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English writer (1882-1941)

Virginia Woolf quote

Like a ghostly roll of drums remorselessly beat the measure of life.

VIRGINIA WOOLF, To the Lighthouse

O how blessed it would be never to marry, or grow old; but to spend one's life innocently and indifferently among the trees and rivers which alone can keep one cool and childlike in the midst of the troubles of the world!

VIRGINIA WOOLF, "The Journal of Mistress Joan Martyn," The Complete Short Fiction of Virginia Woolf

Boredom is the legitimate kingdom of the philanthropic.

VIRGINIA WOOLF, letter, Sep. 10, 1918

Madness is terrific I can assure you, and not to be sniffed at; and in its lava I still find most of the things I write about. It shoots out of one everything shaped, final, not in mere driblets, as sanity does.


The truth is ... that human beings have neither kindness, nor faith, nor charity beyond what serves to increase the pleasure of the moment. They hunt in packs. Their packs scour the desert and vanish screaming into the wilderness.


One could say nothing to nobody. The urgency of the moment always missed its mark. Words fluttered sideways and struck the object inches too low. Then one gave it up; then the idea sunk back again; then one became like most middle-aged people, cautious, furtive, with wrinkles between the eyes and a look of perpetual apprehension. For how could one express in words these emotions of the body? express that emptiness there?

VIRGINIA WOOLF, To the Lighthouse

To write weekly, to write daily, to write shortly, to write for busy people catching trains in the morning or for tired people coming home in the evening, is a heartbreaking task for men who know good writing from bad. They do it, but instinctively draw out of harm's way anything precious that might be damaged by contact with the public, or anything sharp that might irritate its skin.

VIRGINIA WOOLF, The Common Reader

Art is not a copy of the real world; one of the damn things is enough.

Virginia Woolf, attributed, Languages of Art

The world has raised its whip; where will it descend?


Nothing has really happened until it has been recorded.


He began to seach among the infinite series of impressions which time had laid down, leaf upon leaf, fold upon fold softly, incessantly upon his brain; among scents, sounds; voices, harsh, hollow, sweet; and lights passing, and brooms tapping; and the wash and hush of the sea.

VIRGINIA WOOLF, To the Lighthouse

The skeleton of habit alone upholds the human frame.


It seemed ... such nonsense -- inventing differences, when people, heaven knows, were different enough without that.

VIRGINIA WOOLF, To the Lighthouse

What could be more serious than the love of man for woman, what more commanding, more impressive, bearing in its bosom the seeds of death; at the same time these lovers, these people entering into illusion glittering eyed, must be danced round with mockery, decorated with garlands.

VIRGINIA WOOLF, To the Lighthouse

Beauty had this penalty -- it came too readily, came too completely. It stilled life -- froze it. One forgot the little agitations; the flush, the pallor, some queer distortion, some light or shadow, which made the face unrecognisable for a moment and yet added a quality one saw for ever after. It was simpler to smooth that all out under the cover of beauty.

VIRGINIA WOOLF, To the Lighthouse

Those ruffians, the Gods, shan't have it all their own way.


To be caught happy in a world of misery was for an honest man the most despicable of crimes.

VIRGINIA WOOLF, To the Lighthouse

It is permissible even for a dying hero to think before he dies how men will speak of him hereafter. His fame lasts perhaps two thousand years. And what are two thousand years?... What, indeed, if you look from a mountain top down the long wastes of the ages? The very stone one kicks with one's boot will outlast Shakespeare.

VIRGINIA WOOLF, To the Lighthouse

Love had a thousand shapes.

VIRGINIA WOOLF, To the Lighthouse

What is the meaning of life?... A simple question; one that tended to close in on one with years. The great revelation had never come. The great revelation perhaps never did come. Instead there were little daily miracles, illuminations, matches struck unexpectedly in the dark.

VIRGINIA WOOLF, To the Lighthouse

Nothing shakes my opinion of a book. Nothing -- nothing. Only perhaps if it's the book of a young person -- or of a friend -- no, even so, I think myself infallible.

VIRGINIA WOOLF, diary, Jun. 23, 1920

Nothing is so strange when one is in love ... as the complete indifference of other people.


The compensation of growing old ... was simply this; that the passion remains as strong as ever, but one has gained -- at last! -- the power which adds the supreme flavour to existence -- the power of taking hold of experience, of turning it round, slowly, in the light.


Life, from being made up of little separate incidents which one lived one by one, became curled and whole like a wave which bore one up with it and threw one down with it, there, with a dash on the beach.

VIRGINIA WOOLF, To the Lighthouse

But what after all is one night? A short space, especially when the darkness dims so soon, and so soon a bird sings, a cock crows, or a faint green quickens, like a turning leaf, in the hollow of the wave. Night, however, succeeds to night. The winter holds a pack of them in store and deals them equally, evenly, with indefatigable fingers. They lengthen; they darken. Some of them hold aloft clear planets, plates of brightness. The autumn trees, ravaged as they are, take on the flash of tattered flags kindling in the gloom of cool cathedral caves where gold letters on marble pages describe death in battle and how bones bleach and burn far away in Indian sands. The autumn trees gleam in the yellow moonlight, in the light of harvest moons, the light which mellows the energy of labour, and smooths the stubble, and brings the wave lapping blue to the shore.

VIRGINIA WOOLF, To the Lighthouse

Still, life had a way of adding day to day.


It is worth mentioning, for future reference, that the creative power which bubbles so pleasantly in beginning a new book quiets down after a time, and one goes on more steadily. Doubts creep in. Then one becomes resigned. Determination not to give in, and the sense of an impending shape keep one at it more than anything.

VIRGINIA WOOLF, diary, May 11, 1920

The streets of London have their map, but our passions are uncharted. What are you going to meet if you turn this corner?


For nothing matters except life; and, of course, order.

VIRGINIA WOOLF, The Common Reader

As such portraits as we have are almost invariably of the male sex, who strut more prominently across the stage, it seems worthwhile to take as a model one of those many women who cluster in the shade. For a study of history and biography convinces any right minded person that these obscure figures occupy a place not unlike that of the showman's hand in the dance of the marionettes; and the finger is laid upon the heart.

VIRGINIA WOOLF, "Phyllis and Rosamond," The Complete Shorter Fiction of Virginia Woolf


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