Friday, November 1, 2013

Virginia Woolf on Jane Austen, The Bronte Sisters, and George Eliot

  Introduction by Marciano Guerrero

Brief Biography

Virginia Woolf (1882 – 1941) was born into a privileged English household, where she was home-educated by her free-thinking parents. Apparently, like many girls of her age she had a happy childhood and adolescence, but as she recounted later, she had been sexually abused when she was six years old.
When her mother died she went into a period of depression, which was aggravated when her sister Stella also died two years later.
Despite her bouts of suffering, for four years she took classes in German, Greek and Latin at the Ladies’ Department of King’s College London. It was during this period that she developed her feminist stance.
After some turbulent years of psychological disorders, and after being institutionalized, she committed suicide at the age of 59.

About her book reviews on Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, and George Sand

In her essay “A Room of One’s Own,” Virginia Woolf explains that to achieve fine writing a woman must first attain intellectual freedom, which would be made easier if a woman writer would have a room of her own, “and five hundred a year in income.”
In the book reviews of major women writers presented here —Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, and George Sand— she praises these women writers whose hunger for intellectual freedom was greater than their hunger for riches, fame, and glory; and all despite the barriers that kept them from earning their bread by writing.
Of Jane Austen, she tells us: “For this girl of seventeen is not writing to amuse the schoolroom. She is not writing to draw a laugh from sister and brothers. She is writing for everybody, for nobody, for our age, for her own; she, in short, is writing.”
Of the Bronte sisters —Charlotte and Emily— she says:
“There is in them some untamed ferocity perpetually at war with the accepted order of things which makes them desire to create instantly rather than to observe patiently. This very ardor, rejecting half shades and other minor impediments, wings its way past the daily conduct of ordi­nary people and allies itself with their more inarticulate passions. It makes them poets, or, if they choose to write in prose, intolerant of its restrictions.”
And of George Sand:
Triumphant was the issue for her, whatever it may have been for her creations, and as we recollect all that she dared and achieved, how with every obstacle against her —sex and health and convention— she sought more knowledge and more freedom till the body, weighted with its double burden, sank worn out, we must lay upon her grave whatever we have it in our power to bestow of laurel and rose.
 In sum, Virginia Woolf saw in these women novelists a writing that was smooth and clear—incandescent; a triumph against all odds.

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