We who love Virginia Woolf know that she was multi-dimensional. We know that she was more than a serious writer who had bouts of madness. We know she could joke and laugh and enjoy life. We also know she could be gossipy and mean and petty. Basically, we recognize the fact that she was human. And perhaps that is why we love her so very much.
Emma Woolf, Virginia and Leonard’s great-nice and the daughter of publisher Cecil Woolf, has written a piece for Newsweek that describes Virginia’s many nuances. In “The Joyful, Gossipy and Absurd Private Life of Virginia Woolf,” Emma writes of Virginia’s experiences authoring The Voyage Out (1915), her subsequent breakdown, and the speculation surrounding her sexual life — or lack of one — with husband Leonard. She touches on her feminism, her pacifism and her anti-nationalism. She mentions Virginia’s diary entries that describe everyday life experiences — celebrating her birthday, buying a new dress and her trip to see a printing press.
Emma’s Feb. 13 essay covers a lot of ground, more than I can summarize here, and it does so with the sensitivity one should expect from a family member. So I recommend reading it for yourself.
Then consider picking up Emma’s new book, Letting Go: How to Heal Your Hurt, Love Your Body and Transform Your Life. The book’s title and description speak of the important lessons it contains about letting go of our perfectionism and embracing our own humanity, much as we embrace Virginia’s.
Meanwhile, I leave you with this quote from Virginia that Emma includes in her Newsweek essay. It seems to sum up — and embrace — what so many women want today. And what we all deserve.
I want everything – love, children, adventure, intimacy, work.