These autobiographical pieces by Virginia Woolf interest all those
who wish to know more about her life and the historical and social
details reflected in her writing. They were written between 1907
and 1940, but not published until after her death. Virginia Woolf
was particularly interested in autobiography, especially that
written by women, and the essays in Moment of Being (a phrase taken
from the final essay) are a clue to her own inner life. There are
certainly some vivid accounts of some parts of her life, ranging
from minute details of everyday objects and occurrences to
considerations of the effect of the family and environment on the
individual, the power of memory and difficulties of communication,
expanding on themes found elsewhere in her work, but also
illuminating more directly personal events such as her mother's
death. In the first essay, addressed to her nephew, her poignant
comments underline the long-term effect this had on her, yet we
will not find any detailed information here on her breakdowns, or
on her relationship with her husband, for example. Much here is
dark and disturbing, particularly in 'Sketch of the Past', where
she reflects on the damage of the early deaths of those close to
her, and the difficulties of living with her father, but there are
lighter touches too. The three pieces entitled 'The Memoir Club
Contributions' were written to be read aloud to members of the
Bloomsbury Group and are meant to entertain. They are full of
mockery of self and others and many scenes have a sting in their
tail. It is fascinating to see the development of Woolf's writing,
from the experimental to the later accomplished work, as well as to
get a glimpse of her family and her past. (Kirkus UK)
Virginia Woolf's only autobiographical writing is to be found in this collection of five unpublished pieces. Despite Quentin Bell's comprehensive biography and numerous recent studies of her, the author's own account of her early life holds new fascination - for its unexpected detail, the strength of its emotion, and its clear-sighted judgement of Victorian values. In 'Reminiscences' Virginia Woolf focuses on the death of her mother, 'the greatest disaster that could happen', and its effect on her father, the demanding patriarch who took a high toll of the women in his household. She surveys some of the same ground in 'A Sketch of the Past', the most important memoir in this collection, which she wrote with greater detachment and supreme command of her art shortly before her death. Readers will be struck by the extent to which she drew on these early experiences for her novels, as she tells how she exorcised the obsessive presence of her mother by writing To the Lighthouse. The last three papers were composed to be read to the Memoir Club, a postwar regrouping of Bloomsbury, which exacted absolute candour of its members.
Virginia Woolf's contributions were not only bold but also original and amusing. She describes George Duckworth's passionate efforts to launch the Stephen girls; gives her own version of 'Old Bloomsbury'; and, with wit and some malice, reflects on her connections with titled society.
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