Virginia Woolf’s personal life was just as interesting as her books and novels. She led a unique and somewhat unconventional life, as did her circle of friends, which makes for very entertaining reading.
Where Was Virginia Woolf Born?
Virginia Woolf was born Adeline Virginia Stephen at 22 Hyde Park Gate, London in the United Kingdom.
The house is marked by a blue plaque that identifies it as Woolf’s birthplace and childhood home.
Woolf grew up in the house, living there from the time she was born in 1882 until 1904 when her father passed away and she and her siblings moved to Bloomsbury Square.
Where Did Virginia Woolf Live?
Virginia Woolf lived in several houses in England during her lifetime. She was born at 22 Hyde Park Gate in London and spent her childhood there.
In 1904, Woolf moved to 46 Gordon Square in the Bloomsbury District of London.
After marrying Leonard Woolf in 1912, Virginia Woolf moved to Hogarth House in Richmond in the outskirts of London.
In 1919, the Woolfs purchased Monk’s House, a cottage in Rodmell, East Sussex, which she used as a weekend home.
In 1924, the Woolfs moved to an apartment at 52 Tavistock Square in London.
In 1939, the Woolfs moved to a new apartment at 37 Mecklenburgh Square in London.
After both of the Woolf’s London apartments were damaged by German bombs during the London Blitz in 1939 and 1940, Virginia and Leonard Woolf moved full-time to Monk’s House in Rodmell where Virginia lived until her death in 1941.
Virginia Woolf’s Personality Type:
According to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, Virginia Woolf was an INFP personality type, which meant that she was a dreamer who was sensitive, highly creative and passionate about her beliefs.
Who Was Virginia Woolf’s Husband?
Virginia Woolf married Leonard Woolf on Saturday, August 19, 1912 at the St. Pancras Registry Office in London, England.
Leonard Woolf was a writer, publisher and civil servant. The couple remained married the rest of their lives until Virginia’s death in 1941.
Did Virginia Woolf Have Children?
No, Virginia Woolf never had children. Due to her struggles with mental illness, her doctors advised her not to have children in order to avoid the added stress and difficulties of raising children.
Virginia Woolf’s Admirers & Lovers:
In the years prior to Virginia Stephen’s marriage to Leonard Woolf, Virginia had a score of suitors asking for her hand in marriage.
Besides her friend Lytton Strachey, who proposed to Virginia in February of 1909, and her brother-in-law Clive Bell, who openly flirted with her in 1909, many other young men also proposed to her or declared their feelings for her between the years 1909 and 1912.
According to the book Virginia Woolf (Authors in Context), one of these men was an aspiring politician named Edward Hilton Young who asked Virginia to marry him in May of 1909.
Although Young was charming and well-educated, Virginia found him too conventional and boring for her taste and turned him down.
A few years later in the summer of 1911, Walter Lamb, a friend of Virginia’s brother-in-law Clive Bell, confessed to Virginia that he had feelings for her.
According to Quentin Bell’s biography of Virginia, Lamb discussed the possibility of marriage between the two of them but disapproved of the fact that she was sharing a house with her male Bloomsbury group friends at the time, which he compared to living in a “hornet’s nest.”
On July 21st, Virginia described the conversation in a letter to her sister Vanessa:
“He said ‘There are dreadful complications.’ I said ‘What.’ He said ‘You live in a hornets nest. Besides marriage is so difficult – will you let me wait? Don’t hurry me.’ I said ‘There is no reason why we shouldn’t be friends – or why we should change things & get agitated.’ He said ‘Of course its wonderful as it is.’ Then he went rambling on & I gathered that he could not let himself fall in love because he doubted what I felt & he was also puzzled by parts of my character. He said I made things into webs, & might turn fiercely upon him for his faults. I owned to great egoism & absorption & vanity & all my vices. He said Clive had told him dreadful stories to illustrate my faults…”
Lamb’s comments stirred up an argument between him, Clive Bell and another one of Virginia’s suitors, Sydney Waterlow, about exactly who said what about Virginia.
Lamb eventually realized he had no hope of convincing Virginia to marry him and discovered he had also lost a friend when Clive Bell stopped speaking to him.
In November of that year, Sydney Waterlow, a diplomat with the Foreign Office, also proposed to Virginia.
At the time of his proposal, Waterlow was still married and seeking a divorce from his wife. On December 11, Virginia wrote him a letter, explaining why she couldn’t marry him:
“I meant to have answered your letter sooner. I’m very glad you don’t reproach yourself, because I’m certain that there’s nothing to reproach yourself for. All you say I think I understand, and it seems to me very reasonable. But I feel that I must on my side make clear what I didn’t make clear that night. I don’t think I shall ever feel for you what I must feel for the man I marry. I am very anxious that you should know this, so that you may take it into account. I feel that you have it in your power to stop thinking of me as the person you want to marry. It would be unpardonable of me if I did not do everything to save you from what must – as far as I can tell – be a great waste. Please write and say whatever you wish to me at any time, and behave exactly as you wish. I hope we shall go one being good friends anyhow.”
Whatever Virginia didn’t feel for Sydney Waterlow she did feel for Leonard Woolf when he proposed to her on January 11, 1912.
After taking some time to consider the offer, Virginia finally accepted and the two were married in August of that year.
Even after Virginia Woolf was married, she continued to attract suitors. In 1922, she met Vita Sackville-West at a dinner party and struck up a friendship with her that later developed into a love affair.
Virginia was so enamored with Vita that she even served as the inspiration behind Virginia’s 1927 novel Orlando, which is about a gender bending aristocrat who lives for centuries, prompting Vita’s son to later describe Orlando as “the longest and most charming love letter in literature.”
Then, during the summer of 1927, Virginia Woolf discovered she had a new admirer, Philip Morrell, a well-known politician and husband of Virginia’s friend, Lady Ottoline Morrell.
Virginia was a frequent guest at the Morrell’s Garsington Manor, where Lady Ottoline had set up a small community of artists and writers that included many of the Bloomsbury group members as well as writer Aldous Huxley, poet Siegfried Sassoon and philosopher Bertrand Russell.
According to Bell, Morrell suddenly began to shower Virginia with attention in the summer of 1927:
“That summer, Virginia acquired a motor-car and a lover. The motor-car was an important addition to her life. The lover was Philip Morrell. Amiable and amorous, still handsome and with an honourable career behind him, he was nevertheless somehow ridiculous (or at least Virginia found him so). He pursued her briefly and cumbrously with unexpected visits and tentative love-letters; she eluded him without much difficulty. Neither Vita nor Leonard can have felt a moment’s uneasiness on account of Philip.”
Although Virginia was not interested in Morrell, since she was married to Leonard Woolf and in the midst of an affair with Vita Sackville-West, she enjoyed his attention.
Jealous of Vita’s numerous relationships with other women, Virginia often mentioned Morrell’s affectionate feelings towards her in an attempt to make Vita envious.
According to the book Virginia Woolf’s Women, Philip was not the only Morrell with an attraction to Virginia. Lady Ottoline Morrell, who was rumored to be bisexual, was also enamored with Virginia and wrote about her often in her diary as well as in her memoirs:
“This strange, lovely, furtive creature never seemed to me to be made of common flesh and blood. She comes and goes, she folds her cloak around her and vanishes, having shot into her victim’s heart a quiverful of teasing arrows.”
Since Philip and Lady Ottoline Morrell had something of an open marriage, the two of them had many affairs with various people, although neither one of them were ever successful with Virginia.
Philip eventually moved on from his crush on Virginia and Virginia remained good friends with both Philip and Lady Ottoline Morrell.
Curtis, Vanessa. Virginia Woolf’s Women. University of Wisconsin Press, 2002
Panken, Shirley. Virginia Woolf and the ‘Lust of Creation’: A Psychoanalytic Exploration. SUNY Press, 1987
Mills, Jean. Goddesses and Ghosts: Virginia Woolf and Jane Ellen Harrison. City University of New York, 2007
Reid, Panthea. Art and Affection: A Life of Virginia Woolf. Oxford University Press, 1996
Hall, Sarah M. Before Leonard: The Early Suitors of Virginia Woolf. Peter Owens Publishers, 2006
Bell, Quentin. Virginia Woolf: A Biography. Mariner Books, 1972.
Whitworth, Michael. Virginia Woolf (Authors in Context). Oxford University Press, 2005
Nicholson, Nigel. Virginia Woolf. Orion, 2000
Scott, Kate. “The Myers-Briggs Types of 101 Famous Authors.” Book Riot, 11 Nov. 2015, bookriot.com/myers-briggs-types-101-famous-authors/
“Take a Tour of Virginia Woolf’s Life in London.” Google Arts & Culture, artsandculture.google.com/story/take-a-tour-of-virginia-woolf%E2%80%99s-life-in-london/QAXR7wTicoXOLA?hl=en
“Virginia Woolf – Hyde Park Gate, London, UK.” Waymarking, waymarking.com/waymarks/WMR9ZG_Virginia_Woolf_Hyde_Park_Gate_London_UK