SHARE
Virginia Woolf photographed by Man Ray in 1934
Virginia Woolf photographed by Man Ray in 1934

1. “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” 

2. “So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say.”

3. “The older one grows, the more one likes indecency.” 

“Never pretend that the things you haven’t got are not worth having.”

4. “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.”

5. “They can because they think they can.”

6. “Once she knows how to read there’s only one thing you can teach her to believe in and that is herself.”

7. “The history of men’s opposition to women’s emancipation is more interesting perhaps than the story of emancipation itself.”

8. “It is fatal to be a man or woman pure and simple: one must be a woman manly, or a man womanly.”

A photograph of TS Eliot and Virginia Woolf taken by Lady Ottoline Morrell. Photograph: National Portrait Gallery/PA
A photograph of TS Eliot and Virginia Woolf taken by Lady Ottoline Morrell. Photograph: National Portrait Gallery/PA

 

9. “Nothing is easier and more stultifying than to make rules which exist out of touch with facts, in a vacuum.” —“How Should One Read a Book?”

10. “But nothing is so strange when one is in love (and what was this except being in love?) as the complete indifference of other people.” —Mrs. Dalloway

11. “What is the meaning of life? That was all — 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; here was one.” —To The Lighthouse

12. “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”  —A Room of One’s Own

13. “She remembered how, as a young man, she had insisted that women must be obedient, chaste, scented, and exquisitely apparelled. ‘Now I shall have to pay in my own person for those desires,’ she reflected; ‘for women are not (judging by my own short experience of the sex) obedient, chaste, scented, and exquisitely apparelled by nature. They can only attain these graces, without which they may enjoy none of the delights of life, by the most tedious discipline.’” —Orlando

Photograph by Ottoline Morrell (1926).

Photograph by Ottoline Morrell (1926).

14. “I like people to be unhappy because I like them to have souls.”

15. “Must, must, must — detestable word. Once more, I who had thought myself immune, who had said, “Now I am rid of all that”, find that the wave has tumbled me over, head over heels, scattering my possessions, leaving me to collect, to assemble, to head together, to summon my forces, rise and confront the enemy.”
(The Waves)

16. “No need to hurry. No need to sparkle. No need to be anybody but oneself.”  —A Room of One’s Own

17. “I am rooted, but I flow.” —The Waves

18. “I feel so intensely the delights of shutting oneself up in a little world of one’s own, with pictures and music and everything beautiful.” —The Voyage Out

19. “Communication is truth; communication is happiness. To share is our duty; to go down boldly and bring to light those hidden thoughts which are the most diseased; to conceal nothing; to pretend nothing; if we are ignorant to say so; if we love our friends to let them know it.” —The Common Reader

Lytton Strachey, Virginia Woolf, and Goldsworthy Lowes, 1923.
Lytton Strachey, Virginia Woolf, and Goldsworthy Lowes, 1923.

20. “If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people.” 

21. “I thought how unpleasant it is to be locked out; and I thought how it is worse, perhaps, to be locked in.”

22. “I feel so intensely the delights of shutting oneself up in a little world of one’s own, with pictures and music and everything beautiful.”
(The Voyage Out)

23. “I want to write a novel about Silence,” he said; “the things people don’t say.”
(The Voyage Out)

24. “anyone who’s worth anything reads just what he likes, as the mood takes him, and with extravagant enthusiasm.”
(Jacob’s Room)

A portrait of Woolf by Roger Fry c. 1917
A portrait of Woolf by Roger Fry c. 1917

25. “Then may I tell you that the very next words I read were these – ‘Chloe liked Olivia…’ Do not start. Do not blush. Let us admit in the privacy of our own society that these things sometimes happen. Sometimes women do like women.”
A Room of One’s Own)

26. “Someone has to die in order that the rest of us should value life more.”

 

27. ”You cannot find peace by avoiding life.”

28. ”Language is wine upon the lips.”

29. ”The eyes of others our prisons; their thoughts our cages.”

30. ”It is far harder to kill a phantom than a reality.”

31. ”Really I don’t like human nature unless all candied over with art.”

Virginia Woolf at Garsington Manor in 1917. “

Virginia Woolf at Garsington Manor in 1917. “

 

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

33. ”Let a man get up and say, Behold, this is the truth, and instantly I perceive a sandy cat filching a piece of fish in the background. Look, you have forgotten the cat, I say.”

34. ”It is fatal to be a man or woman pure and simple: one must be a woman manly, or a man womanly.”

35. ”Nothing has really happened until it has been recorded.”

36. ”Humor is the first of the gifts to perish in a foreign tongue.”

Virginia Woolf and Clive Bell at Studland Beach in Dorset in 1909
Virginia Woolf and Clive Bell at Studland Beach in Dorset in 1909

37. ”The connection between dress and war is not far to seek; your finest clothes are those you wear as soldiers.”

38. ”To enjoy freedom we have to control ourselves.”

39. ”A masterpiece is something said once and for all, stated, finished, so that it’s there complete in the mind, if only at the back.”

40. ”Boredom is the legitimate kingdom of the philanthropic.”

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

42. ”This is not writing at all. Indeed, I could say that Shakespeare surpasses literature altogether, if I knew what I meant.”

43. ”For most of history, Anonymous was a woman.”

A detail from Woolf's final session with a professional photographer, Gisèle Freund (Gisèle Freund/IMEC/Fonds MCC)
A detail from Woolf’s final session with a professional photographer, Gisèle Freund (Gisèle Freund/IMEC/Fonds MCC)

Virginia Woolf
(25 January 1882 – 28 March 1941)

 

SHARE