It was 74 years ago today, on March 28, 1941, that Virginia Woolf left two suicide notesAfterwords behind, walked out of Monk’s House and across the Sussex Downs and headed for the River Ouse. With a stone in her coat pocket, she waded into the river and drowned. She is still missed today.

Past tributes

Many tributes have been made to her on the anniversary of her death. Eight years ago, a video, The Adventures of Virginia Woolf, was posted on YouTube that speculates on what Woolf would have accomplished if she had chosen to live on that fateful date in March of 1941.

Four years ago, the Elite Theatre Company presented the world premiere of Arthur Kraft’s  drama “Goat,” about what might have happened if a psychologist had prevented Woolf’s suicide.

That same year, her great niece, Emma Woolf, wrote an article for The Independent, “Literary haunts: Virginia’s London walks,” that speculated about what Virginia Woolf would have thought of today’s London.

“The Writer’s Almanac” has payed tribute to her.

Tributes this year

And each year on this day, social media lights up with posts that commemorate her life, her work and her death, making Woolf a trending topic. One example is @HistoryTime_’s Twitter post below that features a photograph of The New York Times coverage of her death.

History Time tweet

The most notable piece so far this year is Maria Popova’s critique of the media treatment of Woolf’s death 75 years ago in her post on Brain Pickings: “March 28, 1941: Virginia Woolf’s Suicide Letter and Its Cruel Misinterpretation in the Media.”

The perfect accompaniment to that is the video of actress Louise Brealey’s poignant reading of Woolf’s last letter to Leonard, which is posted on The Telegraph website. A video of Brealey reading the letter at the Hay Festival is also available on YouTube, but the audio is not as pristine.

Screenshot of Louise Brealey reading Woolf's last letter on The Telegraph website.

Screenshot of Louise Brealey reading Woolf’s last letter on The Telegraph website.



London Transport in the 1920sSome time ago, the VWoolf Listserv entertained a discussion of the meaning behind the omnibus on which Elizabeth Dalloway travels in Virginia Woolf’s novel Mrs. Dalloway (1925). I recently came across some notes from that discussion, and here they are:

  • An essay largely on omnibus travel in Woolf’s works is included in Woolf and the City: Selected Papers of the Nineteenth Annual Conference on Virginia Woolf, ed. Elizabeth F. Evans & Sarah E. Cornish (Clemson UP, 2010), Pg. 31-39.
  • The London Transport Museum has London transport maps from the dates of Woolf’s novels.
  • In “Moments of Being,” Woolf remembered her mother, who “did all her immense rounds shopping, calling, visiting hospitals and work houses in omnibuses.  She was an omnibus expert.  She would nip from the red to the blue, from the blue to the yellow, and make them somehow connect and convey her all over London.  Sometimes she would come home very tired, owning that she had missed her bus or the bus had been full up, or she had got beyond the radius of her favourite buses.”
  • The most famous bus route in London is the no. 11.  The savvy (and economical) tourist choses that bus rather than a tour bus, as the no. 11 goes past so many famous sights, inc. St Paul’s, on its way to Liverpool St Station.
  • Background: In the first half of the 1920s in the centre of London, almost all buses were double-decker with open tops and open staircases.  (There were single-deckers farther out, but they had roofs; otherwise, I suppose they would have been like charabancs.)  The driver was in the open air and had no protection from the elements, not even a windscreen. While there was quite a variety of vehicles (see earlier email), the majority fell into two types:
    • The B: downstairs passengers sat lengthways with their backs to the windows. 
    • The K (also the S-type): downstairs passengers sat on ?transverse seats, two by two either side of the central gangway … the layout with which we are familiar today? (Baker, p. 57).
  • By the 1920s the main company was the London Transport General Company, and its livery was red, which is why London buses are red today.
  • The reference to a pirate bus is yet one more post-war reference in the novel. Some young men, having acquired skills in a war which was described as the first truly mechanical one, bought a war-surplus bus or lorry and set up business.  A small down payment was all that was necessary. The Metropolitan Police had to approve the roadworthiness of the vehicle, but, that done, it could operate wherever its owner chose. At the beginning of 1920 the demand for buses far outstripped the number available, and there was plenty of scope for those who were prepared to take up the challenge. Very few of these enterprises were long lived. (See London Transport in the 1920s (Hersham, Surrey: Ian Allan Publishing, 2009) pp. 7-8).
  • One additional reflection on the middle-class people on the omnibus. B.S. Rowntree’s Poverty, A Study of Town Life, observed that poor people who were living at “merely physical efficiency” must never spend a penny on railway fare or omnibus?  that nearly 30% of Edwardians lived in poverty.


Today is the first day of spring as well as the day that the solar eclipse will be visible in the UK and Scandinavia. Here’s what Virginia Woolf had to say about both.

Virginia Woolf on spring:

I enjoy the spring more than the autumn now. One does, I think, as one gets older. — Jacob’s Room

Virginia Woolf on the solar eclipse in 1927, which she traveled to Yorkshire to view:

very very quickly, all the colours faded; it became darker and darker as at the beginning of a violent storm; the light sank and sank; suddenly the light went out. There was no colour. The earth was dead.

The partial eclipse in the UK today will see 85 percent of the sun blocked out in southern England and 98 percent in the Hebrides.

Only one or two eclipses per century are visible from anywhere in the UK. The last solar eclipse in the UK was in 1999. The next one will occur in August 2026.

Composer Brian Mark has set Virginia Woolf’s essay, “Craftsmanship,” to music. The piece was  broadcast on 29 April 1937 as part of BBC Radio’s “Words Fail Me” series.

With “A Eulogy to Words,” he has fulfilled an eight-year ambition to create a piece for chamber orchestra and electronics. It is written for London’s Royal Academy of Music and conducted by Michael Alexander Young.

Maria Popova of Brainpickings.org called it “the best thing since the Solar System set to Bach and Carl Sagan adapted as a three-movement choral suite.”

Have a listen and tell us what you think of the piece, which runs nearly 10 minutes, in the comments section below.

Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day comes the news that a special adaptation of Mrs. Dalloway will be on stage at The Playhouse in Derry, Ireland, on Saturday, March 21.

Showtime is 8:30 p.m. Tickets are £11 and £9 and are available from The Playhouse Box Office at (028) 71268027.

Virginia and Leonard Woolf made their sole trip to Ireland in late April and early May of 1934. They traveled to counties Cork, Kerry and Galway, and they also spent time in Dublin.

Yes there is a great melancholy in a deserted land, though the beauty remains untouched. – Virginia Woolf’s Diary entry, 30 April 1934

A mashup by Chicago’s Second City troupe has Virginia Woolf’s name in the title, but itVirginia Woolf really isn’t about Virginia Woolf at all. Instead, the Woolf part of it comes from Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.”

Death of a Streetcar Named Virginia Woolf — A Parody” opens at the Gillian Theatre April 27, 2016 and runs through June 12, 2016. Written by Tim Sniffen with additional material by Tim Ryder, its satirical mashup of A” Streetcar Named Desire,” “Death of a Salesman,” “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and “Our Town.”

Andre Gerard‘s three-part essay on Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse is nowto the lighthouse on Berfrois, the UK literary-intellectual online magazine. Here are the links:

  1. Names, Texts and WWI in To the Lighthouse
  2. The Odyssey, The Times and Howard’s End in To the Lighthouse
  3. Virgil, Tolstoy and War in To the Lighthouse

Also on the site is another essay by Gerard, publisher of Patremoir Press: Virginia’s Whipping Boy: The Strange Case of Virginia Woolf and Edmund Gosse

Ultimately, what I want to do is to think about To the Lighthouse as an antiwar novel, and to make the case that it is one of the greatest books ever written about the causes and consequences of war. – Gerard in “Names, Texts and WWI in To the Lighthouse


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