Famous for her books Mrs. Dalloway and To the Lighthouse, British author Virginia Woolf went down in history for her pioneering use of ‘stream of consciousness’ narratives and was named one of the most important modernist authors of the 20th Century. But she certainly has some quirks, and it’s those funny, lesser-known facts about the writer that we’re going to share with you today…
She physically made books
It wasn't just her story-writing that meant Virginia Woolf was an important part of literary history. Of course, her invention of a new style of writing called ‘stream of consciousness’ and her feminist themes made waves in the industry and changed the way that novels were written forever. But that's not all. As a teenager she had enjoyed bookbinding as a stress-relieving hobby and when she married Leonard, they decided to set up their own printing house. It was a true 'cottage industry' - the couple bought a hand-press and set it up on their dining room table. They named the business 'Hogarth Press' after their home and it was at the forefront of publishing books on psychoanalysis and translations of foreign works in the early 20th century.
She was part of a hoax
Do you remember our blog post on 10 Silly Events in History? Well, one of those events was the boat hoax of 1910, where a Navy captain played a trick on his colleague by inviting the ‘Prince of Abyssinia’ to tour of the HMS Dreadnought. Virginia Woolf and five of her male friends dressed up in robes and were presented to the ship’s commander as dignitaries. They were given a tour of the famous British battleship and it was only later that the commander finally discovered it was a hoax, and that two members of his own family – his cousins – were in the Abyssinian group. What a jape!
She wrote like an artist
Even though she didn’t enjoy contemporary art and was outraged by the attention artists received, Virginia Woolf aimed to create her novels in the same way that an artist paints a picture. She would write standing up at a tall desk, as if she was working at an easel. This allowed her to step back ‘to get a better look’, much like an artist appraising their painting while they’re working on it. From being only 11 years old, she experimented with different types of pens while she was writing, just like an artist would use a variety of brushes. She most liked using her mother’s pen, filled with purple ink. She claimed to enjoy the sensation of writing and holding the ‘perfect pen’ helped her words to flow onto the page.
Her feet were her favourite mode of transport
It wasn’t just the fact that she couldn’t drive that led Virginia Woolf to be a keen walker. Her afternoons were spent rambling, sometimes up to eight miles at a time. Hills, ditches and barbed-wire fences couldn’t stop her; she’d scramble over them to continue her daily stroll. That’s not to say that she didn’t try to drive. She took lessons and bought a luxurious car but after driving it through a hedge she thought it would be better if she stuck to walking. The only time she went out in the car again was as passenger.
She had an unusual pet
Virginia and her husband had a pet marmoset monkey that they named Mitzi. Need we say anything more??