The Washington Post

Virginia Woolf: Provocative quotes for her 130th birthday

Virginia Woolf - FILE PHOTO. (Unknown/FILE PHOTO)

"The only way I keep afloat," she observed, "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"

In a diary, Woolf infamously used an analogy of drowning to explain her mental health problems.

The quote became eerily resonant after she drowned herself in the Rive Ouse by her house. Woolf’s open dialogue about mental health in her writings helped shed significant light on problems that were little understood or dealt with during her lifetime.

“A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction." 

Woolf’s works gained new fame during a surge in feminist criticism in the 1970s, due to her expressions of feminist beliefs, particularly her essay, “A Room of One’s Own.”

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

Woolf had a love affair with writer Vita Sackville-West, inspiring a parodic biography, “Orlando.” In the book, Woolf assumes the character of a pompous biographer, only to mock historical biographers of the time.

"It is hardly writing, it is more like screaming."

Woolf was also skeptical of contemporary confessional autobiographies, especially from what she saw as self-pitying female authors. In “A Room of One’s Own,” she canceled from the final version a passage on Florence Nightingale’s autobiography Cassandra, describing it as screams of pain.

Cara Kelly manages the development of editorial tools and presentation for new products and user experiences. She previously worked in the Style section, following the completion of her MA in journalism at American University.


Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments
Most Read


Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Your Three. Video curated for you.