Obit of the Day (Historical): Virginia Woolf (1941)
On March 28, 1941 English author Virginia Woolf put on an overcoat, placed stones in her pockets and walked into the River Ouse outside her home and drowned herself. Woolf, who had a history of depression, had only recently finished her final novel, Between the Acts.
Woolf, considered an innovator in the use of stream-of-consciousness, published her first novel, The Voyage Out, in 1915. Before she took her life she would publish eight more novels including To the Lighthouse, Mrs. Dalloway, Orlando and Flush: A Biography, a biography of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s cocker spaniel which mixed fact and fiction. (For Virginia Woolf’s complete bibliography click here.)
Woolf was 59 when she died. This is the letter she left her husband Sidney Woolf, to whom she was married for 29 years:
Dearest, I feel certain 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. I begin to hear voices, and I can’t concentrate. So I am doing what seems the best thing to do. You have given me the greatest possible happiness. You have been in every way all that anyone could be. I don’t think two people could have been happier ‘til this terrible disease came. I can’t fight any longer. I know that I am spoiling your life, that without me you could work. And you will I know. You see I can’t even write this properly. I can’t read. What I want to say is I owe all the happiness of my life to you. You have been entirely patient with me and incredibly good. I want to say that – everybody knows it. If anybody could have saved me it would have been you. Everything has gone from me but the certainty of your goodness. I can’t go on spoiling your life any longer. I don’t think two people could have been happier than we have been. V.
Virginia Woolf’s body was recovered on April 18, 1941. You can read her original New York Times obituary by clicking on the link at the top of the post.
(Image of two-year-old Virginia being held by her mother Julia Stephen, 1884, is courtesy of the Smith College Libraries. Here is the full citation: Reproduction of plate 36f from Leslie Stephen’s Photograph Album Original: platinum print, 20.0 x 14.0 cm. Mortimer Rare Book Room, Smith College)