Virginia Woolf (nee Stephen) (January 25, 1882 March 28, 1941) was a British novelist who by reputation is regarded as one of the foremost modernist literary figures of the twentieth century. Though she is commonly regarded by many as feminist, it should be noted that she herself deplored the term, as she felt it suggested an obsession with women and women's concerns. She preferred to be referred to as a humanist (see Three Guineas). Between the World Wars, Woolf was a significant figure in London literary society and a member of the Bloomsbury Group. Her most famous works include the novels Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, Orlando, and her essay A Room of One's Own. Early life Born Adeline Virginia Stephen in London to Sir Leslie Stephen and Julia Prinsep Duckworth (nee Jackson) (18461895), she was educated by her parents in their literate and well-connected household at 22 Hyde Park Gate, Kensington. Virginia's parents had married each other after being widowed and the household contained the children of three marriages: Julia's children with her first husband Herbert Duckworth: George Duckworth (18681934); Stella Duckworth (18691897); and Gerald Duckworth (18701937). Laura Makepeace Stephen (18701945), Leslie's daughter with Minny Thackeray, who was declared mentally disabled and lived with them until she was institutionalised in 1891 to the end of her life; and Leslie and Julia's children: Vanessa Stephen (18791961); Thoby Stephen (18801906); Virginia; and Adrian Stephen (18831948). Sir Leslie Stephen's eminence as an editor, critic, and biographer, and his connection to William Thackeray (he was the widower of Thackeray's eldest daughter) meant that Woolf was raised in an environment filled with the influences of Victorian literary society. Henry James, George Eliot, George Henry Lewes, Julia Margaret Cameron (an aunt of Julia Duckworth), and James Russell Lowell, who was made Virginia's godfather, were among the visitors to the house. Julia Duckworth Stephen was equally well connected. Descended from an attendant of Marie Antoinette, she came from a family of renowned beauties who left their mark on Victorian society as models for Pre-Raphaelite artists and early photographers. Supplementing these influences was the immense library at 22 Hyde Park Gate, from which Virginia (unlike her brothers, who were formally educated) was taught the classics and English literature. According to her memoirs her most vivid childhood memories, however, were not of London, but of St Ives in Cornwall, where the family spent every summer until 1895. The family stayed in their home called the Talland House, which looked out over the Porthminster Bay. Memories of the family holidays and impressions of the landscape, especially the Godrevy Lighthouse, informed the fiction she wrote in later years, notably To the Lighthouse. She also based the summer home in Scotland after the Talland House and the Ramsay family after her own family. The sudden death of her mother from influenza in 1895, when Virginia was 13, and that of her half sister Stella two years later, led to the first of Virginia's several nervous breakdowns. The death of her father in 1904 provoked her most alarming collapse and she was briefly institutionalised. Her breakdowns and subsequent recurring depressive periods, modern scholars have claimed, were also induced by the sexual abuse she and Vanessa were subject to by their half-brothers George and Gerald (which Woolf recalls in her autobiographical essays A Sketch of the Past and 22 Hyde Park Gate). Throughout her life, Woolf was plagued by drastic mood swings. Though these recurring mental breakdowns greatly affected her social functioning, her literary abilities remained intact. Modern diagnostic techniques have led to a posthumous diagnosis of bipolar disorder, an illness which coloured her work and life, and eventually led to her suicide. Following the death of her father in 1904 and her second serious nervous breakdown, Virginia, Vanessa, and Adrian sold 22 Hyde Park Gate, and bought a house at 46 Gordon Square in Bloomsbury. There they came to know Lytton Strachey, Clive Bell, Saxon Sydney-Turner, Duncan Grant, and Leonard Woolf, who together formed the nucleus of the intellectual circle known as the Bloomsbury group. While nowhere near a simple recapitulation of the coterie's ideals, Woolf's work can be understood as consistently in dialogue with Bloomsbury, particularly its tendency (informed by G.E. Moore, among others) towards doctrinaire rationalism. Personal life Although she was married to Leonard Woolf from 1912 until her death in 1941, some of Virginia Woolf's strongest romantic ties were with women. Many members of the Bloomsbury Group were involved in same-sex relationships: avowedly homosexual figures associated with Bloomsbury include novelist E. M. Forster, the biographer Lytton Strachey, the economist John Maynard Keynes, and the painter Duncan Grant. Virginia herself became emotionally - and perhaps romantically - close with several women during her thirties. Her female intimates included Madge Vaughn (the daughter of J. A. Symonds, and inspiration for the character of Mrs. Dalloway), and Violet Dickinson, as well as composer and female activist Ethel Smyth. Most who knew her described her as occasionally solemn, but often jovial, as well as physically beautiful and a captivating conversationalist. Affair with Vita Sackville-West In 1922, Woolf met and fell in love with Vita Sackville-West. After a tentative start, they began an affair that lasted through most of the 1920s. In 1928, Woolf presented Sackville-West with Orlando, a fantastical biography in which the eponymous hero's life spans three centuries and both genders. It has been called by Nigel Nicolson, Vita Sackville-West's son, "the longest and most charming love letter in literature."  The details of the relationship and what ended it are not completely understood, but was possibly due to the loss of infatuation, to infidelities on the part of Sackville-West, or to the demands of their respective marriages. Although their affair ended, the two women remained friends until Woolf's death in 1941. Death At the end of 1940, Woolf suffered another severe bout of depression, from which she felt she was unable to recover, partly due to the onset of World War II. On March 28, 1941, at the age of 59, Woolf filled her pockets with stones and drowned herself in the River Ouse, near her Sussex home. She left two suicide notes; one for her sister Vanessa, the other for her husband, Leonard. Work Woolf began writing professionally in 1905, initially for the Times Literary Supplement with a journalistic piece about Haworth, home of the Bronte family. In 1912 she married Leonard
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