woolf

The spring without a leaf to toss, bare and bright like a virgin fierce in her chastity, scornful in her purity, was laid out on fields wide-eyed and watchful and entirely careless of what was done or thought by the beholders. – Virginia Woolf

The streets of London have their map, but our passions are uncharted. What are you going to meet if you turn this corner? – Virginia Woolf

The telephone, which interrupts the most serious conversations and cuts short the most weighty observations, has a romance of its own. – Virginia Woolf

The thing about Proust is his combination of the utmost sensibility with the utmost tenacity. He searches out these butterfly shades to the last grain. He is as tough as catgut and as evanescent as a butterfly’s bloom. – Virginia Woolf

The truer the facts the better the fiction. – Virginia Woolf

The truth is that I am not one of those who find their satisfaction in one person, or in infinity. – Virginia Woolf

The truth is, I often like women. I like their unconventionality. I like its completeness. I like their anonymity. – Virginia Woolf

The very stone one kicks with one’s boot will outlast Shakespeare. – Virginia Woolf

The waves broke and spread their waters swiftly over the shore. One after another they massed themselves and fell; the spray tossed itself back with the energy of their fall. The waves were steeped deep-blue save for a pattern of diamond-pointed light on their backs which rippled as the backs of great horses ripple with muscles as they move. The waves fell; withdrew and fell again, like the thud of a great beast stamping. – Virginia Woolf

The way to rock oneself back into writing is this. First gentle exercise in the air. Second the reading of good literature. It is a mistake to think that literature can be produced from the raw. One must get out of life…one must become externalised; very, very concentrated, all at one point, not having to draw upon the scattered parts of one’s character, living in the brain. – Virginia Woolf

The way to write well is to live intensely. – Virginia Woolf

The weight of the world is on our shoulders, its vision is through our eyes; if we blink or look aside, or turn back to finger what Plato said or remember Napoleon and his conquests, we inflict on the world the injury of some obliquity. This is life… – Virginia Woolf

The word-coining genius, as if thought plunged into a sea of words and came up dripping. – Virginia Woolf

The world has raised its whip; where will it descend? – Virginia Woolf

The world is crammed with delightful things – Virginia Woolf

The world wavered and quivered and threatened to burst into flames. – Virginia Woolf

Theirs, too, is the word-coining genius, as if thought plunged into a sea of words and came up dripping. – Virginia Woolf

Theories then are dangerous things. – Virginia Woolf

There are moments when one can neither think nor feel, she thought, and if one can neither feel nor think, where’s one? – Virginia Woolf

There are no teachers, saints, prophets, good people, but the artists. – Virginia Woolf

There can be no two opinions as to what a highbrow is. He is the man or woman of thoroughbred intelligence who rides his mind at a gallop across country in pursuit of an idea. – Virginia Woolf

There is a coherence in things, a stability; something… is immune from change and shines out… in the face of the flowing, the fleeting, the spectral, like a ruby. – Virginia Woolf

There is a sadness at the back of life which some people do not attempt to mitigate. Entirely aware of their own standing in the shadow, and yet alive to every tremor and gleam of existence, there they endure. – Virginia Woolf

There is much to support the view that it is clothes that wear us, and not we, them; we may make them take the mold of arm or breast, but they mold our hearts, our brains, our tongues to their liking. – Virginia Woolf

There is much to support the view that it is clothes that wear us, and not we, them. – Virginia Woolf

There is no doubt in my mind, that I have found out how to begin (at 40) to say something in my own voice. – Virginia Woolf

There is no room for the impurities of literature in an essay. – Virginia Woolf

There is no stability in this world. Who is to say what meaning there is in anything? Who is to foretell the flight of a word? It is a balloon that sails over tree-tops. To speak of knowledge is futile. All is experiment and adventure. We are forever mixing ourselves with unknown quantities. What is to come? I know not. But, as I put down my glass I remember; I am engaged to be married. I am to dine with my friends tonight. I am Bernard. – Virginia Woolf

There is something about the present which we would not exchange, though we were offered a choice of all past ages to live in. – Virginia Woolf

There is something I want-something I have come to get, and she fell deeper and deeper without knowing quite what it was, with her eyes closed. – Virginia Woolf

There is the strange power we have of changing facts by the force of the imagination. – Virginia Woolf

There was a day when I liked writing letters — it has gone. Unfortunately the passion for getting them remains. – Virginia Woolf

There was a serenity about him always that had the look of innocence, when, technically, the word was no longer applicable. – Virginia Woolf

There was a star riding through clouds one night, & I said to the star, ‘Consume me’. – Virginia Woolf

There was no treachery too base for the world to commit. – Virginia Woolf

There’ll be oceans of talk and emotions without end. – Virginia Woolf

These moments of escape are not to be despised. They come too seldom. – Virginia Woolf

They all dreamt of each other that night, as was natural, considering how thin the partitions were between them, and how strangely they had been lifted off the earth to sit next each other in mid-ocean, and see every detail of each others’ faces, and hear whatever they chanced to say. – Virginia Woolf

They lack suggestive power. And when a book lacks suggestive power, however hard it hits the surface of the mind it cannot penetrate within. – Virginia Woolf

They sang as if the edge of being were sharpened and must cut, must split the softness of the blue-green light, the dampness of the wet earth; the fumes and steams of the greasy kitchen vapour; the hot breath of mutton and beef; the richness of pastry and fruit; the damp shreds and peelings thrown from the kitchen bucket, from which a slow steam oozed on the rubbish heap. – Virginia Woolf

They say the sky is the same everywhere. Travellers, the shipwrecked, exiles, and the dying draw comfort from the thought. – Virginia Woolf

They went in and out of each other’s minds without any effort. – Virginia Woolf

They were in love, happy, content; but why was it so painful being in love, why was there so much pain in happiness? – Virginia Woolf

Thinking is my fighting. – Virginia Woolf

This is an important book, the critic assumes, because it deals with war. This is an insignificant book because it deals with the feelings of women in a drawing-room. – Virginia Woolf

This is not writing at all. Indeed, I could say that Shakespeare surpasses literature altogether, if I knew what I meant. – Virginia Woolf

Those comfortably padded lunatic asylums which are known, euphemistically, as the stately homes of England. – Virginia Woolf

Though we see the same world, we see it through different eyes. Any help we can give you must be different from that you can give yourselves, and perhaps the value of that help may lie in the fact of that difference. – Virginia Woolf

Thought and theory must precede all salutary action, yet the action is nobler in itself than either thought or theory. – Virginia Woolf

Thought and theory must precede all salutary action; yet action is nobler in itself than either thought or theory. – Virginia Woolf

Thus Mr. Lawrence, Mr. Douglas and Mr. Joyce partly spoil their books for women readers by their display of self-conscious virility; and Mr. Hemingway, but much less violently, follows suit. – Virginia Woolf

Thus when I come to shape here at this table between my hands the story of my life and set it before you as a complete thing, I have to recall things gone far, gone deep, sunk into this life or that and become part of it; dreams, too, things surrounding me, and the inmates, those old half-articulate ghosts who keep up their hauntings by day and night… shadows of people one might have been; unborn selves. – Virginia Woolf

To admit authorities, however heavily furred and gowned, into our libraries and let them tell us how to read, what to read, what value to place upon what we read, is to destroy the spirit of freedom which is the breath of those sanctuaries. – Virginia Woolf

To be caught happy in a world of misery was for an honest man the most despicable of crimes. – Virginia Woolf

To be nothing – is that not, after all, the most satisfactory fact in the whole world? – Virginia Woolf

To be silent; to be alone. All the being and the doing, expansive, glittering, vocal, evaporated; and one shrunk, with a sense of solemnity, to being oneself, a wedge-shaped core of darkness, something invisible to others. – Virginia Woolf

To depend upon a profession is a less odious form of slavery than to depend upon a father. – Virginia Woolf

To enjoy freedom … we have of course to control ourselves. We must not squander our powers, helplessly and ignorantly, squirting half the house in order to water a single rose. – Virginia Woolf

To enjoy freedom we have to control ourselves. – Virginia Woolf

To enjoy the freedom we have to control ourselves. – Virginia Woolf

To evade such temptations is the first duty of the poet. For as the ear is the antechamber to the soul, poetry can adulterate and destroy more surely then lust or gunpowder. The poet’s, then, is the highest office of all. His words reach where others fall short. A silly song of Shakespeare’s has done more for the poor and the wicked than all the preachers and philanthropists in the world. – Virginia Woolf

To let oneself be carried on passively is unthinkable. – Virginia Woolf

To love makes one solitary. – Virginia Woolf

To make ideas effective, we must be able to fire them off. We must put them into action. – Virginia Woolf

To put it in a nutshell, he was afflicted with a love of literature. It was the fatal nature of this disease to substitute a phantom for reality. – Virginia Woolf

To read a novel is a difficult and complex art. – Virginia Woolf

To stand in a great bookshop crammed with books so new that their pages almost stick together, and the gilt on their backs is still fresh, has an excitement no less delightful than the old excitement of the second-hand bookstall. – Virginia Woolf

To survive, each sentence must have, at its heart, a little spark of fire, and this, whatever the risk, the novelist must pluck with his own hands from the blaze. – Virginia Woolf

To teach without zest is a crime. – Virginia Woolf

To want and not to have, sent all up her body a hardness, a hollowness, a strain. And then to want and not to have- to want and want- how that wrung the heart, and wrung it again and again! – Virginia Woolf

To whom can I expose the urgency of my own passion?…There is nobody—here among these grey arches, and moaning pigeons, and cheerful games and tradition and emulation, all so skilfully organised to prevent feeling alone. – Virginia Woolf

Tom’s great yellow bronze mask all draped upon an iron framework. An inhibited, nerve-drawn; dropped face — as if hung on a scaffold of heavy private brooding; and thought. – Virginia Woolf

Tragedies come in the hungry hours. – Virginia Woolf

Travelers are much at the mercy of phrases … vast generalizations formulate in their exposed brains … – Virginia Woolf

Truth had run through my fingers. Every drop had escaped. – Virginia Woolf

Unless you catch ideas on the wing and nail them down, you will soon cease to have any. – Virginia Woolf

Up here my eyes are green leaves, unseeing. – Virginia Woolf

Vain trifles as they seem, clothes have, they say, more important offices than to merely keep us warm. They change our view of the world and the world’s view of us. – Virginia Woolf

Walden – all his books, indeed – are packed with subtle, conflicting, and very fruitful discoveries. They are not written to prove something in the end. They are written as the Indians turn down twigs to mark their path through the forest. He cuts his way through life as if no one had ever taken that road before, leaving these signs for those who come after, should they care to see which way he went. – Virginia Woolf

War is a man’s game … the killing machine has a gender and it is male. – Virginia Woolf

Was not writing poetry a secret transaction, a voice answering a voice? – Virginia Woolf

Was there no safety? No learning by heart of the ways of the world? No guide, no shelter, but all was miracle, and leaping from the pinnacle of a tower into the air? Could it be, even for elderly people, that this was life?–startling, unexpected, unknown? – Virginia Woolf

Waves of hands, hesitations at street corners, someone dropping a cigarette into the gutter-all are stories. But which is the true story? That I do not know. Hence I keep my phrases hung like clothes in a cupboard, waiting for some one to wear them. Thus waiting, thus speculating, making this note and then an· other I do not cling to life. I shall be brushed like a bee from a sunflower. My philosophy, always accumulating, welling up moment by moment, runs like quicksilver a dozen ways at once. – Virginia Woolf

We agreed that people are now afraid of the English language. He [T.S. Eliot] said it came of being bookish, but not reading books enough. One should read all styles thoroughly. – Virginia Woolf

We all indulge in the strange, pleasant process called thinking, but when it comes to saying, even to someone opposite, what we think, then how little we are able to convey! The phantom is through the mind and out of the window before we can lay salt on – Virginia Woolf

We are about to part,” said Neville. “Here are the boxes; here are the cabs. There is Percival in his billycock hat. He will forget me. He will leave my letters lying about among guns and dogs unaswered. I shall send him poems and he will perhaps reply with a picture post card. But it is for that that I love him. I shall propose a meeting – under a clock, by some Cross; and shall wait and he will not come. It is for that that I love him. – Virginia Woolf

We are cut, we are fallen. We are become part of that unfeeling universe that sleeps when we are at our quickest and burns red when we lie asleep. – Virginia Woolf

We are nauseated by the sight of trivial personalities decomposing in the eternity of print. – Virginia Woolf

We can best help you to prevent war not by repeating your words and following your methods but by finding new words and creating new methods. – Virginia Woolf

We do not know our own souls, let alone the souls of others. Human beings do not go hand in hand the whole stretch of the way. There is a virgin forest in each; a snowfield where even the print of birds’ feet is unknown. Here we go alone, and like it better so. Always to have sympathy, always to be accompanied, always to be understood would be intolerable. – Virginia Woolf

We insist, it seems, on living. – Virginia Woolf

We live in constant danger of coming apart. The mystery of why we do not always come apart is the animating tension of all art. – Virginia Woolf

We must reconcile ourselves to a season of failures and fragments. – Virginia Woolf

We read Charlotte Bronte not for exquisite observation of character, not for comedy, not for a philosophic view of life, but for her poetry. Probably that is so with all writers who have, as she has, an overpowering personality, so that . . . they only have to open the door to make themselves felt. There is in them some untamed ferocity perpetually at war with the accepted order of things. – Virginia Woolf

We scarcely want to analyse what we feel to be so large and deeply human. – Virginia Woolf

We seem to be riding on the top of the highest mast of the tallest ship; and yet at the same time we know that nothing of this sort matters; love is not proved thus, nor great achievements completed thus; so that we sport with the moment and preen our feathers in it lightly. – Virginia Woolf

We shall be the mouthpieces of the divine spirit— – Virginia Woolf

Well, I’ve had my fun; I’ve had it, he thought, looking up at the swinging baskets of pale geraniums. And it was smashed to atoms—his fun, for it was half made up, as he knew very well; invented, this escapade with the girl; made up, as one makes up the better part of life, he thought—making onself up; making her up; creating an exquisite amusement, and something more. But odd it was, and quite true; all this one could never share—it smashed to atoms. – Virginia Woolf

Well, we must wait for the future to show. – Virginia Woolf

What a lark! What a plunge! – Virginia Woolf

What a vast fertility of pleasure books hold for me! I went in and found the table laden with books. I looked in and sniffed them all. I could not resist carrying this one off and broaching it. I think I could happily live here and read forever. – Virginia Woolf

What does the brain matter compared with the heart? – Virginia Woolf

What greater delight and wonder can there be than to leave the straight lines of personality and deviate into these footpaths that lead beneath brambles and thick tree trunks into the heart of the forest where live those wild beasts, our fellow men? That is true: to escape is the greatest of pleasures; street haunting in winter the greatest of adventures. – Virginia Woolf

What I like, or one of the things I like, about motoring is the sense it gives one of lighting accidentally, like a voyager who touches another planet with the tip of his toe, upon scenes which would have gone on, have always gone on, will go on, unrecorded, save for this chance glimpse. Then it seems to me I am allowed to see the heart of the world uncovered for a moment. – Virginia Woolf

What is a woman? I assure you, I do not know … I do not believe that anybody can know until she has expressed herself in all the arts and professions open to human skill. – Virginia Woolf

What is amusing now had to be taken in desperate earnest once. – Virginia Woolf

What is meant by ”reality”? It would seem to be something very erratic, very undependable — now to be found in a dusty road, now in a scrap of newspaper in the street, now a daffodil in the sun. It lights up a group in a room and stamps some casual saying – Virginia Woolf

What is meant by reality? It would seem to be something very erratic, very undependable – now to be found in a dusty road, now in a scrap of newspaper in the street, now a daffodil in the sun. It lights up a group in a room and stamps some casual saying – Virginia Woolf

What is this terror? what is this ecstasy? he thought to himself. What is it that fills me with this extraordinary excitement? It is Clarissa, he said. For there she was. – Virginia Woolf

What matters is precisely this; the unspoken at the edge of the spoken. – Virginia Woolf

What she loved: life, London, this moment of June. – Virginia Woolf

Whatever may be their use in civilized societies, mirrors are essential to all violent and heroic action. – Virginia Woolf

When a subject is highly controversial… one cannot hope to tell the truth. One can only show how one came to hold whatever opinion one does hold. One can only give one’s audience the chance of drawing their own conclusions as they observe the limitations, the prejudices, the idiosyncrasies of the speaker. – Virginia Woolf

When an arguer argues dispassionately he thinks only of the argument. – Virginia Woolf

When I am grown up I shall carry a notebook—a fat book with many pages, methodically lettered. I shall enter my phrases. – Virginia Woolf

When I cannot see words curling like rings of smoke round me I am in darkness—I am nothing. – Virginia Woolf

When people are happy they have a reserve upon which to draw, whereas she was like a wheel without a tyre… – Virginia Woolf

When the body escaped mutilation, seldom did the heart go to the grave unscarred. – Virginia Woolf

When the Day of Judgment dawns and people, great and small, come marching in to receive their heavenly rewards, the Almighty will gaze upon the mere bookworms and say to Peter, “Look, these need no reward. We have nothing to give them. They have loved reading. – Virginia Woolf

When the shriveled skin of the ordinary is stuffed out with meaning, it satisfies the senses amazingly. – Virginia Woolf

When you consider things like the stars, our affairs don’t seem to matter very much, do they? – Virginia Woolf

When, however, one reads of a witch being ducked, of a woman possessed by devils, of a wise woman selling herbs, or even a very remarkable man who had a mother, then I think we are on the track of a lost novelist, a suppressed poet. . . indeed, I would venture to guess that Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman. – Virginia Woolf

Whenever you see a board up with “Trespassers will be prosecuted,” trespass at once. – Virginia Woolf

Where the Mind is biggest, the Heart, the Senses, Magnanimity, Charity, Tolerance, Kindliness, and the rest of them scarcely have room to breathe. – Virginia Woolf

Who shall blame him? Who will not secretly rejoice when the hero puts his armour off, and halts by the window and gazes at his wife and son, who, very distant at first, gradually come closer and closer, till lips and book and head are clearly before him, though still lovely and unfamiliar from the intensity of his isolation and the waste of ages and the perishing of the stars, and finally putting his pipe in his pocket and bending his magnificent head before her—who will blame him if he does homage to the beauty of the world? – Virginia Woolf

Who shall measure the heat and violence of a poet’s heart when caught and tangled in a woman’s body? – Virginia Woolf

Who would not spout the family teapot in order to talk with Keats for an hour about poetry, or with Jane Austen about the art of fiction? – Virginia Woolf

Why does one write these books after all? The drudgery, the misery, the grind, are forgotten everytime; and one launches another, and it seems sheer joy and buoyancy. – Virginia Woolf

Why have I so little control? It is the case of much waste and pain in my life. – Virginia Woolf

Why must they grow up and lose it all? – Virginia Woolf

Why, he wondered, did people who had been asleep always want to make out that they were extremely wide-awake? – Virginia Woolf

Why, if it was an illusion, not praise the catastrophe, whatever it was, that destroyed illusion and put truth in it’s place? – Virginia Woolf

Wind and storm colored July. Also, in the middle, cadaverous, awful, lay the grey puddle in the courtyard, when holding an envelope in my hand, I carried a message. I came to the puddle. I could not cross it. Identity failed me. We are nothing, I said, and fell. I was blown like a feather. I was wafted down tunnels. Then very gingerly, I pushed my foot across. I laid my hand against a brick wall. I returned very painfully, drawing myself back into my body over the grey, cadaverous space of the puddle. This is life then to which I am committed. – Virginia Woolf

Wine has a drastic, an astringent taste. I cannot help wincing as I drink. Ascent of flowers, radiance and heat, are distilled here to a fiery, yellow liquid. Just behind my shoulder-blades some dry thing, wide-eyed, gently closes, gradually lulls itself to sleep. This is rapture. This is relief.

With her foot on the threshold she waited a moment longer in a scene which was vanishing even as she looked, and then, as she moved and took Minta’s arm and left the room, it changed, it shaped itself differently; it had become, she knew, giving one last look at it over her shoulder, already the past. – Virginia Woolf

With my cheek leant upon the window pane I like to fancy that I am pressing as closely as can be upon the massy wall of time, which is forever lifting and pulling and letting fresh spaces of life in upon us. May it be mine to taste the moment before it has spread itself over the rest of the world! Let me taste the newest and the freshest. – Virginia Woolf

With twice his wits, she had to see things through his eyes — one of the tragedies of married life. – Virginia Woolf

Without self awareness we are as babies in the cradles. – Virginia Woolf

Without self-confidence we are as babes in the cradles. And how can we generate this imponderable quality, which is yet so invaluable most quickly? By thinking that other people are inferior to oneself. – Virginia Woolf

Without those forerunners, Jane Austen and the Brontes and George Eliot could no more have written than Shakespeare could have written without Marlowe, or Marlowe without Chaucer, or Chaucer without those forgotten poets who paved the ways and tamed the natural savagery of the tongue. For masterpieces are not single and solitary births; they are the outcome of many years of thinking in common, of thinking by the body of the people, so that the experience of the mass is behind the single voice. – Virginia Woolf

Women have served all these centuries as looking glasses possessing the magic and delicious power of reflecting the figure of man, at twice its natural size. – Virginia Woolf

Words belong to each other. – Virginia Woolf

Words rose above the intolerably laden dumb oxen plodding through the mud. Words without meaning – wonderful words. – Virginia Woolf

Words, English words, are full of echoes, of memories, of associations. They have been out and about, on people’s lips, in their houses, in the streets, in the fields, for so many centuries. And that is one of the chief difficulties in writing them today — that they are stored with other meanings, with other memories, and they have contracted so many famous marriages in the past. – Virginia Woolf

Would there be trees if we didn’t see them? – Virginia Woolf

Yes, she thought, laying down her brush in extreme fatigues, I have had my vision. – Virginia Woolf

Yes, yes, I’m coming. Right up the top of the house. One moment I’ll linger. How the mud goes round in the mind-what a swirl these monsters leave, the waters rocking, the weeds waving and green here, black there, striking to the sand, till by degrees the atoms reassemble, the deposit sifts itself, and a gain through the eyes one sees clear and still, and there comes to the lips some prayer for the departed, some obsequy for the souls of those one nods to, the one never meets again. – Virginia Woolf

Yet Byron never made tea as you do, who fill the pot so that when you put the lid on the tea spills over. There is a brown pool on the table–it is running among your books and papers. Now you mop it up, clumsily, with your pocket-hankerchief. You then stuff your hankerchief back into your pocket–that is not Byron; that is so essentially you that if I think of you in twenty years’ time, when we are both famous, gouty and intolerable, it will be by that scene: and if you are dead, I shall weep. – Virginia Woolf

Yet it is in our idleness, in our dreams, that the submerged truth sometimes comes to the top. – Virginia Woolf

Yet, it is true, poetry is delicious; the best prose is that which is most full of poetry. – Virginia Woolf

Yield to that strange passion which sends you madly whirling round the room. – Virginia Woolf

You cannot cross the narrow bridge of art carrying all its tools in your hands. Some you must leave behind … – Virginia Woolf

You cannot lecture on really pure poetry any more than you can talk about the ingredients of pure water-it is adulterated, methylated, sanded poetry that makes the best lectures. – Virginia Woolf

You can’t think how I depend on you, and when you’re not there the color goes out of my life. – Virginia Woolf

You have a touch in letter writing that is beyond me. Something unexpected, like coming round a corner in a rose garden and finding it still daylight. – Virginia Woolf

You have been in every way all that anyone could be…If anybody could have saved me it would have been you. – Virginia Woolf

You’re the only person I’ve ever met who seems to have the faintest conception of what I mean when I say a thing. – Virginia Woolf

 

Virginia Woolf Quotes

On Women & Feminism:

A feminist is any woman who tells the truth about her life. – Virginia Woolf

A woman knows very well that, though a wit sends her his poems, praises her judgment, solicits her criticism, and drinks her tea, this by no means signifies that he respects her opinions, admires her understanding, or will refuse, though the rapier is denied him, to run through the body with his pen. – Virginia Woolf

A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction. – Virginia Woolf

All women together ought to let flowers fall upon the tomb of Aphra Behn, for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds.

Anything may happen when womanhood has ceased to be a protected occupation. – Virginia Woolf

As a woman, I have no country. – Virginia Woolf

As a woman, I have no country. As a woman my country is the world. – Virginia Woolf

As a woman, I have no country. As a woman, my country is the whole world. – Virginia Woolf

As long as she thinks of a man, nobody objects to a woman thinking. – Virginia Woolf

And when we are writing the life of a woman, we may, it is agreed, waive our demand for action, and substitute love instead. Love, the poet has said, is a woman’s whole existence… – Virginia Woolf

Chastity … has, even now, a religious importance in a woman’s life, and has so wrapped itself round with nerves and instincts that to cut it free and bring it to the light of day demands courage of the rarest. – Virginia Woolf

For most of history, Anonymous was a woman. – Virginia Woolf

For we think back through our mothers if we are women. – Virginia Woolf

For women live much more in the past…they attach themselves to places. – Virginia Woolf

Have you any notion how many books are written about women in the course of one year? Have you any notion how many are written by men? Are you aware that you are, perhaps, the most discussed animal in the universe? – Virginia Woolf

I mean, what is a woman? I assure you, I do not know. I do not believe that you know. I do not believe that anybody can know until she has expressed herself in all the arts and professions open to human skill. – Virginia Woolf

If one could be friendly with women, what a pleasure – the relationship so secret and private compared with relations with men. Why not write about it truthfully? – Virginia Woolf

If we help an educated man’s daughter to go to Cambridge are we not forcing her to think not about education but about war? – not how she can learn, but how she can fight in order that she might win the same advantages as her brothers? – Virginia Woolf

If, then, one should try to sum up the character of women’s fiction at the present moment, one would say that it is courageous; it is sincere; it keeps closely to what women feel. It is not bitter. It does not insist upon its femininity. – Virginia Woolf

In each of us two powers preside, one male, one female: and in the man’s brain, the man predominates over the woman, and in the woman’s brain, the woman predominates over the man…If one is a man, still the woman part of the brain must have effect; and a woman also must have intercourse with the man in her. Coleridge perhaps meant this when he said that a great mind is androgynous. It is when this fusion takes place that the mind is fully fertilized and uses all its faculties. – Virginia Woolf

Indeed, I would venture to guess that anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman. – Virginia Woolf

It is fatal to be a man or woman pure and simple; one must be woman-manly or man-womanly. It is fatal for a woman to lay the least stress on any grievance; to plead even with justice any cause; in any way to speak consciously as a woman. And fatal is no figure of speech; for anything written with that conscious bias is doomed to death. It ceases to be fertilized. – Virginia Woolf

It was strange to think that all the great women of fiction were, until Jane Austen’s day, not only seen by the other sex, but seen only in relation to the other sex. And how small a part of woman’s life is that … – Virginia Woolf

It would be a thousand pities if women wrote like men, or lived like men, or looked like men, for if two sexes are quite inadequate, considering the vastness and variety of the world, how should we manage with one only? Ought not education to bring out and fortify the differences rather than the similarities? For we have too much likeness as it is, and if an explorer should come back and bring word of other sexes looking through the branches of other trees at other skies, nothing would be of greater service to humanity; and we should have the immense pleasure into the bargain of watching Professor X rush for his measuring-rods to prove himself superior. – Virginia Woolf

It would have been impossible, completely and entirely, for any woman to have written the plays of Shakespeare in the age of Shakespeare. – Virginia Woolf

Publicity in women is detestable. Anonymity runs in their blood. The desire to be veiled still possesses them. They are not even now as concerned about the health of their fame as men are, and, speaking generally, will pass a tombstone or a signpost without feeling an irresistible desire to cut their names on it. – Virginia Woolf

Some people go to priests; others to poetry; I to my friends.Language is wine upon the lips.Women have served all these centuries as looking-glasses possessing the magic and delicious power of reflecting the figure of man at twice its natural size.If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people.A good essay must have this permanent quality about it; it must draw its curtain round us, but it must be a curtain that shuts us in not out. – Virginia Woolf

The history of men’s opposition to women’s emancipation is more interesting perhaps than the story of that emancipation itself. – Virginia Woolf

The history of most women is hidden either by silence, or by flourishes and ornaments that amount to silence. – Virginia Woolf

The truth is, I often like women. I like their unconventionality. I like their completeness. I like their anonymity. – Virginia Woolf

Then may I tell you that the very next words I read were these – ‘Chloe liked Olivia…’ Do not start. Do not blush. Let us admit in the privacy of our own society that these things sometimes happen. Sometimes women do like women. – Virginia Woolf

There can be no two opinions as to what a highbrow is. He is the man or woman of thoroughbred intelligence who rides his mind at a gallop across country in pursuit of an idea. – Virginia Woolf

To sit and contemplate – to remember the faces of women without desire, to be pleased by the great deeds of men without envy, to be everything and everywhere in sympathy and yet content to remain where and what you are. – Virginia Woolf

War is not women’s history. – Virginia Woolf

We [women] have borne and bred and washed and taught, perhaps to the age of six or seven years, the one thousand six hundred and twenty-three million human beings who are, according to statistics, at present in existence, and that … takes time.

Well, I really don’t advise a woman who wants to have things her own way to get married. – Virginia Woolf, Night and Day

Who shall measure the hat and violence of the poet’s heart when caught and tangled in a woman’s body? – Virginia Woolf

Why are women… so much more interesting to men than men are to women? – Virginia Woolf

Why does Samuel Butler say, ‘Wise men never say what they think of women’? Wise men never say anything else apparently. – Virginia Woolf

Women alone stir my imagination … – Virginia Woolf

Women and fiction remain, so far as I am concerned, unsolved problems. – Virginia Woolf

women have always been poor, not for two hundred years merely, but from the beginning of time. … Women, then, have not had a dog’s chance of writing poetry. That is why I have laid so much stress on money and a room of one’s own. – Virginia Woolf

Women have burnt like beacons in all the works of all the poets from the beginning of time. – Virginia Woolf

Women have sat indoors all these millions of years, so that by this time the very walls are permeated by their creative force, which has, indeed, so overcharged the capacity of bricks and mortar that it must needs harness itself to pens and brushes and business and politics. – Virginia Woolf

Women have served all these centuries as looking glasses possessing the power of reflecting the figure of man at twice its natural size. – Virginia Woolf

Yet, she said to herself, form the dawn of time odes have been sung to love; wreaths heaped and roses; and if you asked nine people out of ten they would say they wanted nothing but this–love; while the women, judging from her own experience, would all the time be feeling, This is not what we want; there is nothing more tedious, puerile, and inhumane than this; yet it is also beautiful and necessary. – Virginia Woolf

Young women… you are, in my opinion, disgracefully ignorant. You have never made a discovery of any sort of importance. You have never shaken an empire or led an army into battle. The plays by Shakespeare are not by you, and you have never introduced a barbarous race to the blessings of civilization. What is your excuse? – Virginia Woolf

On About Writing:

… the transaction between a writer and the spirit of the age is one of infinite delicacy, and upon a nice arrangement between the two the whole fortune of his works depend. – Virginia Woolf

A good essay must have this permanent quality about it; it must draw its curtain round us, but it must be a curtain that shuts us in not out. – Virginia Woolf

A masterpiece is something said once and for all, stated, finished, so that it’s there complete in the mind, if only at the back. – Virginia Woolf

A novelist’s chief desire is to be as unconscious as possible. He has to induce in himself a state of perpetual lethargy. He wants life to proceed with the utmost quiet and regularity. He wants to see the same faces, to read the same books, to do the same things day after day, month after month, while he is writing, so that nothing may break the illusion in which he is living – so that nothing may disturb or disquiet the mysterious nosings about, feelings around, darts, dashes, and sudden discoveries of that very shy and illusive spirit, the imagination. – Virginia Woolf

A thousand things to be written had I time: had I power. A very little writing uses up my capacity for writing. – Virginia Woolf

A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction. – Virginia Woolf

A writer should give direct certainty; explanations are so much water poured into the wine. – Virginia Woolf

All great writers have, of course, an atmosphere in which they seem most at their ease and at their best; a mood of the general mind which they interpret and indeed almost discover, so that we come to read them rather for that than for any story or character or scene of seperate excellence. – Virginia Woolf

Almost any biographer, if he respects facts, can give us much more than another fact to add to our collection. He can give us the creative fact; the fertile fact; the fact that suggests and engenders. – Virginia Woolf

And for heaven’s sake, publish nothing before you are thirty. – Virginia Woolf

As for my next book, I won’t write it till it has grown heavy in my mind like a ripe pear; pendant, gravid, asking to be cut or it will fall. – Virginia Woolf

As I grow old I hate the writing of letters more and more, and like getting them better and better. – Virginia Woolf

As nobody can possibly tell me whether one’s writing is bad or good, the only certain value is one’s own pleasure. I am sure of that. – Virginia Woolf

But what is more to the point is my belief that the habit of writing thus for my own eye only is good practice. It loosens the ligaments. Never mind the misses and the stumbles. – Virginia Woolf

Does housekeeping interest you at all? I think it really ought to be just as good as writing and I never see where the separation between the too comes in. At least if you must put books on one side and life on the other, each is a poor and bloodless thing; but my theory is that they mix indistinguishable. – Virginia Woolf

Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind is written largely in his works. – Virginia Woolf

Fiction is like a spider’s web, attached ever so slightly perhaps, but still attached to life at all four corners. Often the attachment is scarcely perceptible. – Virginia Woolf

For it would seem – her case proved it – that we write, not with the fingers, but with the whole person. The nerve which controls the pen winds itself about every fibre of our being, threads the heart, pierces the liver. – Virginia Woolf

For once the disease of reading has laid upon the system it weakens so that it falls an easy prey to that other scourge which dwells in the ink pot and festers in the quill. The wretch takes to writing. – Virginia Woolf

How many times have people used a pen or paintbrush because they couldn’t pull the trigger? – Virginia Woolf

I am writing to a rhythm and not to a plot. – Virginia Woolf

I believe that the main thing in beginning a novel is to feel, not that you can write it, but that it exists on the far side of a gulf, which words can’t cross: that it’s to be pulled through only in a breathless anguish. – Virginia Woolf

I feel that by writing I am doing what is far more necessary than anything else. – Virginia Woolf

I think writing, my writing, is a species of mediumship. I become the person. – Virginia Woolf

I want the concentration and the romance, and the worlds all glued together, fused, glowing: have no time to waste any more on prose. – Virginia Woolf

I want to write a novel about Silence,” he said; “the things people don’t say. – Virginia Woolf

I was in a queer mood, thinking myself very old: but now I am a woman again – as I always am when I write. – Virginia Woolf

I would venture to guess that Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman. – Virginia Woolf

I’m fundamentally, I think, an outsider. I do my best work and feel most braced with my back to the wall. It’s an odd feeling though, writing against the current: difficult entirely to disregard the current. Yet of course I shall. – Virginia Woolf

It is from the middle class that writers spring, because, it is in the middle class only that the practice of writing is as natural and habitual as hoeing a field or building a house. – Virginia Woolf

It is the duty of the writer to describe. – Virginia Woolf

It is the nature of the artist to mind excessively what is said about him. Literature is strewn with the wreckage of men who have minded beyond reason the opinions of others. – Virginia Woolf

It’s the writing, not the being read, that excites me. Joy is in the doing. – Virginia Woolf

Literature is strewn with the wreckage of men who have minded beyond reason the opinions of others. – Virginia Woolf

Neither of us knows what the public will think. There’s no doubt in my mind that I have found out how to begin (at forty) to say something in my own voice; and that interests me so that I feel I can go ahead without praise. – Virginia Woolf

Nothing induces me to read a novel except when I have to make money by writing about it. I detest them. – Virginia Woolf

Now the writer, I think, has the chance to live more than other people in the presence of … reality. It is his business to find it and collect it and communicate it to the rest of us. – Virginia Woolf

Odd how the creative power at once brings the whole universe to order. – Virginia Woolf

Of course, literature is the only spiritual and humane career. Even painting tends to dumbness, and music turns people erotic, whereas the more you write the nicer you become. – Virginia Woolf

People ask me why I write. I write to find out what I know. – Virginia Woolf

People only become writers if they can’t find the one book they’ve always wanted to read. – Virginia Woolf

So I have to create the whole thing afresh for myself each time. Probably all writers now are in the same boat. It is the penalty we pay for breaking with tradition, and the solitude makes the writing more exciting though the being read less so. One ought to sink to the bottom of the sea, probably, and live alone with ones words. – Virginia Woolf

So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say. – Virginia Woolf

The art of writing has for backbone some fierce attachment to an idea. – Virginia Woolf

The habit of writing for my eye is good practice. It loosens the ligaments. – Virginia Woolf

The most extraordinary thing about writing is that when you’ve struck the right vein, tiredness goes. It must be an effort, thinking wrong. – Virginia Woolf

The poet gives us his essence, but prose takes the mold of the body and mind. – Virginia Woolf

There is no room for the impurities of literature in an essay…. the essay must be pure–pure like water or pure like wine, but pure from dullness, deadness, and deposits of extraneous matter. – Virginia Woolf

This is an important book, the critic assumes, because it deals with war. This is an insignificant book because it deals with the feelings of women in a drawing-room. – Virginia Woolf

This is not writing at all. Indeed, I could say that Shakespeare surpasses literature altogether if I knew what I meant. – Virginia Woolf

To know whom to write for is to know how to write. – Virginia Woolf

To write a novel in the heart of London is next to an impossibility. I feel as if I were nailing a flag to the top of a mast in a raging gale. – Virginia Woolf

To write weekly, to write daily, to write shortly, to write for busy people catching trains in the morning or for tired people coming home in the evening, is a heartbreaking task for men who know good writing from bad. They do it, but instinctively draw out of harm’s way anything precious that might be damaged by contact with the public, or anything sharp that might irritate its skin. – Virginia Woolf

What a labour writing is … making one sentence do the work of a page; that’s what I call hard work. – Virginia Woolf

What has praise and fame to do with poetry? Was not writing poetry a secret transaction, a voice answering a voice? So that all this chatter and praise, and blame and meeting people who admired one and meeting people who did not admire one was as ill suited as could be to the thing itself- a voice answering a voice. – Virginia Woolf

When I cannot see words curling like rings of smoke round me I am in darkness—I am nothing. – Virginia Woolf

Writing is a divine art, and the more I write and read the more I love it. – Virginia Woolf

Writing is like sex. First you do it for love, then you do it for your friends, and then you do it for money. – Virginia Woolf

Writing is still like heaving bricks over a wall … – Virginia Woolf

Writing is the profound pleasure and being read the superficial. – Virginia Woolf

Yes yes yes I do like you. I am afraid to write the stronger word. – Virginia Woolf

Yet, it is true, poetry is delicious; the best prose is that which is most full of poetry. – Virginia Woolf

On Life:

Virginia Woolf Quotes

…but for the most part, oddly enough, she must admit that she felt this thing that she called life terrible, hostile, and quick to pounce on you if you gave it a chance. – Virginia Woolf

A whole lifetime was too short to bring out, the full flavour; to extract every ounce of pleasure, every shade of meaning.

Am I a weed, carried this way, that way, on a tide that comes twice a day without a meaning? – Virginia Woolf

And again she felt alone in the presence of her old antagonist, life. – Virginia Woolf

By the truth we are undone. Life is a dream. ‘Tis the waking that kills us. He who robs us of our dreams robs us of our life.

Could it be, even for elderly people, that this was life? – startling, unexpected, unknown? – Virginia Woolf

How remorseless life is! – Virginia Woolf

I meant to write about death, only life came breaking in as usual. – Virginia Woolf

It might be possible that the world itself is without meaning. – Virginia Woolf

It was as if someone had taken a tiny bead of pure life and decking it as lightly as possible with down and feathers, had set it dancing and zigzagging to show us the true nature of life. – Virginia Woolf

Let us again pretend that life is a solid substance, shaped like a globe, which we turn about in our fingers. – Virginia Woolf

Let us not take for granted that life exists more fully in what is commonly thought big than in what is commonly thought small. – Virginia Woolf

Let us record the atoms as they fall upon the mind in the order in which they fall, let us trace the pattern, however disconnected and incoherent in appearance, which each sight or incident scores upon the consciousness. Let us not take it for granted that life exists more fully in what is commonly thought big than in what is commonly thought small. – Virginia Woolf

Let us simmer over our incalculable cauldron, our enthralling confusion, our hotchpotch of impulses, our perpetual miracle – for the soul throws up wonders every second. Movement and change are the essence of our being; rigidity is death; conformity is death; let us say what comes into our heads, repeat ourselves, contradict ourselves, fling out the wildest nonsense, and follow the most fantastic fancies without caring what the world does or thinks or says. For nothing matters except life. – Virginia Woolf

Life for both sexes is arduous, difficult, a perpetual struggle. More than anything… it calls for confidence in oneself…And how can we generate this imponderable quality most quickly? By thinking that other people are inferior to oneself. – Virginia Woolf

Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end. – Virginia Woolf

Life piles up so fast that I have no time to write out the equally fast rising mound of reflections. – Virginia Woolf

Life stand still here. – Virginia Woolf

Life without illusion is a ghostly affair. – Virginia Woolf

Life would split apart without letters. – Virginia Woolf

Life’s bare as a bone. – Virginia Woolf

Like a ghostly roll of drums remorselessly beat the measure of life. – Virginia Woolf

She had a perpetual sense, as she watched the taxi cabs, of being out, out, far out to sea and alone; she always had the feeling that it was very, very dangerous to live even one day. – Virginia Woolf

Sleep, that deplorable curtailment of the joy of life. – Virginia Woolf

So coming back from a journey, or after an illness, before habits had spun themselves across the surface, one felt that same unreality, which was so startling; felt something emerge. Life was most vivid then.

Someone has to die in order that the rest of us should value life more. – Virginia Woolf

Still, the sun was hot. Still, one got over things. Still, life had a way of adding day to day. – Virginia Woolf

The moment was all; the moment was enough. – Virginia Woolf

The strange thing about life is that though the nature of it must have been apparent to every one for hundreds of years, no one has left any adequate account of it. – Virginia Woolf

There must be another life, she thought, sinking back into her chair, exasperated. Not in dreams; but here and now, in this room, with living people. She felt as if she were standing on the edge of a precipice with her hair blown back; she was about to grasp something that just evaded her. There must be another life, here and now, she repeated. This is too short, too broken. We know nothing, even about ourselves. – Virginia Woolf

This soul, or life within us, by no means agrees with the life outside us. If one has the courage to ask her what she thinks, she is always saying the very opposite to what other people say. – Virginia Woolf

This soul, or life within us, by no means, agree with the life outside us. If one has the courage to ask her what she thinks, she is always saying the very opposite to what other people say. – Virginia Woolf

To look life in the face, always, to look life in the face, and to know it for what it is…at last, to love it for what it is, and then, to put it away… – Virginia Woolf

Use words that soak up life. – Virginia Woolf

Venerable are letters, infinitely brave, forlorn, and lost. Life would split asunder without them. ‘Come to tea, come to dinner, what’s the truth of the story? have you heard the news? life in the capital is wonderful; the Russian dancers….’ These are our stays and props. These lace our days together and make of life a perfect globe. – Virginia Woolf

We are only lightly covered with buttoned cloth; and beneath these pavements are shells, bones and silence. – Virginia Woolf

What is the meaning of life? That was all – a simple question; one that tended to close in on one with years, the great revelation had never come. The great revelation perhaps never did come. Instead, there were little daily miracles, illuminations, matches struck unexpectedly in the dark; here was one. – Virginia Woolf

What is the meaning of life? That was all- a simple question; one that tended to close in on one with years, the great revelation had never come. The great revelation perhaps never did come. Instead, there were little daily miracles, illuminations, matches struck unexpectedly in the dark; here was one. – Virginia Woolf

Why is life so tragic; so like a little strip of pavement over an abyss. I look down; I feel giddy; I wonder how I am ever to walk to the end.

Yes, I was thinking: we live without a future. That’s what’s queer: with our noses pressed to a closed door. – Virginia Woolf

You cannot find peace by avoiding life. – Virginia Woolf

About Growing Up:

Growing up is losing some illusions, in order to acquire others. – Virginia Woolf

If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people. – Virginia Woolf

One cannot bring children into a world like this. One cannot perpetuate suffering, or increase the breed of these lustful animals, who have no lasting emotions, but only whims and vanities, eddying them now this way, now that. – Virginia Woolf

One of the signs of passing youth is the birth of a sense of fellowship with other human beings as we take our place among them. – Virginia Woolf

Our patience wore rather thin. Visitors do tend to chafe one, though impeccable as friends. L. and I discussed this. He says that with people in the house his hours of positive pleasure are reduced to one; he has I forget how many hours of negative pleasure; and a respectable margin of the acutely unpleasant. Are we growing old? – Virginia Woolf

That great Cathedral space which was childhood. – Virginia Woolf

The compensation of growing old … was simply this; that the passion remains as strong as ever, but one has gained — at last! — the power which adds the supreme flavour to existence — the power of taking hold of experience, of turning it round, slowly, in the light. – Virginia Woolf

The older one grows, the more one likes indecency. – Virginia Woolf

The taste for books was an early one. As a child he was sometimes found at midnight by a page still reading. They took his taper away, and he bred glow-worms to serve his purpose. They took the glow-worms away and he almost burnt the house down with a tinder. – Virginia Woolf

These are the soul’s changes. I don’t believe in aging. I believe in forever altering one’s aspect to the sun. Hence my optimism. – Virginia Woolf

They came to her, naturally, since she was a woman, all day long with this and that; one wanting this, another that; the children were growing up; she often felt she was nothing but a sponge sopped full of human emotions. – Virginia Woolf

On Death:

“Death is woven in with the violets,” said Louis. “Death and again death.” – Virginia Woolf

A thing there was that mattered; a thing, wreathed about with chatter, defaced, obscured in her own life, let drop every day in corruption, lies, chatter. This he had preserved. Death was defiance. Death was an attempt to communicate; people feeling the impossibility of reaching the centre which, mystically, evaded them; closeness drew apart; rapture faded, one was alone. There was an embrace in death. – Virginia Woolf

After that, how unbelievable death was! – that is must end; and no one in the whole world would know how she had loved it all. – Virginia Woolf

Again, somehow, one saw life, a pure bead. I lifted the pencil again, useless though I knew it to be. But even as I did so, the unmistakable tokens of death showed themselves. The body relaxed, and instantly grew stiff. The struggle was over. The insignificant little creature now knew death. As I looked at the dead moth, this minute wayside triumph of so great a force over so mean an antagonist filled me with wonder. Just as life had been strange a few minutes before, so death was now as strange. – Virginia Woolf

Against you I will fling myself, unvanquished and unyielding, O Death! – Virginia Woolf

And in me too the wave rises. It swells; it arches its back. I am aware once more of a new desire, something rising beneath me like the proud horse whose rider first spurs and then pulls him back. What enemy do we now perceive advancing against us, you whom I ride now, as we stand pawing this stretch of pavement? It is death. Death is the enemy. It is death against whom I ride with my spear couched and my hair flying back like a young man’s, like Percival’s, when he galloped in India. I strike spurs into my horse. Against you I will fling myself, unvanquished and unyielding, O Death! – Virginia Woolf

Are we so made that we have to take death in small doses daily or we could not go on with the business of living? – Virginia Woolf

But one only woke people if one knew what one wanted to say to them. And she wanted to say not one thing, but everything. Little words that broke up the thought and dismembered it said nothing. ‘About life, about death; about Mrs Ramsay’ – no, she thought, one could say nothing to nobody. – Virginia Woolf

Did it matter then, she asked herself, walking towards Bond Street, did it matter that she must inevitably cease completely? All this must go on without her; did she resent it; or did it not become consoling to believe that death ended absolutely? – Virginia Woolf

Disastrous would have been the result if a fire or a death had suddenly demanded something heroic of human nature, but tragedies come in the hungry hours. – Virginia Woolf

From the trees in the meadow of life beyond a river where the dead walk, how there is no death. – Virginia Woolf

I have lost friends, some by death… others through sheer inability to cross the street. – Virginia Woolf

I need silence, and to be alone and to go out, and to save one hour to consider what has happened to my world, what death has done to my world.

Nothing, I know, had any chance against death. – Virginia Woolf

O yes, he seemed to say, death is stronger than I am . – Virginia Woolf

Oh and I thought, as i was dressing, how interesting it would be to describe the approach of age, and the gradual coming of death. As people describe love. To note every symptom of failure: but why failure? To treat age as an experience that is different from the others; and to detect every one of the gradual stages towards death which is a tremendous experience, an not as unconscious, at least in its approaches, as death is. – Virginia Woolf

Ruin, weariness, death, perpetually death, stand grimly to confront the other presence of Elizabethan drama which is life: life compact of frigates, fir trees and ivory, of dolphins and the juice of July flowers, of the milk of unicorns and panthers’ breath, of ropes of pearl, brains of peacocks and Cretan wine. – Virginia Woolf

She felt somehow very like him—the young man who had killed himself. She felt glad that he had done it; thrown it away. The clock was striking. The leaden circles dissolved in the air. He made her feel the beauty; made her feel the fun. But she must go back. She must assemble. – Virginia Woolf

There was no freedom in life, and certainly there was none in death… – Virginia Woolf

Things have dropped from me. I have outlived certain desires; I have lost friends, some by death… others through sheer inability to cross the street. – Virginia Woolf

This self now as I leant over the gate looking down over fields rolling in waves of colour beneath me made no answer. He threw up no opposition. He attempted no phrase. His fist did not form. I waited. I listened. Nothing came, nothing. I cried then with a sudden conviction of complete desertion. Now there is nothing. No fin breaks the waste of this immeasurable sea. Life has destroyed me. No echo comes when I speak, no varied words. This is more truly death than the death of friends, than the death of youth. – Virginia Woolf

What could be more serious than the love of man for woman, what more commanding, more impressive, bearing in its bosom the seeds of death; at the same time these lovers, these people entering into illusion glittering eyed, must be danced round with mockery, decorated with garlands. – Virginia Woolf

When she was alone by herself she clenched her fists together, and began beating the back of a chair with them. She was like a wounded animal. She hated death; she was furious, outraged, indignant with death, as if it were a living creature……………………She would not submit to dark and nothingness. She began to pace up and down, clenching her hands, and making no attempt to stop the quick tears which raced down her cheeks. She sat still at last, but she did not submit. She looked stubborn and strong when she had ceased to cry. – Virginia Woolf

On God & Religion:

Behind the cotton wool is hidden a pattern; that we—I mean all human beings—are connected with this; that the whole world is a work of art; that we are parts of the work of art. Hamlet or a Beethoven quartet is the truth about this vast mass that we call the world. But there is no Shakespeare, there is no Beethoven; certainly and emphatically there is no God; we are the words; we are the music; we are the thing itself. – Virginia Woolf

Brooding, she changed the pool into the sea, and made the minnows into sharks and whales, and cast vast clouds over this tiny world by holding her hand against the sun, and so brought darkness and desolation, like God himself, to millions of ignorant and innocent creatures, and then took her hand away suddenly and let the sun stream down. – Virginia Woolf

I read the book of Job last night, I don’t think God comes out well in it. – Virginia Woolf

In any case life is but a procession of shadows, and God knows why it is that we embrace them so eagerly, and see them depart with such anguish, being shadows. – Virginia Woolf

Nothing, however, can be more arrogant, though nothing is commoner than to assume that of Gods there is only one, and of religions none but the speaker’s. – Virginia Woolf

She thought there were no Gods; no one was to blame; and so she evolved this atheist’s religion of doing good for the sake of goodness. – Virginia Woolf

She thought there were no Gods; no one was to blame; and so she evolved this atheist’s religion of doing good for the sake of goodness.

You would get longer livelier and more frequent letters from me, if it weren’t for the Christian religion. How that bell tolling at the end of the garden, dum dum, dum dum, annoys me! Why is Christianity so insistent and so sad? – Virginia Woolf

On Books, Music, Art:

’I want to write a novel about Silence,’ he said; ‘the things people don’t say.’ – Virginia Woolf

A strange thing has happened – while all the other arts were born naked, this, the youngest, has been born fully-clothed. It can say everything before it has anything to say. It is as if the savage tribe, instead of finding two bars of iron to play with, had found scattering the seashore fiddles, flutes, saxophones, trumpets, grand pianos by Erhard and Bechstein, and had begun with incredible energy, but without knowing a note of music, to hammer and thump upon them all at the same time. – Virginia Woolf

All artists need a room of their own. – Virginia Woolf

Anyone who’s worth anything reads just what he likes, as the mood takes him, and with extravagant enthusiasm. – Virginia Woolf

Art is not a copy of the real world; one of the damn things is enough. – Virginia Woolf

Behind the cotton wool is hidden a pattern; that we—I mean all human beings—are connected with this; that the whole world is a work of art; that we are parts of the work of art. Hamlet or a Beethoven quartet is the truth about this vast mass that we call the world. But there is no Shakespeare, there is no Beethoven; certainly and emphatically there is no God; we are the words; we are the music; we are the thing itself. – Virginia Woolf, Moments of Being

Books are the mirrors of the soul. – Virginia Woolf

Books are everywhere; and always the same sense of adventure fills us. Second-hand books are wild books, homeless books; they have come together in vast flocks of variegated feather, and have a charm which the domesticated volumes of the library lack. Besides, in this random miscellaneous company we may rub against some complete stranger who will, with luck, turn into the best friend we have in the world. – Virginia Woolf

Criticism? An artist wants praise. Praise. – Virginia Woolf

Dance music … stirs some barbaric instinct – lulled asleep in our sober lives – you forget centuries of civilization in a second, & yield to that strange passion which sends you madly whirling round the room. – Virginia Woolf

I am reading six books at once, the only way of reading; since, as you will agree, one book is only a single unaccompanied note, and to get the full sound, one needs ten others at the same time. – Virginia Woolf

I do think all good and evil comes from words. I have to tune myself into a good temper with something musical, and I run to a book as a child to its mother. – Virginia Woolf

I feel so intensely the delights of shutting oneself up in a little world of one’s own, with pictures and music and everything beautiful. – Virginia Woolf

if newspapers were written by people whose sole object in writing was to tell the truth about politics and the truth about art we should not believe in war, and we should believe in art. – Virginia Woolf

If people are highly successful in their profession they lose their senses. Sight goes. They have no time to look at pictures. Sound goes. They have no time to listen to music. Speech goes. They have no time for conversation. They lose their sense of proportion. – Virginia Woolf

If people are highly successful in their professions they lose their sense. Sight goes. They have no time to look at pictures. Sound goes. They have no time to listen to music. Speech goes. They have no time for conversation. Humanity goes. Money making becomes so important that they must work by night as well as by day. Health goes. And so competitive do they become that they will not share their work with others though they have more themselves. What then remains of a human being who has lost sight, sound, and sense of proportion?  Only a cripple in a cave. – Virginia Woolf

It is probable that both in life and in art the values of a woman are not the values of a man. – Virginia Woolf

It is the nature of the artist to mind excessively what is said about him. Literature is strewn with the wreckage of men who have minded beyond reason the opinions of others.

Literature is strewn with the wreckage of men who have minded beyond reason the opinions of others. – Virginia Woolf

Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind. – Virginia Woolf

Often on a wet day I begin counting up; what I’ve read and what I haven’t read. – Virginia Woolf

One should aim, seriously, at disregarding ups and downs; a compliment here, silence there … the central fact remains stable, which is the fact of my own pleasure in the art. – Virginia Woolf

Really I don’t like human nature unless all candied over with art. – Virginia Woolf

The artist after all is a solitary being. – Virginia Woolf

The mind of an artist, in order to achieve the prodigious effort of freeing whole and entire the work that is in him, must be incandescent…there must be no obstacle in it, no foreign matter unconsumed. – Virginia Woolf

They are very large in effect, these painters; very little self-conscious; they have smooth broad spaces in their minds where I am all prickles & promontories. – Virginia Woolf

To put it in a nutshell, he was afflicted with a love of literature. It was the fatal nature of this disease to substitute a phantom for reality. – Virginia Woolf

To read a novel is a difficult and complex art. You must be capable not only of great fineness of perception, but of great boldness of imagination. – Virginia Woolf

We are the words; we are the music; we are the thing itself. – Virginia Woolf

On Thoughts & Feelings:

…she wanted many more things than the love of one human being — the sea, the sky. – Virginia Woolf

All extremes of feeling are allied with madness. – Virginia Woolf

Blame it or praise it, there is no denying the wild horse in us. – Virginia Wool

Communication is truth; communication is happiness. To share is our duty; to go down boldly and bring to light those hidden thoughts which are the most diseased; to conceal nothing; to pretend nothing; if we are ignorant to say so; if we love our friends to let them know it. – Virginia Woolf

How far do our feelings take their colour from the dive underground? I mean, what is the reality of any feeling? – Virginia Woolf

How readily our thoughts swarm upon a new object, lifting it a little way, as ants carry a blade of straw so feverishly, and then leave it. – Virginia Woolf

I feel all shadows of the universe multiplied deep inside my skin. – Virginia Woolf

I feel certain that I am going mad again. I feel we can’t go through another of those terrible times. And I shan’t recover this time… I can’t go on spoiling your life any longer. I don’t think two people could have been happier than we have been. – Virginia Woolf

I feel certain that I’m going mad again, I feel we can’t go thru another of those terrible times. And I shan’t recover this time. I begin to hear voices – Virginia Woolf

I feel insignificant, lost, but exultant. – Virginia Woolf

I feel like more and more I come to loathe any dominion of one over another; any leadership, any imposition of the will. Is it chiefly intellectual snobbery that makes me dislike most people? I don’t know. I know that I am full of anger. – Virginia Woolf

I feel my brains, like a pear, to see if it’s ripe; it will be exquisite by September. – Virginia Woolf

I feel so intensely the delights of shutting oneself up in a little world of one’s own, with pictures and music and everything beautiful. – Virginia Woolf

I feel that I have had a blow; but it is not, as I thought as a child, simply a blow from an enemy hidden behind the cotton wool of daily life; it is or will become a revelation of some order; it is a token of some real thing behind appearances; and I make it real by putting it into words. It is only by putting it into words that I make it whole; this wholeness means that it has lost its power to hurt me; it gives me, perhaps because by doing so I take away the pain, a great delight to put the severed parts together. – Virginia Woolf

I like people to be unhappy because I like them to have souls. – Virginia Woolf

I will go down with my colours flying. – Virginia Woolf

I will not be ‘famous,’ ‘great.’ I will go on adventuring, changing, opening my mind and my eyes, refusing to be stamped and stereotyped. The thing is to free one’s self: to let it find its dimensions, not be impeded.– Virginia Woolf

If the best of one’s feelings means nothing to the person most concerned in those feelings, what reality is left us? – Virginia Woolf

In her eyes shone the sweetness of melancholy. – Virginia Woolf

It is a thousand pities never to say what one feels. – Virginia Woolf

It struck me then that part of my misery is not having you. Yes, I miss you, I miss you. I dare not expatiate, because you will say I am not stark, and cannot feel the things dumb people feel. You know that is rather rotten rot, my dear Vita. After all, what is a lovely phrase? One that has mopped up as much truth as it can hold. – Virginia Woolf

Nothing thicker than a knife’s blade separates happiness from melancholy. – Virginia Woolf

Talents of the novelist: … observation of character, analysis of emotion, people’s feelings, personal relations … – Virginia Woolf

The eyes of others our prisons; their thoughts our cages. – Virginia Woolf

The weather varies between heavy fog and pale sunshine; My thoughts follow the exact same process. – Virginia Woolf

Thoughts without words… Can that be? – Virginia Woolf

To pursue truth with such astonishing lack of consideration for other people’s feelings, to rend the think veils of civilisation so wantonly, so brutally, was to her so horrible an outrage of human decency that, without replying, dazed and blinded, she bend her head as if to let her pelt f jagged hail, the drench of dirty water, bespatter her unrebuked. – Virginia Woolf

On Being Yourself:

One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well. – Virginia Woolf

One wanted, she thought, dipping her brush deliberately, to be on a level with ordinary experience. – Virginia Woolf

Rhoda has rocked her ships to shore. Whether they have anchored, whether they have foundered, she cares no longer. – Virginia Woolf

The eyes of others our prisons; their thoughts our cages. – Virginia Woolf

There was a star riding through clouds one night, & I said to the star, ‘Consume me.’ – Virginia Woolf

Thoughts are divine. – Virginia Woolf

Thoughts without words… Can that be? – Virginia Woolf

If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people. – Virginia Woolf

Once you begin to take yourself seriously as a leader or as a follower, as a modern or as a conservative, then you become a self-conscious, biting, and scratching little animal whose work is not of the slightest value or importance to anybody.

Twice Flush had done his utmost to kill his enemy; twice he had failed. And why had he failed, he asked himself? Because he loved Miss Barrett. Looking up at her from under his eyebrows as she lay, severe and silent on the sofa, he knew that he must love her for ever. Things are not simple but complex. If he bit Mr. Browning he bit her too. Hatred is not hatred; hatred is also love. – Virginia Woolf

Why is it that people won’t be honest? – Virginia Woolf

On Solitude:

Better is silence..Let me sit with bare things, this coffee cup, this knife, this fork, things in themselves, myself being myself. – Virginia Woolf

But I pine in Solitude. Solitude is my undoing. – Virginia Woolf

Every season is likeable, and wet days and fine, red wine and white, company and solitude. Even sleep, that deplorable curtailment of the joy of life, can be full of dreams; and the most common actions──a walk, a talk, solitude in one’s own orchard──can be enhanced and lit up by the association of the mind. Beauty is everywhere, and beauty is only two finger’s-breadth from goodness. – Virginia Woolf

For now she need not think of anybody. She could be herself, by herself. And that was what now she often felt the need of – to think; well not even to think. To be silent; to be alone. – Virginia Woolf

For pain words are lacking. There should be cries, cracks, fissures, whiteness passing over chintz covers, interference with the sense of time, of space ; the sense also of extreme fixity in passing objects ; and sounds very remote and then very close ; flesh being gashed and blood sparting, a joint suddenly twisted – beneath all of which appears something very important, yet remote, to be just held in solitude.” – Virginia Woolf

I do not want to be admired. I want to give, to be given, and solitude in which to unfold my possessions. – Virginia Woolf

I need solitude. I need space. I need air. I need the empty fields round me; and my legs pounding along roads; and sleep; and animal existence. – Virginia Woolf

In solitude we give passionate attention to our lives, to our memories, to the details around us. – Virginia Woolf

Needless to say, the business of living interferes with the solitude so needed for any work of the imagination. Here’s what Virginia Woolf said in her diary about the sticky issue: “I’ve shirked two parties, and another Frenchman, and buying a hat, and tea with Hilda Trevelyan, for I really can’t combine all this with keeping all my imaginary people going. – Virginia Woolf

Oh the torture of never being left alone! I find it impossible to disentangle myself from those instincts, affections, passions, attachments…which bound me…from the first moment of consciousness to other people. I need solitude; I need to feel I belong to myself.’ – Virginia Woolf

On Friendship:

Each has his past shut in him like the leaves of a book known to him by his heart, and his friends can only read the title. – Virginia Woolf

Friendships, even the best of them, are frail things. One drifts apart. – Virginia Woolf

I have lost friends, some by death…others by sheer inability to cross the street. – Virginia Woolf

–in other words, how good life seemed, how sweet its rewards, how trivial this grudge or that grievance, how admirable friendship and the society of one’s kind. – Virginia Woolf

It seemed to her that there was something amateurish in bringing romantic love into touch with a perfectly straightforward friendship. – Virginia Woolf

O friendship, I too will press flowers between the pages of Shakespeare’s sonnets! – Virginia Woolf

Our friends – how distant, how mute, how seldom visited and little known. And I, too, am dim to my friends and unknown; a phantom, sometimes seen, often not. Life is a dream surely. – Virginia Woolf

Some people go to priests; others to poetry; I to my friends. – Virginia Woolf

Things have dropped from me. I have outlived certain desires; I have lost friends, some by death – Percival – others through sheer inability to cross the street. – Virginia Woolf

To communicate is our chief business; society and friendship our chief delights; and reading, not to acquire knowledge, not to earn a living, but to extend our intercourse beyond our own time and province. – Virginia Woolf

What a comfort is friendship in this world. – Virginia Woolf

You send a boy to school in order to make friends – the right sort. – Virginia Woolf

On Beauty:

…But beauty must be broken daily to remain beautiful… – Virginia Woolf

Above all you must illumine your own soul with its profundities and its shallows, and its vanities and its generosities, and say what your beauty means to you or your plainness, and what is your relation to the ever-changing and turning world. – Virginia Woolf

Beauty was not everything. Beauty had this penalty — it came too readily, came too completely. It stilled life — froze it. – Virginia Woolf

For the eye has this strange property: it rests only on beauty. – Virginia Woolf

Henry James seems most entirely in his element, doing that is to say what everything favors his doing, when it is a question of recollection. The mellow light which swims over the past, the beauty which suffuses even the commonest little figures of that – Virginia Woolf

I attain a different kind of beauty, achieve a symmetry by means of infinite discords, showing all the traces of the mind’s passage through the world, achieve in the end some kind of whole made of shivering fragments. – Virginia Woolf

No sooner have you feasted on beauty with your eyes than your mind tells you that beauty is vain and beauty passes. – Virginia Woolf

Some things were very beautiful; others sheer nonsense. – Virginia Woolf

The beautiful seems right by force of beauty, and the feeble wrong because of weakness. – Virginia Woolf

The beauty of the world has two edges, one of laughter, one of anguish, cutting the heart asunder. – Virginia Woolf

The beauty of the world, which is so soon to perish, has two edges, one of laughter, one of anguish, cutting the heart asunder. – Virginia Woolf

The root of things, what they were all afraid of saying, was that happiness is dirt cheap. You can have it for nothing. Beauty. – Virginia Woolf

On Nature:

A very cold winter’s night, so silent that the air seemed frozen. – Virginia Woolf

And it was awfully strange, he thought, how she still had the power, as she came tinkling, rustling, still had the power as she came across the room, to make the moon, which he detested, rise at Bourton on the terrace in the summer sky. – Virginia Woolf

I am sure however many years I keep this diary, I shall never find a winter to beat this. It seems to have lost all self control. – Virginia Woolf

I remember I would not stand still; I would not stop being perplexed by everything that spontaneously attracted me or caught my attention. I would never cease to look around me and observe myself in relation to nature: either crystal clear skies and sun-melting afternoons, or foggy winter days and weirdly tinted nights. I would never cease to dream and stand by the window, ready to let the diversity of life pass freely through my skin; courageous enough to believe I stood a chance in devouring each shade of sensation. Or perhaps, immensely foolish to plainly – believe at all. – Virginia Woolf

Let us go, then, exploring, this summer morning, when all are adoring the plum blossom and the bee. – Virginia Woolf

Melancholy were the sounds on a winter’s night. – Virginia Wool

Never are voices so beautiful as on a winter’s evening, when dusk almost hides the body, and they seem to issue from nothingness with a note of intimacy seldom heard by day. – Virginia Woolf

She is rather like the winter sun–her ruddy edges slightly blurred. – Virginia Woolf

So the winter gloom is over, for which I am half sorry, since the dark evening over the fire has its charm. – Virginia Woolf

The autumn trees, ravaged as they are, take on the flash of tattered flags kindling in the gloom of cathedral caves. – Virginia Woolf

Until we can comprehend the beguiling beauty of a single flower, we are woefully unable to grasp the meaning and potential of life itself. – Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf Quotes

Quotes from Wikiquote

  • At this Helen laughed outright. “Nonsense,” she said. “You’re not a Christian. You’ve never thought what you are.—And there are lots of other questions,” she continued, “though perhaps we can’t ask them yet.” Although they had talked so freely they were all uncomfortably conscious that they really knew nothing about each other.
    “The important questions,” Hewet pondered, “the really interesting ones. I doubt that one ever does ask them.”
    Rachel, who was slow to accept the fact that only a very few things can be said even by people who know each other well, insisted on knowing what he meant.
    “Whether we’ve ever been in love?” she enquired. “Is that the kind of question you mean?”

    • The Voyage Out (1915), Ch. XI
  • Margaret Ll. Davies writes that Janet is dying and will I write on her for The Times  – a curious thought, rather: as if it mattered who wrote, or not. But this flooded me with the idea of Janet yesterday. I think writing, my writing, is a species of mediumship. I become the person.
    • Entry of 11 July 1937, in A Writer’s Diary
  • Here I come to one of the memoir writer’s difficulties — one of the reasons why, though I read so many, so many are failures. They leave out the person to whom things happened. The reason is that it is so difficult to describe any human being. So they say: ‘This is what happened’; but they do not say what the person was like to whom it happened. Who was I then? Adeline Virginia Stephen, the second daughter of Leslie and Julia Prinsep Stephen, born on 25th January 1882, descended from a great many people, some famous, others obscure; born into a large connection, born not of rich parents, but of well-to-do parents, born into a very communicative, literate, letter writing, visiting, articulate, late nineteenth century world.
    • “A Sketch of the Past” (written 1939, published posthumously)
  • The Reverend C. L. Dodgson had no life. He passed through the world so lightly that he left no print. He melted so passively into Oxford that he is invisible.
    • Essay “Lewis Carroll”; reprinted in The Moment, and Other Essays
  • For some reason, we know not what, his childhood was sharply severed. It lodged in him whole and entire. He could not disperse it.
    • Essay “Lewis Carroll” 
  • Dearest,
    I want to tell you that you have given me complete happiness. No one could have done more than you have done. Please believe that.
    But I know that I shall never get over this: and I am wasting your life. It is this madness. Nothing anyone says can persuade me. You can work, and you will be much better without me. You see I can’t write this even, which shows I am right. All I want to say is that until this disease came on we were perfectly happy. It was all due to you. No one could have been so good as you have been, from the very first day till now. Everyone knows that.
    V.

    • Letter to Leonard Woolf (28 March 1941), from The Virginia Woolf Reader (1984) edited by Mitchell A. Leaska, p. 369.

Night and Day

  • No one can escape the power of language, let alone those of English birth brought up from childhood, as Mrs. Hilbery had been, to disport themselves now in the Saxon plainness, now in the Latin splendor of the tongue, and stored with memories, as she was, of old poets exuberating in an infinity of vocables. Even Katharine was slightly affected against her better judgment by her mother’s enthusiasm. Not that her judgment could altogether acquiesce in the necessity for a study of Shakespeare’s sonnets as a preliminary to the fifth chapter of her grandfather’s biography. Beginning with a perfectly frivolous jest, Mrs. Hilbery had evolved a theory that Anne Hathaway had a way, among other things, of writing Shakespeare’s sonnets; the idea, struck out to enliven a party of professors, who forwarded a number of privately printed manuals within the next few days for her instruction, had submerged her in a flood of Elizabethan literature; she had come half to believe in her joke, which was, she said, at least as good as other people’s facts, and all her fancy for the time being centered upon Stratford-on-Avon. Ch. 24
  • “What is this romance?” she mused.
    “Ah, that’s the question. I’ve never come across a definition that satisfied me, though there are some very good ones”—he glanced in the direction of his books.
    “It’s not altogether knowing the other person, perhaps—it’s ignorance,” she hazarded.
    “Some authorities say it’s a question of distance—romance in literature, that is—”
    “Possibly, in the case of art. But in the case of people it may be—” she hesitated.

Jacob’s Room

  • The strange thing about life is that though the nature of it must have been apparent to every one for hundreds of years, no one has left any adequate account of it. The streets of London have their map; but our passions are uncharted. What are you going to meet if you turn this corner? Ch. 8

The Common Reader

  • But can we go to posterity with a sheaf of loose pages, or ask the readers of those days, with the whole of literature before them, to sift our enormous rubbish heaps for our tiny pearls? Such are the questions which the critics might lawfully put to their companions at table, the novelists and poets. “How It Strikes a Contemporary”
  • Examine for a moment an ordinary mind on an ordinary day. The mind receives a myriad impressions — trivial, fantastic, evanescent, or engraved with the sharpness of steel. From all sides they come, an incessant shower of innumerable atoms; and as they fall, as they shape themselves into the life of Monday or Tuesday, the accent falls differently from of old; the moment of importance came not here but there; so that, if a writer were a free man and not a slave, if he could write what he chose, not what he must, if he could base his work upon his own feeling and not upon convention, there would be no plot, no comedy, no tragedy, no love interest or catastrophe in the accepted style, and perhaps not a single button sewn on as the Bond Street tailors would have it. Life is not a series of gig-lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end. Is it not the task of the novelist to convey this varying, this unknown and uncircumscribed spirit, whatever aberration or complexity it may display, with as little mixture of the alien and external as possible? We are not pleading merely for courage and sincerity; we are suggesting that the proper stuff of fiction is a little other than custom would have us believe it. “Modern Fiction”
  • Theirs, too, is the word-coining genius, as if thought plunged into a sea of words and came up dripping. “Notes on an Elizabethan Play”
  • But delightful though it is to indulge in righteous indignation, it is misplaced if we agree with the lady’s-maid that high birth is a form of congenital insanity, that the sufferer merely inherits the diseases of his ancestors, and endures them, for the most part very stoically, in one of those comfortably padded lunatic asylums which are known, euphemistically, as the stately homes of England. “Outlines: Lady Dorothy Nevill”
  • We may enjoy our room in the tower, with the painted walls and the commodious bookcases, but down in the garden there is a man digging who buried his father this morning, and it is he and his like who live the real life and speak the real language. “Montaigne”
  • For ourselves, who are ordinary men and women, let us return thanks to Nature for her bounty by using every one of the senses she has given us; vary our state as much as possible; turn now this side, now that, to the warmth, and relish to the full before the sun goes down the kisses of youth and the echoes of a beautiful voice singing Catullus. Every season is likeable, and wet days and fine, red wine and white, company and solitude. Even sleep, that deplorable curtailment of the joy of life, can be full of dreams; and the most common actions—a walk, a talk, solitude in one’s own orchard—can be enhanced and lit up by the association of the mind. Beauty is everywhere, and beauty is only two finger’s-breadth from goodness. “Montaigne”
  • Humour is the first of the gifts to perish in a foreign tongue. “On Not Knowing Greek”

Virginia Woolf Quotes

Mrs Dalloway

  • Mrs Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.
  • It was enemies one wanted, not friends.
  • A whole lifetime was too short to bring out, the full flavour; to extract every ounce of pleasure, every shade of meaning.
  • What she loved was this, here, now, in front of her; the fat lady in the cab. Did it matter then, she asked herself, walking towards Bond Street, did it matter that she must inevitably cease completely; all this must go on without her; did she resent it; or did it not become consoling to believe that death ended absolutely? but that somehow in the streets of London, on the ebb and flow of things, here there, she survived. Peter survived, lived in each other, she being part, she was positive, of the trees at home; of the house there, ugly, rambling all to bits and pieces as it was; part of people she had never met; being laid out like a mist between the people she knew best, who lifted her on their branches as she had seen the trees lift the mist, but it spread ever so far, her life, herself.
  • But to go deeper, beneath what people said (and these judgements, how superficial, how fragmentary they are!) in her own mind now, what did it mean to her, this thing she called life? Oh, it was very queer. Here was So-and-so in South Kensington; some one up in Bayswater; and somebody else, say, in Mayfair. And she felt quiet continuously a sense of their existence and she felt what a waste; and she felt what a pity; and she felt if only they could be brought together; so she did it. And it was an offering; to combine, to create; but to whom?
    An offering for the sake of offering, perhaps. Anyhow, it was her gift. Nothing else had she of the slightest importance; could not think, write, even play the piano. She muddled Armenians and Turks; loved success; hated discomfort; must be liked; talked oceans of nonsense: and to this day, ask her what the Equator was, and she did not know.
    All the same, that one day should follow another; Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday; that one should wake up in the morning; see the sky; walk in the park; meet Hugh Whitbread; then suddenly in came Peter; then these roses; it was enough. After that, how unbelievable death was! — that it must end; and no one in the whole world would know how she had loved it all.
  • Rigid, the skeleton of habit alone upholds the human frame.

On Being Ill

  • The merest schoolgirl [school girl,] when she falls in love, has Shakespeare or Keats to speak her mind for her; but let a sufferer [try to] describe a pain in his head to a doctor and language at once runs dry.

To the Lighthouse

  • Could loving, as people called it, make her and Mrs Ramsay one? for it was not knowledge but unity that she desired, not inscription on tablets, nothing that could be written in any language known to men, but intimacy itself, which is knowledge, she had thought, leaning her head on Mrs Ramsay’s knee. Part I, Ch. 9
  • A light here required a shadow there. Part I, Ch. 9
  • She felt this thing that she called life terrible, hostile, and quick to pounce on you if you gave it a chance. There were the eternal problems: suffering; death; the poor. There was always a woman dying of cancer even here. And yet she had said to all these children, You shall go through with it. Part I, Ch. 10
  • She had done the usual trick – been nice. She would never know him. He would never know her. Human relations were all like that, she thought, and the worst (if it had not been for Mr Bankes) were between men and women. Inevitably these were extremely insincere. Part I, Ch. 17
  • For our penitence deserves a glimpse only; our toil respite only. Part II, Ch. 3
  • “Like a work of art,” she repeated, looking from her canvas to the drawing-room steps and back again. She must rest for a moment. And, resting, looking from one to the other vaguely, the old question which transversed the sky of the soul perpetually, the vast, the general question which was apt to particularise itself at such moments as these, when she released faculties that had been on the strain, stood over her, paused over her, darkened over her. What is the meaning of life? That was all — a simple question; one that tended to close in on one with years. The great revelation had never come. The great revelation perhaps never did come. Instead there were little daily miracles, illuminations, matches struck unexpectedly in the dark; here was one. This, that, and the other; herself and Charles Tansley and the breaking wave; Mrs. Ramsay bringing them together; Mrs. Ramsay saying, “Life stand still here”; Mrs. Ramsay making of the moment something permanent (as in another sphere Lily herself tried to make of the moment something permanent) — this was of the nature of a revelation. In the midst of chaos there was shape; this eternal passing and flowing (she looked at the cloud going and the leaves shaking) was struck into stability. Life stand still here, Mrs. Ramsay said. “Mrs. Ramsay! Mrs. Ramsay!” she repeated. She owed it all to her. Part III, Ch. 3
  • Mrs Ramsay sat silent. She was glad, Lily thought, to rest in silence, uncommunicative; to rest in the extreme obscurity of human relationships. Who knows what we are, what we feel? Who knows even at the moment of intimacy, This is knowledge? Aren’t things spoilt then, Mrs Ramsay may have asked (it seemed to have happened so often, this silence by her side) by saying them? Part III, Ch. 5 
  • But one only woke people if one knew what one wanted to say to them. And she wanted to say not one thing, but everything. Little words that broke up the thought and dismembered it said nothing. ‘About life, about death; about Mrs Ramsay’ – no, she thought, one could say nothing to nobody. Part III, Ch. 5
  • She alone spoke the truth; to her alone could he speak it. That was the source of her everlasting attraction for him, perhaps; she was a person to whom one could say what came into one’s head. Part III, Ch. 9

A Room of One’s Own

  • A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction. Ch. 1, p. 4
  • When a subject is highly controversial — and any question about sex is that — one cannot hope to tell the truth. One can only show how one came to hold whatever opinion one does hold. One can only give one’s audience the chance of drawing their own conclusions as they observe the limitations, the prejudices, the idiosyncrasies of the speaker. Ch. 1, p. 4
  • The beauty of the world which is so soon to perish, has two edges, one of laughter, one of anguish, cutting the heart asunder. Ch. 1, p. 17
  • The human frame being what it is, heart, body and brain all mixed together, and not contained in separate compartments as they will be no doubt in another million years, a good dinner is of great importance to good talk. One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well. Ch. 1, p. 18
  • Have you any notion how many books are written about women in the course of one year? Have you any notion how many are written by men? Are you aware that you are, perhaps, the most discussed animal in the universe? Ch. 2, p. 26
  • Life for both sexes — and I looked at them, shouldering their way along the pavement — is arduous, difficult, a perpetual struggle. It calls for gigantic courage and strength. More than anything, perhaps, creatures of illusion as we are, it calls for confidence in oneself. Without self-confidence we are as babes in the cradle. And how can we generate this imponderable quality, which is yet so invaluable, most quickly? By thinking that other people are inferior to one self. By feeling that one has some innate superiority — it may be wealth, or rank, a straight nose, or the portrait of a grandfather by Romney — for there is no end to the pathetic devices of the human imagination — over other people. Ch. 2, p. 35
  • Women have served all these centuries as looking-glasses possessing the magic and delicious power of reflecting the figure of man at twice its natural size. Ch. 2, p. 35
  • Fiction is like a spider’s web, attached ever so lightly perhaps, but still attached to life at all four corners. Often the attachment is scarcely perceptible; Shakespeare’s plays, for instance, seem to hang there complete by themselves. But when the web is pulled askew, hooked up at the edge, torn in the middle, one remembers that these webs are not spun in midair by incorporeal creatures, but are the work of suffering human beings, and are attached to the grossly material things, like health and money and the houses we live in. Ch. 3, pp. 43-44
  • I would venture to guess that Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman. Ch. 3, p. 51
    • Very often misquoted as “For most of history, Anonymous was a woman.”
  • For it needs little skill in psychology to be sure that a highly gifted girl who had tried to use her gift for poetry would have been so thwarted and hindered by other people, so tortured and pulled asunder by her own contrary instincts, that she must have lost her health and sanity to a certainty. Ch. 3, p. 51
  • Literature is strewn with the wreckage of men who have minded beyond reason the opinions of others. Ch. 3, p. 58
  • The history of men’s opposition to women’s emancipation is more interesting perhaps than the story of that emancipation itself. Ch. 3, p. 72)
  • It is the nature of the artist to mind excessively what is said about him. Literature is strewn with the wreckage of men who have minded beyond reason the opinions of others. Ch. 3
  • Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind. Ch. 4, p. 90
  • I told you in the course of this paper that Shakespeare had a sister; but do not look for her in Sir Sidney Lee’s life of the poet. She died young — alas, she never wrote a word… Now my belief is that this poet who never wrote a word and was buried at the cross-roads still lives. She lives in you and in me, and in many other women who are not here to-night, for they are washing up the dishes and putting the children to bed. But she lives; for great poets do not die; they are continuing presences; they need only the opportunity to walk among us in the flesh. Ch. 6, p. 117)
  • My belief is that if we live another century or so — I am talking of the common life which is the real life and not of the little separate lives which we live as individuals — and have five hundred a year each of us and rooms of our own; if we have the habit of freedom and the courage to write exactly what we think; if we escape a little from the common sitting-room and see human beings not always in their relation to each other but in relation to reality; and the sky, too, and the trees or whatever it may be in themselves; if we look past Milton’s bogey, for no human being should shut out the view; if we face the fact, for it is a fact, that there is no arm to cling to, but that we go alone and that our relation is to the world of reality and not only to the world of men and women, then the opportunity will come and the dead poet who was Shakespeare’s sister will put on the body which she has so often laid down. Drawing her life from the lives of the unknown who were her forerunners, as her brother did before her, she will be born. As for her coming without that preparation, without that effort on our part, without that determination that when she is born again she shall find it possible to live and write her poetry, that we cannot expect, for that would be impossible. But I maintain that she would come if we worked for her, and that so to work, even in poverty and obscurity, is worth while. Ch. 6, pp. 117-118

Virginia Woolf Quotes

Orlando: A Biography

  • He — for there could be no doubt of his sex, though the fashion of the time did something to disguise it — was in the act of slicing at the head of a Moor which swung from the rafters. Ch. 1, first lines
  • At the age of thirty, or thereabouts, this young Nobleman had not only had every experience that life has to offer, but had seen the worthlessness of them all. Love and ambition, women and poets were all equally vain. Literature was a farce. The night after reading Greene’s Visit to a Nobleman in the Country, he burnt in a great conflagration fifty-seven poetical works, only retaining ‘The Oak Tree’, which was his boyish dream and very short. Two things alone remained to him in which he now put any trust: dogs and nature; an elk-hound and a rose bush. The world, in all its variety, life in all its complexity, had shrunk to that. Dogs and a bush were the whole of it. Ch. 2
  • Time, unfortunately, though it makes animals and vegetables bloom and fade with amazing punctuality, has no such simple effect upon the mind of man. The mind of man, moreover, works with equal strangeness upon the body of time. An hour, once it lodges in the queer element of the human spirit, may be stretched to fifty or a hundred times its clock length; on the other hand, an hour may be accurately represented on the timepiece of the mind by one second. This extraordinary discrepancy between time on the clock and time in the mind is less known than it should be and deserves fuller investigation. Ch. 2
  • While fame impedes and constricts, obscurity wraps about a man like a mist; obscurity is dark, ample, and free; obscurity lets the mind take its way unimpeded. Over the obscure man is poured the merciful suffusion of darkness. None knows where he goes or comes. He may seek the truth and speak it; he alone is free; he alone is truthful, he alone is at peace. Ch. 2
  • Better was it to go unknown and leave behind you an arch, a potting shed, a wall where peaches ripen, than to burn like meteor and leave no dust. Ch. 2
  • The trumpeters, ranging themselves side by side in order, blow one terrific blast: —
    ‘THE TRUTH!
    at which Orlando woke.

    He stretched himself. He rose. He stood upright in complete nakedness before us, and while the trumpets pealed Truth! Truth! Truth! we have no choice left but confess — he was a woman. Ch. 3
  • The sound of the trumpets died away and Orlando stood stark naked. No human being, since the world began, has ever looked more ravishing. His form combined in one the strength of a man and a woman’s grace. Ch. 3
  • We may take advantage of this pause in the narrative to make certain statements. Orlando had become a woman — there is no denying it. But in every other respect remained precisely as he had been. The change of sex, though it altered their future, did nothing whatever to alter their identity. Their faces remained, as their portraits prove, practically the same. His memory — but in future we must, for convention’s sake, say ‘her’ for ‘his,’ and ‘she’ for ‘he’ — her memory then, went back through all the events of her past life without encountering any obstacle. Some slight haziness there may have been, as if a few dark drops had fallen into the clear pool of memory; certain things had become a little dimmed; but that was all. The change seemed to have been accomplished painlessly and completely and in such a way that Orlando herself showed no surprise at it. Many people, taking this into account, and holding that such a change of sex is against nature, have been at great pains to prove (1) that Orlando had always been a woman, (2) that Orlando is at this moment a man. Let biologists and psychologists determine. It is enough for us to state the simple fact; Orlando was a man till the age of thirty; when he became a woman and has remained so ever since. Ch. 3
  • No passion is stronger in the breast of man than the desire to make others believe as he believes. Nothing so cuts at the root of his happiness and fills him with rage as the sense that another rates low what he prizes high. Whigs and Tories, Liberal party and Labour party — for what do they battle except their own prestige? Ch. 3
  • The chief charges against her were (1) that she was dead, and therefore could not hold any property; (2) that she was a woman which amounts to much the same thing … Ch. 4
  • Something, perhaps, we must believe in, and as Orlando, we have said, had no belief in the usual divinities she bestowed her credulity upon great men — yet with a distinction. Admirals, soldiers, statesmen, moved her not at all. But the very thought of a great writer stirred her to such a pitch of belief that she almost believed him to be invisible. Her instinct was a sound one. One can only believe entirely, perhaps, in what one cannot see. Ch. 4
  • Only those who have little need of the truth, and no respect for it — the poets and novelists — can be trusted to do it, for this is one of the cases where the truth does no exist. Nothing exists. The whole thing is a miasma — a mirage. Ch. 4
  • Society is the most powerful conception in the world and society has no existence whatsoever. Ch. 4
  • Old Madame du Deffand and her friends talked for fifty years without stopping. And of it all, what remains? Perhaps three witty sayings. Ch. 4
  • The hostess is our modern Sibyl. She is a witch who lays her guests under a spell. In this house they think themselves happy; in that witty; in a third profound. It is all an illusion (which is nothing against it, for illusions are the most valuable and necessary of all things, and she who can create one is among the world’s greatest benefactors), but as it is notorious that illusions are shattered by conflict with reality, so no real happiness, no real wit, no real profundity are tolerated where the illusion prevails. Ch. 4
  • As long as she thinks of a man, nobody objects to a woman thinking. Ch. 6

The Waves

  • But look — he flicks his hand to the back of his neck. For such gesture one falls hopelessly in love for a lifetime. p. 30
  • Here on this ring of grass we have sat together, bound by the tremendous power of some inner compulsion. The trees wave, the clouds pass. The time approaches when these soliloquies shall be shared. We shall not always give out a sound like a beaten gong as one sensation strikes and then another. Children, our lives have been gongs striking; clamour and boasting; cries of despair; blows on the nape of the neck in gardens. pp. 39-40
  • You are not listening to me. You are making phrases about Byron. And while you gesticulate, with your cloak, your cane, I am trying to expose a secret told to nobody yet; I am asking you (as I stand with my back to you) to take my life in your hands and tell me whether I am doomed always to cause repulsion in those I love? Bernard, section III
  • For I am more selves than Neville thinks. We are not simple as our friends would have us to meet their needs. Yet love is simple.
    • Bernard, section III
  • Among the tortures and devastations of life is this then — our friends are not able to finish their stories. Ch. II
  • ‘Now,’ said Neville, ‘my tree flowers. My heart rises. All oppression is relieved. All impediment is removed. The reign of chaos is over. He has imposed order. Knives cut again.’ […]
    ‘Here is Percival,’ said Bernard, ‘[…] We […] now come nearer; and shuffling closer on our perch in this restaurant where everybody’s interests are at variance, and the incessant passage of traffic chafes us with distractions, and the door opening perpetually its glass cage solicits us with myriad temptations and offers insults and wounds to our confidence — sitting together here we love each other and believe in our own endurance.’ section IV
  • Now, through my own infirmity I recover what he was to me: my opposite. Being naturally truthful, he did not see the point of these exaggerations, and was borne on by a natural sense of the fitting, was indeed a great master of the art of living so that he seems to have lived long, and to have spread calm round him, indifference one might almost say, certainly to his own advancement, save that he had also great compassion. […] We have no ceremonies, only private dirges and no conclusions, only violent sensations, each separate. Nothing that has been said meets our case. […] After a long lifetime, loosely, in a moment of revelation, I may lay hands on it, but now the idea breaks in my hand. Ideas break a thousand times for once that they globe themselves entire. […] I am yawning. I am glutted with sensations. I am exhausted with the strain and the long, long time — twenty-five minutes, half an hour — that I have held myself alone outside the machine.
    • Bernard on Percival, section V
  • Things have dropped from me. I have outlived certain desires; I have lost friends, some by death… others through sheer inability to cross the street. p. 186
  • Yet there are moments when the walls of the mind grow thin; when nothing is unabsorbed, and I could fancy that we might blow so vast a bubble that the sun might set and rise in it and we might take the blue of midday and the black of midnight and be cast off and escape from here and now. p. 224
  • I like the copious, shapeless, warm, not so very clever, but extremely easy and rather coarse aspect of things; the talk of men in clubs and public-houses; of miners half naked in drawers — the forthright, perfectly unassuming, and without end in view except dinner, love, money and getting along tolerably; that which is without great hopes, ideals, or anything of that kind; what is unassuming except to make a tolerably, good job of it. I like all that. p. 246
  • We have dined well. The fish, the veal cutlets, the wine have blunted the sharp tooth of egotism. Anxiety is at rest. The vainest of us, Louis perhaps, does not care what people think. Neville’s tortures are at rest. Let others prosper — that is what he thinks. Susan hears the breathing of all her children safe asleep. Sleep, sleep, she murmurs. Rhoda has rocked her ships to shore. Whether they have foundered, whether they have anchored, she cares no longer. Bernard, section VIII
  • ‘The flower,’ said Bernard, ‘the red carnation that stood in the vase on the table of the restaurant when we dined together with Percival, is become a six-sided flower; made of six lives.’ section VIII
  • *Was there no sword, nothing with which to batter down these walls, this protection, this begetting of children and living behind curtains, and becoming daily more involved and committed, with books and pictures? Better burn one’s life out like Louis, desiring perfection; or like Rhoda leave us, flying past us to the desert; or choose one out of millions and one only like Neville; better be like Susan and love and hate the heat of the sun or the frost-bitten grass; or be like Jinny, honest, an animal. All had their rapture; their common feeling with death; something that stood them in stead. Thus I visited each of my friends in turn, trying, with fumbling fingers, to prise open their locked caskets. I went from one to the other holding my sorrow — no, not my sorrow but the incomprehensible nature of this our life — for their inspection. Some people go to priests; others to poetry; I to my friends, I to my own heart, I to seek among phrases and fragments something unbroken — I to whom there is not beauty enough in moon or tree; to whom the touch of one person with another is all, yet who cannot grasp even that, who am so imperfect, so weak, so unspeakably lonely. There I sat. Bernard, section IX
  • Our friends, how seldom visited, how little known — it is true; and yet, when I meet an unknown person, and try to break off, here at this table, what I call “my life”, it is not one life that I look back upon; I am not one person; I am many people; I do not altogether know who I am — Jinny, Susan, Neville, Rhoda, or Louis; or how to distinguish my life from theirs. Bernard, section IX

Three Guineas

  • Though we see the same world, we see it through different eyes. Any help we can give you must be different from that you can give yourselves, and perhaps the value of that help may lie in the fact of that difference. Ch. 1, p. 18
  • Directly the mulberry tree begins to make you circle, break off. Pelt the tree with laughter. Ch. 2, p. 80
  • The outsider will say, “in fact, as a woman, I have no country. As a woman I want no country. As a woman my country is the whole world.” And if, when reason has said its say, still some obstinate emotion remains, some love of England dropped into a child’s ears by the cawing of rooks in an elm tree, by the splash of waves on a beach, or by English voices murmuring nursery rhymes, this drop of pure, if irrational, emotion she will make serve her to give to England first what she desires of peace and freedom for the whole world. Ch. 3, p. 109

Virginia Woolf Quotes

Between the Acts

  • ‘That was the burden,’ she mused, ‘laid on me in the cradle; murmured by waves; breathed by restless elm trees; crooned by singing women; what we must remember; what we would forget.’
  • Words rose above the intolerably laden dumb oxen plodding through the mud. Words without meaning – wonderful words.
  • They never pulled the curtains till it was too dark to see, nor shut the windows till it was too cold. Why shut out the day before it was over? The flowers were still bright; the birds chirped. You could see more in the evening often when nothing interrupted, when there was no fish to order, no telephone to answer.
  • Mrs Swithin took her knitting from the table. ‘Did you feel,’ she asked, ‘what he said: we act different parts but are the same?’
‘Yes,’ Isa answered. ‘No,’ she added. It was Yes, No. Yes, yes, yes, the tide rushed out embracing. No, no, no, it contracted.
  • The flowers flashed before they faded. She watched them flash.

The Death of the Moth and Other Essays

  • The artist after all is a solitary being.
    • “The Historian and ‘The Gibbon'”
  • Once you begin to take yourself seriously as a leader or as a follower, as a modern or as a conservative, then you become a self-conscious, biting, and scratching little animal whose work is not of the slightest value or importance to anybody. “A Letter to a Young Poet”
  • Lines slip easily down the accustomed grooves. The old designs are copied so glibly that we are half inclined to think them original, save for that very glibness. “A Letter to a Young Poet” 
  • I mean, what is a woman? I assure you, I do not know. I do not believe that you know. I do not believe that anybody can know until she has expressed herself in all the arts and professions open to human skill. “Professions for Women”
  • Outwardly, what is simpler than to write books? Outwardly, what obstacles are there for a woman rather than for a man? Inwardly, I think, the case is very different; she has still many ghosts to fight, many prejudices to overcome. Indeed it will be a long time still, I think, before a woman can sit down to write a book without finding a phantom to be slain, a rock to be dashed against. And if this is so in literature, the freest of all professions for women, how is it in the new professions which you are now for the first time entering? “Professions for Women”

The Moment and Other Essays

  • If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people.
    • “The Leaning Tower”, lecture delivered to the Workers’ Educational Association, Brighton (May 1940)

Granite and Rainbow

  • The extraordinary woman depends on the ordinary woman. It is only when we know what were the conditions of the average woman’s life … it is only when we can measure the way of life and the experience of life made possible to the ordinary woman that we can account for the success or failure of the extraordinary woman as a writer. “Women and Fiction”
  • But the novels of women were not affected only by the necessarily narrow range of the writer’s experience. They showed, at least in the nineteenth century, another characteristic which may be traced to the writer’s sex. In Middlemarch and in Jane Eyre we are conscious not merely of the writer’s character, as we are conscious of the character of Charles Dickens, but we are conscious of a woman’s presence — of someone resenting the treatment of her sex and pleading for its rights. “Women and Fiction”
  • If, then, one should try to sum up the character of women’s fiction at the present moment, one would say that it is courageous; it is sincere; it keeps closely to what women feel. It is not bitter. It does not insist upon its femininity. “Women and Fiction”
  • In the past, the virtue of women’s writing often lay in its divine spontaneity … But it was also, and much more often, chattering and garrulous … In future, granted time and books and a little space in the house for herself, literature will become for women, as for men, an art to be studied. Women’s gift will be trained and strengthened. The novel will cease to be the dumping-ground for the personal emotions. It will become, more than at present, a work of art like any other, and its resources and its limitations will be explored. “Women and Fiction”

Books and Portraits

  • The strongest natures, when they are influenced, submit the most unreservedly: it is perhaps a sign of their strength. But that Thoreau lost any of his own force in the process, or took on permanently any colours not natural to himself the readers of his books will certainly deny. The Transcendentalist movement, like most movements of vigour, represented the effort of one or two remarkable people to shake off the old clothes which had become uncomfortable to them and fit themselves more closely to what now appeared to them to be the realities.
    • “Thoreau”

Moments of Being

  • That great Cathedral space which was childhood.
    • “A Sketch of the Past”

A Moment’s Liberty

  • Our patience wore rather thin. Visitors do tend to chafe one, though impeccable as friends. L. and I discussed this. He says that with people in the house his hours of positive pleasure are reduced to one; he has I forget how many hours of negative pleasure; and a respectable margin of the acutely unpleasant. Are we growing old?
  • Morgan has the artist’s mind; he says the simple things that clever people don’t say; I find him the best of critics for that reason. Suddenly out comes the obvious thing that one has overlooked.
  • This last week L. has been having a little temperature in the evening, due to malaria, and that due to a visit to Oxford; a place of death and decay. I’m almost alarmed to see how entirely my weight rests on his prop. And almost alarmed to see how intensely I’m specialised. My mind turned by anxiety, or other cause, from its scrutiny of blank paper, is like a lost child – wandering the house, sitting on the bottom step to cry.
  • We have been to Rodmell, and as usual I come home depressed – for no reason. Merely moods. Have other people as many as I have? That I shall never now. And sometimes I suppose that even if I came to the end of my incessant search into what people are and feel I should know nothing still.
  • I have seen very few people. Nessa came again. How painful these meetings are! Let me try to analyse. Perhaps it is that we both feel that we can exist independently of the other. The door shuts between us, and life flows on again and completely removes the trace. That is an absurd exaggeration.
  • Neither of us knows what the public will think. There’s no doubt in my mind that I have found out how to begin (at forty) to say something in my own voice; and that interests me so that I feel I can go ahead without praise.
  • A desire for children, I suppose; for Nessa’s life; for the sense of flowers breaking all round me involuntarily. […] Years and years ago, after the Lytton affair, I said to myself, walking up the hill at Bayreuth, never pretend that the things you haven’t got are not worth having; good advice I think. And then I went on to say to myself that one must like things for themselves; or rather, rid them of their bearing upon one’s personal life. One must venture on to the things that exist independently of oneself. Now this is very hard for young women to do. Yet I got satisfaction from it. And now, married to L., I never have to make the effort. Perhaps I have been to happy for my soul’s good? And does some of my discontent come from feeling that?
  • Even Morgan seems to me to be based on some hidden rock. Talking of Proust and Lawrence he said he’d prefer to be Lawrence; but much rather would be himself. He is aloof, serene, a snob, he says, reading masterpieces only.
  • I must try to set aside half an hour in some part of my day, and consecrate it to diary writing. Give it a name and a place, and then perhaps, such is the human mind, I shall come to think it a duty, and disregard other duties for it.
  • Happiness is to have a little string onto which things will attach themselves.
  • In brain and insight she is not as highly organised as I am. But then she is aware of this, and so lavishes on me the maternal protection which, for some reason, is what I have always most wished from everyone.
  • As for the soul: why did I say I would leave it out? I forget. And the truth is, one can’t write directly about the soul. Looked at, it vanishes; but look at the ceiling, at Grizzle, at the cheaper beasts in the Zoo which are exposed to walkers in Regent’s Pak, and the soul slips in. Mrs Webb’s book has made me think a little what I could say of my own life. But then there were causes in her life: prayer; principle. None in mine. Great excitability and search after something. Great content – almost always enjoying what I’m at, but with constant change of mood. I don’t think I’m ever bored. Yet I have some restless searcher in me. Why is there not a discovery in life? Something one can lay hands on and say ‘This is it’? What is it? And shall I die before I can find it? Then (as I was walking through Russell Square last night) I see mountains in the sky: the great clouds, and the moon which is risen over Persia; I have a great and astonishing sense of something there, which is ‘it’ – A sense of my own strangeness, walking on the earth is there too. Who am I, what am I, and so on; these questions are always floating about in me. Is that what I meant to say? Not in the least. I was thinking about my own character; not about the universe. Oh and about society again; dining with Lord Berners at Clive’s made me think that. How, at a certain moment, I see through what I’m saying; detest myself; and wish for the other side of the moon; reading alone, that is.
  • I am amused at my relations with her: left so ardent in January – and now what? Also I like her presence and her beauty. Am I in love with her? But what is love? Her being ‘in love’ with me, excites and flatters; and interests. What is this ‘love’?
  • Happily, at forty-six I still feel as experimental and on the verge of getting at the truth as ever.
  • A State of Mind. Woke up perhaps at 3. Oh its beginning it coming – the horror – physically like a painful wave swelling about the heart – tossing me up. I’m unhappy unhappy! Down – God, I wish I were dead. Pause. But why am I feeling like this? Let me watch the wave rise. I watch. Vanessa. Children. Failure. Yes, I detect that. Failure failure. (The wave rises). Oh they laughed at my taste in green paint. Wave crashes. I wish I were dead! I’ve only a few years to live I hope. I can’t face this horror any more – (this is the wave spreading out over me). This goes on; several times, with varieties of horror. Then, at the crisis, instead of the pain remaining intense, it becomes rather vague. I doze. I wake with a start. The wave again! The irrational pain: the sense of failure; generally some specific incident, as for example my taste in green paint, or buying a new dress, or asking Dadie for the week-end, tacked on. At last I say, watching as dispassionately as I can, Now take a pull of yourself. No more of this. I shove to throw to batter down. I begin to march blindly forward. I feel obstacles go down. I say it doesn’t matter. Nothing matters. I become rigid and straight, and sleep again, and half wake and feel the wave beginning and watch the light whitening and wonder how, this time, breakfast and daylight will overcome it; and then hear L. in the passage and simulate, for myself as well as for him, great cheerfulness; and generally am cheerful, by the time breakfast is over. Does everyone go through this state? Why have I so little control? It is the case of much waste and pain in my life.
  • What a born melancholiac I am! The only way I keep afloat is by working. Directly I stop working I feel that I am sinking down, down. And as usual, I feel that if I sink further I shall reach the truth. That is the only mitigation; a kind of nobility. Solemnity. Work, reading, writing, are all disguising; and relations with other people. Yes, even having children wold be useless.
  • Lord, how I praise God that I had a bent strong enough to coerce every minute of my life since I was born! This fiddling and drifting and not impressing oneself upon anything – this always refraining and fingering and cutting things up into little jokes and facetiousness – that’s what’s so annihilating. Yet given little money, little looks, no special gift – what can one do? How could one battle? How could one leap on the back of life and wring its scruff?
  • I will use these last pages to sum up our circumstances. A map of the world. […]
    I seldom see Lytton; that is true. The reason is that we don’t fit in, I imagine, to his parties nor he to ours; but that if we can meet in solitude, all goes as usual. Yet what do one’s friends mean to one, if one only sees them eight times a year? […]
    I use my friends rather as giglamps: there’s another field I see; by your light. Over there’s a hill. I widen my landscape.
  • Very much screwed in the head by trying to get Roger’s marriage chapter into shape; and also warmed by L. saying last night that he was fonder of me than I of him. A discussion as to which would mind the other’s death most. He said he depended more upon our common life than I did. He gave the garden as an instance. He said I live more in a world of my own. I go for long walks alone. So we argued. I was very happy to think I was so much needed. Its strange how seldom one feels this: yet ‘life in common’ is an immense reality.

Virginia Woolf was an English writer, author and novelist and a pioneer of modernism in English literature. Among her most famous work are novels To the Lighthouse and Orlando and an essay A Room of One’s Own. She was an important figure in the Victorian literary society and is regarded as one of the greatest modernist literary personality of the twentieth century. She became the innovator of the English literature with her experiment with the ‘stream of consciousness’ and broke the mold with her highly experimental language denouncing the traditional literary techniques. Her works allow for a deeper insight to the psychology of a character and its real thinking, though they are often criticized for its pretentious and elitist depiction of the characters. The author turned into a victim to a severe depression cluttering her life and mental stability and eventually leading her to commit suicide in 1941.

Leave a Reply

Scroll Up