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Virginia Woolf

"One of the signs of passing youth is the birth of a sense of fellowship with other human beings as we take our place among them."

Virginia Woolf, in Times Literary Supplement (1916)

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"How are we to account for the strange human craving for the pleasure of feeling afraid which is so much involved in our love of ghost stories?"

Virginia Woolf, in Times Literary Supplement (1918)

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"Life's bare as bone."

Virginia Woolf, "An Unwritten Novel," Monday or Tuesday (1921)

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"How lovely goodness is in those who, stepping lightly, go smiling through the world. "

Virginia Woolf, "The String Quartet," Monday or Tuesday (1921)

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"The older one grows the more one likes indecency."

Virginia Woolf, "The String Quartet," Monday or Tuesday (1921)

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"... loveliness is infernally sad."

Virginia Woolf, Jacob's Room (1922)

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"No one would think of bringing a dog into church. For though a dog is all very well on a gravel path, and shows no disrespect to flowers, the way he wanders down an aisle, looking, lifting a paw, and approaching a pillar with a purpose that makes the blood run cold with horror ... a dog destroys the service completely."

Virginia Woolf, Jacob's Room (1922)

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"... letters are venerable; and the telephone valiant, for the journey is a lonely one, and if bound together by notes and telephones we went in company, perhaps -- who knows? -- we might talk by the way."

Virginia Woolf, Jacob's Room (1922)

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"Life would split asunder without them."

Virginia Woolf, on letters, Jacob\'s Room (1922)

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"Each had his past shut in him like the leaves of a book known to him by heart; and his friends could only read the title ... "

Virginia Woolf, Jacob's Room (1922)

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"... language is wine upon his lips."

Virginia Woolf, Jacob's Room (1922)

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"But words have been used too often; touched and turned, and left exposed to the dust of the street. The words we seek hang close to the tree. We come at dawn and find them sweet beneath the leaf."

Virginia Woolf, Jacob's Room (1922)

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"... in marriage a little licence, a little independence there must be between people living together day in and day out in the same house ... "

Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway (1925)

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"Rigid, the skeleton of habit alone upholds the human frame."

Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway (1925)

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"They went in and out of each other's minds without any effort."

Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway (1925)

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"... jealousy ... survives every other passion of mankind ... "

Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway (1925)

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"Despairing of human relationships (people were so difficult), she often went into her garden and got from her flowers a peace which men and women never gave her."

Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway (1925)

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"How remorseless life is!"

Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway (1925)

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"In people's eyes, in the swing, tramp, and trudge; in the bellow and the uproar; the carriages, motor cars, omnibuses, vans, sandwich men shuffling and swinging; brass bands; barrel organs; in the triumph and the jingle and the strange high singing of some aeroplane overhead was what she loved; life; London; this moment of June."

Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway (1925)

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"To love makes one solitary. "

Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway (1925)

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"... she had to break with him ... though she had borne about with her for years like an arrow sticking in her heart the grief, the anguish ... "

Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway (1925)

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"To survive, each sentence must have, at its heart, a little spark of fire, and this, whatever the risk, the novelist must pluck with his own hands from the blaze."

Virginia Woolf, "Life and the Novelist," The Common Reader, 1st series (1925)

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"... humor is the first of the gifts to perish in a foreign tongue ... "

Virginia Woolf, "On Not Knowing Greek," The Common Reader, 1st series (1925)

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"To know whom to write for is to know how to write."

Virginia Woolf, "The Patron and the Crocus," The Common Reader, 1st series (1925)

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"All extremes are dangerous."

Virginia Woolf, "Montaigne," The Common Reader, 1st series (1925)

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"Once conform, once do what other people do because they do it, and a lethargy steals over all the finer nerves and faculties of the soul."

Virginia Woolf, "Montaigne," The Common Reader, 1st series (1925)

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"... the best prose is that which is most full of poetry."

Virginia Woolf, "Montaigne," The Common Reader, 1st series (1925)

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"A writer should give direct certainty; explanations are so much water poured into the wine."

Virginia Woolf, "Addison," The Common Reader, 1st series (1925)

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"'The proper stuff of fiction' does not exist; everything is the proper stuff of fiction, every feeling, every thought; every quality of brain and spirit is drawn upon; no perception comes amiss."

Virginia Woolf, "Modern Fiction," The Common Reader, 1st series (1925)

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"... those comfortably padded lunatic asylums which are known, euphemistically, as the stately homes of England. "

Virginia Woolf, "Outlines: Lady Dorothy Nevill," The Common Reader, 1st series (1925)

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"... a good essay must have this permanent quality about it; it must draw its curtain round us, but it must be a curtain that shuts us in, not out."

Virginia Woolf, "The Modern Essay," The Common Reader, 1st series (1925)

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"There is no room for the impurities of literature in an essay."

Virginia Woolf, "The Modern Essay," The Common Reader, 1st series (1925)

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"There is something about the present which we would not exchange, though we were offered a choice of all past ages to live in. "

Virginia Woolf, "How It Strikes a Contemporary," The Common Reader, 1st series (1925)

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"The word-coining genius, as if thought plunged into a sea of words and came up dripping."

Virginia Woolf, on Shakespeare, "Notes on an Elizabethan Play," The Common Reader, 1st series (1925)

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"It is just when opinions universally prevail and we have added lip service to their authority that we become sometimes most keenly conscious that we do not believe a word that we are saying."

Virginia Woolf, The Common Reader, 1st series (1925)

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"Love had a thousand shapes."

Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse (1927)

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"There was no treachery too base for the world to commit; she knew that."

Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse (1927)

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"Different though the sexes are, they intermix. In every human being a vacillation from one sex to the other takes place, and often it is only the clothes that keep the male or female likeness."

Virginia Woolf, Orlando (1928)

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"... once the disease of reading has laid hold upon the system it weakens it so that it falls an easy prey to that other scourge which dwells in the ink pot and festers in the quill. The wretch takes to writing. "

Virginia Woolf, Orlando (1928)

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"One can only believe entirely, perhaps, in what one cannot see."

Virginia Woolf, Orlando (1928)

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"... every secret of a writer's soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind is written large in his works, yet we require critics to explain the one and biographers to expound the other. That time hangs heavy on people's hands is the only explanation of the monstrous growth."

Virginia Woolf, Orlando (1928)

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"... the transaction between a writer and the spirit of the age is one of infinite delicacy, and upon a nice arrangement between the two the whole fortune of his works depend."

Virginia Woolf, Orlando (1928)

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"... a biography is considered complete if it merely accounts for six or seven selves, whereas a person may well have as many as a thousand."

Virginia Woolf, Orlando (1928)

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"But Time, unfortunately, though it makes animals and vegetables bloom and fade with amazing punctuality has no such simple effect upon the mind of man. "

Virginia Woolf, Orlando (1928)

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"... the intellect ... often, alas, acts the cannibal among the other faculties so that often, where the Mind is biggest, the Heart, the Senses, Magnanimity, Charity, Tolerance, Kindliness, and the rest of them scarcely have room to breathe."

Virginia Woolf, Orlando (1928)

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"... the first duty of a lecturer -- to hand you after an hour's discourse a nugget of pure truth to wrap up between the pages of your notebooks and keep on the mantelpiece for ever."

Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own (1929)

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"... a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction ... "

Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own (1929)

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"... novels so often provide an anodyne and not an antidote, glide one into torpid slumbers instead of rousing one with a burning brand."

Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own (1929)

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"Money dignifies what is frivolous if unpaid for."

Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own (1929)

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"Indeed, I would venture to guess that Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman."

Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own (1929)

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"Fiction, imaginative work that is, is not dropped like a pebble upon the ground, as science maybe; fiction is like a spider's web, attached ever so lightly perhaps, but still attached to life at all four corners. "

Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own (1929)

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"Yet it is in our idleness, in our dreams, that the submerged truth sometimes comes to the top."

Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own (1929)

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"Women have served all these centuries as looking-glasses possessing the magic and delicious power of reflecting the figure of man at twice its natural size."

Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own (1929)

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"... the beauty of the world ... has two edges, one of laughter, one of anguish, cutting the heart asunder."

Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own (1929)

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"Indeed, I thought, slipping the silver into my purse, it is remarkable, remembering the bitterness of those days, what a change of temper a fixed income will bring about."

Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own (1929)

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"... when a subject is highly controversial ... one cannot hope to tell the truth. One can only show how one came to hold whatever opinion one does hold. One can only give one's audience the chance of drawing their own conclusions as they observe the limitations, the prejudices, the idiosyncracies of the speaker. "

Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own (1929)

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"Lies will flow from my lips, but there may perhaps be some truth mixed up with them ... "

Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own (1929)

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"Let us admit in the privacy of our own society that these things sometimes happen. Sometimes women do like women."

Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own (1929)

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"In solitude we give passionate attention to our lives, to our memories, to the details around us."

Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own (1929)

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"When an arguer argues dispassionately he thinks only of the argument. "

Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own (1929)

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"Fiction must stick to facts, and the truer the facts the better the fiction -- so we are told."

Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own (1929)

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" ... who shall measure the heat and violence of the poet's heart when caught and tangled in a woman's body?"

Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own (1929)

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"This is an important book, the critic assumes, because it deals with war. This is an insignificant book because it deals with the feelings of women in a drawing-room."

Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own (1929)

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"We [women] have borne and bred and washed and taught, perhaps to the age of six or seven years, the one thousand six hundred and twenty-three million human beings who are, according to statistics, at present in existence, and that ... takes time."

Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own (1929)

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"One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well. "

Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own (1929)

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"Great bodies of people are never responsible for what they do."

Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own (1929)

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"The history of men's opposition to women's emancipation is more interesting perhaps than the story of that emancipation itself."

Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own (1929)

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"... women have always been poor, not for two hundred years merely, but from the beginning of time. ... Women, then, have not had a dog's chance of writing poetry. That is why I have laid so much stress on money and a room of one's own."

Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own (1929)

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"Perhaps a mind that is purely masculine cannot create, any more than a mind that is purely feminine ... It is fatal to be a man or woman pure and simple; one must be woman-manly or man-womanly."

Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own (1929)

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"... masterpieces are not single and solitary births; they are the outcome of many years of thinking in common, of thinking by the body of the people, so that the experience of the mass is behind the single voice."

Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own (1929)

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"... it is the nature of the artist to mind excessively what is said about him. Literature is strewn with the wreckage of men who have minded beyond reason the opinions of others."

Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own (1929)

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"Why are women ... so much more interesting to men than men are to women?"

Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own (1929)

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"The indifference of the world which Keats and Flaubert and other men of genius have found so hard to bear was in her case [the woman writer's] not indifference but hostility. The world did not say to her as it said to them, Write if you choose; it makes no difference to me. The world said with a guffaw, Write? What's the good of your writing?"

Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own (1929)

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"Books should stand on their own feet ... If they need shoring up by a preface here, an introduction there, they have no more right to exist than a table that needs a wad of paper under one leg in order to stand steady."

Virginia Woolf, in Margaret Llewelyn Davies, ed., Life As We Have Known It (1931)

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"Some people go to priests; others to poetry; I go to my friends ... "

Virginia Woolf, The Waves (1931)

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"I have lost friends, some by death ... others by sheer inability to cross the street."

Virginia Woolf, The Waves (1931)

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"... life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end."

Virginia Woolf, The Waves (1931)

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"The sea was indistinguishable from the sky, except that the sea was slightly creased as if a cloth had wrinkles in it."

Virginia Woolf, The Waves (1931)

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"On the outskirts of every agony sits some observant fellow who points ... "

Virginia Woolf, The Waves (1931)

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" Against you I will fling myself, unvanquished and unyielding, O Death! "

Virginia Woolf, The Waves (1931)

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"... reading [poetry], you know, is rather like opening the door to a horde of rebels who swarm out attacking one in twenty places at once -- hit, roused, scraped, bared, swung through the air, so that life seems to flash by; then again blinded, knocked on the head -- all of which are agreeable sensations for a reader (since nothing is more dismal than to open the door and get no response) ... "

Virginia Woolf, A Letter to a Young Poet (1932)

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"Intimacy is a difficult art ... "

Virginia Woolf, "Geraldine and Jane," The Common Reader, 2nd series (1932)

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"The poet is always our contemporary."

Virginia Woolf, "How Should One Read a Book?," The Common Reader, 2nd series (1932)

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"We must not squander our powers, helplessly and ignorantly, squirting half the house in order to water a single rose-bush ..."

Virginia Woolf, "How Should One Read a Book?," The Common Reader, 2nd series (1932)

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"To admit authorities, however heavily furred and gowned, into our libraries and let them tell us how to read, what to read, what value to place upon what we read, is to destroy the spirit of freedom which is the breath of those sanctuaries. Everywhere else we may be bound by laws and conventions -- there we have none."

Virginia Woolf, "How Should One Read a Book?," The Common Reader, 2nd series (1932)

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"I have sometimes dreamt, at least, that when the Day of Judgment dawns and the great conquerors and lawyers and statesmen come to receive their rewards -- their crowns, their laurels, their names carved indelibly upon imperishable marble -- the Almighty will turn to Peter and will say, not without a certain envy when He sees us coming with our books under our arms, 'Look, these need no reward. We have nothing to give them here. They have loved reading.'"

Virginia Woolf, "How Should One Read a Book?" The Common Reader, 2nd series (1932)

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"How far we are going to read a poet when we can read about a poet is a problem to lay before biographers."

Virginia Woolf, "How Should One Read a Book?" The Common Reader, 2nd series (1932)

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"Why, he wondered, did people who had been asleep always want to make out that they were extremely wide-awake?"

Virginia Woolf, The Years (1937)

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"... it's been a perpetual discovery, my life. A miracle."

Virginia Woolf, The Years (1937)

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"He had the look of an insect whose body has been eaten out, leaving only the wings, the shell."

Virginia Woolf, The Years (1937)

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"His movements were from habit, not from feeling."

Virginia Woolf, The Years (1937)

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"The sun was rising. Very slowly it came up over the horizon shaking out light. But the sky was so vast, so cloudless, that to fill it with light took time. "

Virginia Woolf, The Years (1937)

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"... war is a man's game ... the killing machine has a gender and it is male. "

Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas (1938)

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"... scarcely a human being in the course of history has fallen to a woman's rifle; the vast majority of birds and beasts have been killed by you, not by us. Obviously there is for you some glory, some necessity, some satisfaction in fighting which we have never felt or enjoyed."

Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas (1938)

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"As a woman, I have no country. As a woman, I want no country. As a woman, my country is the whole world."

Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas (1938)

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"... if people are highly successful in their professions they lose their senses. Sight goes. They have no time to look at pictures. Sound goes. They have no time to listen to music. Speech goes. They have no time for conversation. They lose their sense of proportion -- the relations between one thing and another. Humanity goes."

Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas (1938)

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"... if newspapers were written by people whose sole object in writing was to tell the truth about politics and the truth about art we should not believe in war, and we should believe in art."

Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas (1938)

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"... the public and the private worlds are inseparably connected ... the tyrannies and servilities of the one are the tyrannies and servilities of the other."

Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas (1938)

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"The cat is out of the bag, and it is a Tom."

Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas (1938)

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"Peace was the third emotion. Love. Hate. Peace. Three emotions made the ply of human life. "

Virginia Woolf, Between the Acts (1941)

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"That's what makes a view so sad. And so beautiful. It'll be there when we're not."

Virginia Woolf, Between the Acts (1941)

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"What is a woman? I assure you, I do not know ... I do not believe that anybody can know until she has expressed herself in all the arts and professions open to human skill."

Virginia Woolf, "Professions for Women," The Death of the Moth (1942)

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"... a novelist's chief desire is to be as unconscious as possible. He has to induce in himself a state of perpetual lethargy. He wants life to proceed with the utmost quiet and regularity. He wants to see the same faces, to read the same books, to do the same things day after day, month after month, while he is writing, so that nothing may break the illusion in which he is living -- so that nothing may disturb or disquiet the mysterious nosings about, feelings around, darts, dashes, and sudden discoveries of that very shy and illusive spirit, the imagination."

Virginia Woolf, "Professions for Women," The Death of the Moth (1942)

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"There can be no two opinions as to what a highbrow is. He is the man or woman of thoroughbred intelligence who rides his mind at a gallop across country in pursuit of an idea."

Virginia Woolf, "Middlebrow," The Death of the Moth (1942)

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"... you may not know what I mean by the Angel in the House. I will describe her as shortly as I can. She was intensely sympathetic. She was immensely charming. She was utterly unselfish. She excellent in the difficult arts of family life. She sacrificed herself daily. If there was chicken, she took the leg; if there was a draught she sat in it -- in short she was so constituted that she never had a mind or a wish of her own, but preferred to sympathize always with the minds and wishes of others. ... And when I came to write I encountered her with the very first words. The shadow of her wings fell on my page ... Had I not killed her she would have killed me."

Virginia Woolf, "Professions for Women," The Death of the Moth (1942)

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"Second-hand books are wild books, homeless books; they have come together in vast flocks of variegated feather, and have a charm which the domesticated volumes of the libarry lack. Besides, in this random miscellaneous company we may rub against some complete stranger who will, with luck, turn into the best friend we have in the world."

Virginia Woolf, The Death of the Moth (1942)

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"... a party makes things either much more real or much less real ... "

Virginia Woolf, "The New Dress," A Haunted House and Other Stories (1944)

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"Theories then are dangerous things."

Virginia Woolf, "The Leaning Tower," The Moment (1947)

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"If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people."

Virginia Woolf, "The Leaning Tower," The Moment (1947)

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"Even her eyelashes acted."

Virginia Woolf, "Ellen Terry," The Moment (1947)

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"... fishing teaches a stern morality; inculcates a remorseless honesty."

Virginia Woolf, "Fishing," The Moment (1947)

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" ... the profound difference that divides the human race is a question of bait -- whether to fish with worms or not ... "

Virginia Woolf, "Fishing," The Moment (1947)

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"... old emotions like old families have intermarried and have many connections."

Virginia Woolf, "Royalty," The Moment (1947)

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"... travelers are much at the mercy of phrases ... vast generalizations formulate in their exposed brains ... "

Virginia Woolf, "To Spain," The Moment (1947)

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"There is, let us confess it (and illness is the great confessional), a childish outspokenness in illness; things are said, truths blurted out, which the cautious respectability of health conceals."

Virginia Woolf, "On Being Ill," The Moment (1947)

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"As a creator of character his peculiarity is that he creates wherever his eyes rest ... With such a power at his command Dickens made his books blaze up, not by tightening the plot or sharpening the wit, but by throwing another handful of people upon the fire."

Virginia Woolf, "David Copperfield" (1925), The Moment (1947)

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"The poet gives us his essence, but prose takes the mould of the body and mind entire."

Virginia Woolf, "Reading," The Captain's Death Bed (1950)

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"The best letters of our time are precisely those that can never be published."

Virginia Woolf, "Modern Letters," The Captain\'s Death Bed (1950)

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"... I got out this diary and read, as one always does read one's own writing, with a kind of guilty intensity."

Virginia Woolf, 1919, in Leonard Woolf, ed., A Writer's Diary (1953)

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"A thousand things to be written had I time: had I power. A very little writing uses up my capacity for writing."

Virginia Woolf, 1919, in Leonard Woolf, ed., A Writer\'s Diary (1953)

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"... more and more I come to loathe any dominion of one over another; any leadership, any imposition of the will."

Virginia Woolf, 1919, in Leonard Woolf, ed., A Writer\'s Diary (1953)

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"One should aim, seriously, at disregarding ups and downs; a compliment here, silence there ... the central fact remains stable, which is the fact of my own pleasure in the art."

Virginia Woolf, 1920, in Leonard Woolf, ed., A Writer\'s Diary (1953)

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"Why is life so tragic; so like a little strip of pavement over an abyss. I look down; I feel giddy; I wonder how I am ever to walk to the end."

Virginia Woolf, 1920, in Leonard Woolf, ed., A Writer\'s Diary (1953)

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"... 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, 1920, in Leonard Woolf, ed., A Writer\'s Diary (1953)

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"... I like going from one lighted room to another, such is my brain to me; lighted rooms ... "

Virginia Woolf, 1924, in Leonard Woolf, ed., A Writer\'s Diary (1953)

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"... pure honesty is a doubtful quality; it means often lack of imagination. "

Virginia Woolf, 1924, in Leonard Woolf, ed., A Writer\'s Diary (1953)

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"Arrange whatever pieces come your way."

Virginia Woolf, on writing, 1925, in Leonard Woolf, ed., A Writer\'s Diary (1953)

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"... writing is the profound pleasure and being read the superficial."

Virginia Woolf, 1925, in Leonard Woolf, ed., A Writer\'s Diary (1953)

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"I enjoy almost everything. Yet I have some restless searcher in me. Why is there not a discovery in life? Something one can lay one's hands on and say 'This is it'?"

Virginia Woolf, 1926, in Leonard Woolf, ed., A Writer\'s Diary (1953)

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"... I doubt the capacity of the human animal for being dignified in ceremony."

Virginia Woolf, 1928, in Leonard Woolf, ed., A Writer\'s Diary (1953)

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"The mind is the most capricious of insects -- flitting, fluttering."

Virginia Woolf, 1928, in Leonard Woolf, ed., A Writer\'s Diary (1953)

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"... it's the writing, not the being read, that excites me. "

Virginia Woolf, 1928, in Leonard Woolf, ed., A Writer\'s Diary (1953)

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"As for my next book, I am going to hold myself from writing till I have it impending in me: grown heavy in my mind like a ripe pear; pendant, gravid, asking to be cut or it will fall."

Virginia Woolf, 1928, in Leonard Woolf, ed., A Writer\'s Diary (1953)

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"... Lord, how tired one gets of one's own writing."

Virginia Woolf, 1932, in Leonard Woolf, ed., A Writer\'s Diary (1953)

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"I think writing, my writing, is a species of mediumship. I become the person. "

Virginia Woolf, 1937, in Leonard Woolf, ed., A Writer\'s Diary (1953)

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"I'm fundamentally, I think, an outsider. I do my best work and feel most braced with my back to the wall. It's an odd feeling though, writing aginst the current: difficult entirely to disregard the current. Yet of course I shall. "

Virginia Woolf, 1938, in Leonard Woolf, ed., A Writer\'s Diary (1953)

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"... the humane art which owes its origin to the love of friend."

Virginia Woolf, "The Humane Art," in Leonard Woolf, ed., Collected Essays (1966)

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" What a comfort is friendship in this world. "

Virginia Woolf, 1903, in Nigel Nicolson and Joanne Trautmann, eds., The Letters of Virginia Woolf: Volume I: 1888-1912 (1975)

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"You can't think what vain beasts writers are -- but Nessa will tell you. I don't think the artist is so much tempted that way, because all his or her work is done in the open, and is therefore always criticised, whereas a poor wretch of an author keeps all his thoughts in a dark attic in his own brain, and when they come out in print they look so shivering and naked. So for other people to like them is a great encouragement."

Virginia Woolf, 1904, in Nigel Nicolson and Joanne Trautmann, eds., The Letters of Virginia Woolf: Volume I: 1888-1912 (1975)

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"Writing is a divine art, and the more I write and read the more I love it."

Virginia Woolf, 1905, in Nigel Nicolson and Joanne Trautmann, eds., The Letters of Virginia Woolf: Volume I: 1888-1912 (1975)

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"You have a touch in letter writing that is beyond me. Something unexpected, like coming round a corner in a rose garden and finding it still daylight."

Virginia Woolf, 1908, in Nigel Nicolson and Joanne Trautmann, eds., The Letters of Virginia Woolf: Volume I: 1888-1912 (1975)

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"I was thrown off ignominiously ... I'm so stiff at this moment that if one wrote letters with one's legs, I couldn't write this."

Virginia Woolf, 1913, in Nigel Nicolson and Joanne Trautmann, eds., The Letters of Virginia Woolf: Volume II: 1912-1922 (1976)

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"I find that when I've seen a certain number of people my mind becomes like an old match box -- the part one strikes on, I mean."

Virginia Woolf, 1917, in Nigel Nicolson and Joanne Trautmann, eds., The Letters of Virginia Woolf: Volume II: 1912-1922 (1976)

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"I read the book of Job last night -- I don't think God comes well out of it ... "

Virginia Woolf, 1922, in Nigel Nicolson and Joanne Trautmann, eds., The Letters of Virginia Woolf: Volume II: 1912-1922 (1976)

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"Writing is still like heaving bricks over a wall ... "

Virginia Woolf, 1922, in Nigel Nicolson and Joanne Trautmann, eds., The Letters of Virginia Woolf: Volume II: 1912-1922 (1976)

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"Oh dear, why does Lydia always come in -- and why must she beg me to believe that she thinks seriously every day of her life, as she says? when her brain is a cage of canaries?"

Virginia Woolf, 1923, in Nigel Nicolson and Joanne Trautmann, eds., The Letters of Virginia Woolf: Volume III: 1923-1928 (1977)

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"There was a day when I liked writing letters -- it has gone. Unfortunately the passion for getting them remains."

Virginia Woolf, 1923, in Nigel Nicolson and Joanne Trautmann, eds., The Letters of Virginia Woolf: Volume III: 1923-1928 (1977)

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"As I grow old I hate the writing of letters more and more, and like getting them better and better."

Virginia Woolf, 1923, in Nigel Nicolson and Joanne Trautmann, eds., The Letters of Virginia Woolf: Volume III: 1923-1928 (1977)

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"... why do people who live in the country always give themselves such airs?"

Virginia Woolf, 1924, in Nigel Nicolson and Joanne Trautmann, eds., The Letters of Virginia Woolf: Volume III: 1923-1928 (1977)

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"I don't believe that you can possibly separate expression from thought in an imaginative work. The better a thing is expressed, the more completely it is thought."

Virginia Woolf, 1925, in Nigel Nicolson and Joanne Trautmann, eds., The Letters of Virginia Woolf: Volume III: 1923-1928 (1977)

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"... I haven't said anything very much, or given you any notion of the terrific high waves, and the infernal deep gulfs, on which I mount and toss in a few days. So does everyone. Up and down we go, violently, incessantly ... "

Virginia Woolf, 1926, in Nigel Nicolson and Joanne Trautmann, eds., The Letters of Virginia Woolf: Volume III: 1923-1928 (1977)

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"... to write a novel in the heart of London is next to an impossibility. I feel as if I were nailing a flag to the top of a mast in a raging gale."

Virginia Woolf, 1926, in Nigel Nicolson and Joanne Trautmann, eds., The Letters of Virginia Woolf: Volume III: 1923-1928 (1977)

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"As for 'drawing you out,' please believe I don't do such things deliberately, with an object -- It's only that I am, as a rule, far more interested in people than they are in me -- But it makes me a nuisance, I know: only an innocent nuisance."

Virginia Woolf, 1926, in Nigel Nicolson and Joanne Trautmann, eds., The Letters of Virginia Woolf: Volume III: 1923-1928 (1977)

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"Why does one write these books after all? The drudgery, the misery, the grind, are forgotten everytime; and one launches another, and it seems sheer joy and buoyancy."

Virginia Woolf, 1928, in Nigel Nicolson and Joanne Trautmann, eds., The Letters of Virginia Woolf: Volume III: 1923-1928 (1977)

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"As nobody can possibly tell me whether one's writing is bad or good, the only certain value is one's own pleasure. I am sure of that."

Virginia Woolf, 1928, in Nigel Nicolson and Joanne Trautmann, eds., The Letters of Virginia Woolf: Volume III: 1923-1928 (1977)

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"As an experience, madness is terrific ... and in its lava I still find most of the things I write about."

Virginia Woolf, 1930, in Nigel Nicolson and Joanne Trautmann, eds., The Letters of Virginia Woolf: Volume IV: 1929-1931 (1978)

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"Women alone stir my imagination ... "

Virginia Woolf, in Nigel Nicolson and Joanne Trautmann, eds., The Letters of Virginia Woolf: Volume IV: 1929-1931 (1978)

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"I'm so sorry not to have answered: like many people I toppled over into a flower bed in a faint that hot day and have been in bed."

Virginia Woolf, in Nigel Nicolson and Joanne Trautmann, eds., The Letters of Virginia Woolf: Volume V: 1932-1935 (1979)

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"I was lying in bed this morning and saying to myself, 'the remarkable thing about Ethel is her stupendous self-satisfaction' when in came your letter to confirm this profound psychological observation. How delighted I was!"

Virginia Woolf, letter to Ethel Smyth, 1934, in Nigel Nicolson and Joanne Trautmann, eds., The Letters of Virginia Woolf: Volume V: 1932-1935 (1979)

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"It was very nice of you to write to me. I love getting letters, but I hate answering them, at least when I've let them, as generally happens, lie about and become mouldy and reproachful."

Virginia Woolf, 1934, in Nigel Nicolson and Joanne Trautmann, eds., The Letters of Virginia Woolf: Volume V: 1932-1935 (1979)

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"You would get longer livelier and more frequent letters from me, if it weren't for the Christian religion. How that bell tolling at the end of the garden, dum dum, dum dum, annoys me! Why is Christianity so insistent and so sad?"

Virginia Woolf, 1934, in Nigel Nicolson and Joanne Trautmann, eds., The Letters of Virginia Woolf: Volume V: 1932-1935 (1979)

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"What a labour writing is ... making one sentence do the work of a page; that's what I call hard work."

Virginia Woolf, 1935, in Nigel Nicolson and Joanne Trautmann, eds., The Letters of Virginia Woolf: Volume V: 1932-1935 (1979)

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"The great cathedral space which was childhood."

Virginia Woolf, Moments of Being (1976)

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"... like all very handsome men who die tragically, he left not so much a character behind him as a legend. Youth and death shed a halo through which it is difficult to see a real face ... "

Virginia Woolf, "A Sketch of the Past" (1940), Moments of Being (1976)

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"Here I come to one of the memoir writer's difficulties -- one of the reasons why, though I read so many, so many are failures. They leave out the person to whom things happened. The reason is that it is so difficult to describe any human being. So they say: 'This is what happened'; but they do not say what the person was like to whom it happened. And the events mean very little unless we know first to whom they happened."

Virginia Woolf, "A Sketch of the Past" (1940), Moments of Being (1976)

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"In certain favorable moods, memories -- what one has forgotten -- come to the top. Now if this is so, is it not possible -- I often wonder -- that things we have felt with great intensity have an existence independent of our minds; are in fact still in existence? And if so, will it not be possible, in time, that some device will be invented by which we can tap them?"

Virginia Woolf, "A Sketch of the Past" (1940), Moments of Being (1976)

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"One likes people much better when they're battered down by a prodigious siege of misfortune than when they triumph."

Virginia Woolf, in Anne O. Bell, ed., The Diary of Virginia Woolf, vol. 1 (1978)

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"One has to secrete a jelly in which to slip quotations down people's throats -- and one always secretes too much jelly."

Virginia Woolf, 1938, in Nigel Nicolson, ed., Leave the Letters Till We're Dead, vol. 6 (1980)

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"Speech is an old torn net, through which the fish escape as one casts it over them."

Virginia Woolf, "The Evening Party" (1918), in Susan Dick, ed., The Complete Shorter Fiction of Virginia Woolf (1985)

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"... literature is the record of our discontent. "

Virginia Woolf, "The Evening Party" (1918), in Susan Dick, ed., The Complete Shorter Fiction of Virginia Woolf (1985)

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"After all, what is a lovely phrase? One that has mopped up as much Truth as it can hold. "

Virginia Woolf, 1926, in Louise DeSalvo and Mitchell A. Leaska, eds., The Letters of Vita Sackville-West to Virginia Woolf (1985)

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"I believe that the main thing in beginning a novel is to feel, not that you can write it, but that it exists on the far side of a gulf, which words can't cross: that it's to be pulled through only in a breathless anguish."

Virginia Woolf, 1928, in Louise DeSalvo and Mitchell A. Leaska, eds., The Letters of Vita Sackville-West to Virginia Woolf (1985)

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"I ransack public libraries, and find them full of sunk treasure."

Virginia Woolf, in Hermione Lee, Virginia Woolf (1996)

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"Unless you catch ideas on the wing and nail them down, you will soon cease to have any."

Virginia Woolf, 1924, in Nigel Nicolson, Virginia Woolf (2000)

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"Nothing has really happened until it has been described."

Virginia Woolf, 1926, in Nigel Nicolson, Virginia Woolf (2000)

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"[On her 'dumb rage' on the war and being] fought for by young people whom one wants to see making love. "

Virginia Woolf, 1939, in Nigel Nicolson, Virginia Woolf (2000)

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"Let it be fact, one feels, or let it be fiction; the imagination will not serve under two masters simultaneously."

Virginia Woolf, "Poetry, Fiction, and the Future," in David Hume, ed., Selected Essays (2008)

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"You cannot cross the narrow bridge of art carrying all its tools in your hands. Some you must leave behind ... "

Virginia Woolf, "Poetry, Fiction, and the Future," in David Hume, ed., Selected Essays (2008)

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"For he was a poet and drowned untimely, and his verse, mild as it is and formal and sententious, sends forth still a frail fluty sound like that of a piano organ played in some back street resignedly by an old Italian organ-grinder in a corduroy jacket."

Virginia Woolf, "Street Haunting: A London Adventure," in David Hume, ed., Selected Essays (2008)

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"It doesn't have to be the truth, just your vision of it, written down."

Virginia Woolf

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"To stand in a great bookshop crammed with books so new that their pages almost stick together, and the gilt on their backs is still fresh, has an excitement no less delightful than the old excitement of the second-hand bookstall. "

Virginia Woolf, "Hours in a Library," Granite and Rainbow (1958)

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"I was so pleased and excited by your letter that I trotted about all day like a puppy with a bone."

Virginia Woolf

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"Nothing induces me to read a novel except when I have to make money by writing about it. I detest them."

Virginia Woolf, The Letters of Virginia Woolf: Volume III: 1923-1928 (1975)

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"The old hunger to know what the immortals thought has given place to a far more tolerant curiosity to know what our own generation is thinking ... And soon we develop another taste, unsatisfied by the great -- not a valuable taste, perhaps, but certainly a very pleasant possession -- the taste for bad books ... We know which authors can be trusted to produce yearly (for happily they are prolific) a [book] which affords us indescribable pleasure. We owe a great deal to bad books; indeed, we come to count their authors and their heroes among those figures who play so large a part in our silent life."

Virginia Woolf, "Hours in a Library," Granite and Rainbow (1958)

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"The man who is aware of himself is henceforward independent, and he is never bored, and life is only too short, and he is steeped through and through with a profound yet temperate happiness. He alone lives, while other people, slaves of ceremony, let life slip past them in a kind of dream."

Virginia Woolf, "Montaigne," The Common Reader (1925)

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"Biography is to give a man some kind of shape after his death. "

Virginia Woolf

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"For there is a virtue in truth; it has an almost mystic power. Like radium, it seems to give off forever and ever grains of energy, atoms of light."

Virginia Woolf, "The New Biography," Granite and Rainbow (1958)

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"To read a novel is a difficult and complex art."

Virginia Woolf, "How Should One Read a Book," The Common Reader, 2nd series (1932)

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"There is much to support the view that it is clothes that wear us, and not we, them."

Virginia Woolf, Orlando (1928)

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"She would not have cared to confess how infinitely she preferred the exactitude, the star-like impersonality, of figures to the confusion, agitation, and vagueness of the finest prose."

Virginia Woolf, Night and Day (1919)

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"It is the privilege of loneliness; in privacy one may do as one chooses."

Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway (1925)

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"Considering how common illness is, how tremendous the spiritual change that it brings ... it becomes strange indeed that illness has not taken its place with love and battle and jealousy among the prime themes in literature."

Virginia Woolf, "On Being Ill" (1926), The Moment: And Other Essays (1947)

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Virginia Woolf, English novelist, essayist, critic
(1882 - 1941)

Full name: Adeline Virginia Stephen Woolf