Following a literary weekend in which several NYC writers partook in a ULYSSES-themed power hour, lately we’ve been thinking about a contemporary of Joyce, namely, Virginia Woolf, who famously REJECTED Ulysses before it was published by Sylvia Beach. Some thoughts and scraps of information we’ve gathered, in no particular order, about one of our favorite literary ladies:
Virginia Woolf was a visionary writer and an active participant in the modernist literary movement. In 1912, she married Leonard Woolf with whom she created a life focused on journalism, publishing, and fiction writing. Woolf published her first novel, The Voyage Out, in 1915.
In 1917, the Woolfs bought a hand printing press for their home in Surrey and named it the Hogarth Press. In 1917, Hogarth Press became a publishing business which notably published the first UK book edition of T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land.
In 1918, the first four chapters of James Joyce’s Ulysses were brought to Hogarth Press. Woolf famously rejected the novel calling Joyce “that poor young man” and an “intellectual featherweight.” In a letter to a friend she wrote, ““Its interesting as an experiment… he leaves out the narrative, and tries to give the thoughts, but I don’t know that he’s got anything very interesting to say, and after all the p-ing of a dog isn’t very different from the p-ing of a man. Three hundred pages of it might be boring.” .
Despite her rejection, Ulysses strongly influenced her most acclaimed novels: Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, and The Waves. Her use of stream of consciousness narrative that jumps through multiple perspectives mirrors Joyce’s techniques.
Like many writers, Virginia Woolf used her writing to make sense of the madness in her head, but in 1941, the mental chaos became too much to bear. On the day of her death she wrote, “I feel certain now that I am going mad again. I feel we can’t go through another of those terrible times. And I shan’t recover this time.” With that, she filled her pockets with stones and walked into the river to drown. She left her walking stick on the shore, which can been seen beside her journal at the New York Public Library’s Celebrating 100 Years Exhibition.
For it’s innovative beauty, To The Lighthouse is one of our Literary Man “Must Reads.”