Virginia Woolf Essays Volume 6 Hair

It is pretty fair to say that Virginia Woolf had a way with words like no other.

Here’s a compilation of some Virginia Woolf quotes from her many books, letters, diaries and essays:

Virginia Woolf Quotes About Women & Feminism:

“As a woman I have no country. As a woman my country is the whole world.” – Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas

“As long as she thinks of a man, nobody objects of a women thinking” – Virginia Woolf, Orlando

“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

“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

“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

“It would have been impossible, completely and entirely, for any woman to have written the plays of Shakespeare in the age of Shakespeare.” – Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

“Well, I really don’t advise a woman who wants to have things her own way to get married.” – Virginia Woolf, Night and Day

“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

“I told you in the course of this paper that Shakespeare had a sister; but do not look for her in Sir Sidney Lee’s life of the poet. She died young–alas, she never wrote a word. She lies buried where the omnibuses now stop, opposite the Elephant and Castle. Now my belief is that this poet who never wrote a word and was buried at the crossroads still lives. She lives in you and in me, and in many other women who are not here tonight, for they are washing up the dishes and putting the children to bed. But she lives; for great poets do not die; they are continuing presences; they need only the opportunity to walk among us in the flesh.” – Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

Virginia Woolf Quotes About Writing:

“And for heaven’s sake, publish nothing before you are thirty.” – Virginia Woolf, Letter to a Young Poet

“How many times have people used a pen or paintbrush because they couldn’t pull the trigger?” – Virginia Woolf

“Neither of us knows what the public will think. There’s no doubt in my mind that I have found out how to begin (at forty) to say something in my own voice; and that interests me so that I feel I can go ahead without praise.” – Virginia Woolf, Diary, July 26, 1922

“When I cannot see words curling like rings of smoke round me I am in darkness—I am nothing.” ― Virginia Woolf, The Waves

“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. ” – Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

“For it would seem – her case proved it – that we write, not with the fingers, but with the whole person. The nerve which controls the pen winds itself about every fibre of our being, threads the heart, pierces the liver.” – Virginia Woolf, Orlando

Virginia Woolf Quotes About Life:

“Let us again pretend that life is a solid substance, shaped like a globe, which we turn about in our fingers.” – Virginia Woolf, The Waves

“Am I a weed, carried this way, that way, on a tide that comes twice a day without a meaning?” – Virginia Woolf, The Years

“Could it be, even for elderly people, that this was life? – startling, unexpected, unknown?” – Virginia Woolf, To The Lighthouse

“I meant to write about death, only life came breaking in as usual.” – Virginia Woolf, Diary, February 17, 1922

“It might be possible that the world itself is without meaning.” ― Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

“Yes, I was thinking: we live without a future. That’s what’s queer: with our noses pressed to a closed door.” – Virginia Woolf, Diary, January 26, 1941

“She had a perpetual sense, as she watched the taxi cabs, of being out, out, far out to sea and alone; she always had the feeling that it was very, very dangerous to live even one day.” – Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

“We are only lightly covered with buttoned cloth; and beneath these pavements are shells, bones and silence.” – Virginia Woolf, The Waves

“The moment was all; the moment was enough.” – Virginia Woolf, The Waves

“…but for the most part, oddly enough, she must admit that she felt this thing that she called life terrible, hostile, and quick to pounce on you if you gave it a chance.” – Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse

“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.” – Virginia Woolf, To The Lighthouse

“There must be another life, she thought, sinking back into her chair, exasperated. Not in dreams; but here and now, in this room, with living people. She felt as if she were standing on the edge of a precipice with her hair blown back; she was about to grasp something that just evaded her. There must be another life, here and now, she repeated. This is too short, too broken. We know nothing, even about ourselves.” ― Virginia Woolf, The Years

Virginia Woolf Quotes About Death:

“Against you I will fling myself, unvanquished and unyielding, O Death!” – Virginia Woolf, The Waves

“From the trees in the meadow of life beyond a river where the dead walk, how there is no death.” – Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

“Nothing, I know, had any chance against death.” – Virginia Woolf, The Death of the Moth

“O yes, he seemed to say, death is stronger than I am .” – Virginia Woolf, The Death of the Moth

“Did it matter then, she asked herself, walking towards Bond Street, did it matter that she must inevitably cease completely? All this must go on without her; did she resent it; or did it not become consoling to believe that death ended absolutely?” – Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

“She felt somehow very like him—the young man who had killed himself. She felt glad that he had done it; thrown it away. The clock was striking. The leaden circles dissolved in the air. He made her feel the beauty; made her feel the fun. But she must go back. She must assemble.” – Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

Virginia Woolf Quotes About God & Religion:

“She thought there were no Gods; no one was to blame; and so she evolved this atheist’s religion of doing good for the sake of goodness.” – Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

“I read the book of Job last night, I don’t think God comes out well in it.” – Virginia Woolf, Letter to Lady Robert Cecil, November 12, 1922

Virginia Woolf Quotes About Books, Music, Art:

“Anyone who’s worth anything reads just what he likes, as the mood takes him, and with extravagant enthusiasm.” ― Virginia Woolf, Jacob’s Room

“Books are the mirrors of the soul.” – Virginia Woolf, Between the Acts

“I am reading six books at once, the only way of reading; since, as you will agree, one book is only a single unaccompanied note, and to get the full sound, one needs ten others at the same time.” ― Virginia Woolf, letter to Saxon Sidney Turner, August 12, 1928

“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.” ― Virginia Woolf, The Voyage Out

“To put it in a nutshell, he was afflicted with a love of literature. It was the fatal nature of this disease to substitute a phantom for reality.” ― Virginia Woolf, Orlando

“Really I don’t like human nature unless all candied over with art.” – Virginia Woolf, Diary, May 13 1926

“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

“Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.” – Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

“They are very large in effect, these painters; very little self-conscious; they have smooth broad spaces in their minds where I am all prickles & promontories.” – Virginia Woolf, The Diary Of Virginia Woolf, Vol. 1 1915-1919

“Often on a wet day I begin counting up; what I’ve read and what I haven’t read.” ― Virginia Woolf, Between the Acts

“’I want to write a novel about Silence,’ he said; ‘the things people don’t say.’” ― Virginia Woolf, The Voyage Out

“Behind the cotton wool is hidden a pattern; that we—I mean all human beings—are connected with this; that the whole world is a work of art; that we are parts of the work of art. Hamlet or a Beethoven quartet is the truth about this vast mass that we call the world. But there is no Shakespeare, there is no Beethoven; certainly and emphatically there is no God; we are the words; we are the music; we are the thing itself.” ― Virginia Woolf, Moments of Being

Virginia Woolf Quotes About Thoughts & Feelings:

“All extremes of feeling are allied with madness.” ― Virginia Woolf, Orlando

“I like people to be unhappy because I like them to have souls.” – Virginia Woolf

“It is a thousand pities never to say what one feels.” ― Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

“I feel all shadows of the universe multiplied deep inside my skin.” – Virginia Woolf, Diary, November 5, 1931

“Nothing thicker than a knife’s blade separates happiness from melancholy.” – Virginia Woolf, Orlando

“In her eyes shone the sweetness of melancholy.” – Virginia Woolf, The Voyage Out

“Thoughts are divine.” – Virginia Woolf, Orlando

“Thoughts without words… Can that be?” – Virginia Woolf, Between the Acts

“The eyes of others our prisons; their thoughts our cages.” – Virginia Woolf, Monday or Tuesday

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

“One wanted, she thought, dipping her brush deliberately, to be on a level with ordinary experience.” – Virginia Woolf, To The Lighthouse

“…she wanted many more things than the love of one human being — the sea, the sky.” – Virginia Woolf, The Voyage Out

“There was a star riding through clouds one night, & I said to the star, ‘Consume me.'” – Virginia Woolf, The Waves

“It struck me then that part of my misery is not having you. Yes, I miss you, I miss you. I dare not expatiate, because you will say I am not stark, and cannot feel the things dumb people feel. You know that is rather rotten rot, my dear Vita. After all, what is a lovely phrase? One that has mopped up as much truth as it can hold.” – Virginia Woolf, letter to Vita Sackville-West

“Twice Flush had done his utmost to kill his enemy; twice he had failed. And why had he failed, he asked himself? Because he loved Miss Barrett. Looking up at her from under his eyebrows as she lay, severe and silent on the sofa, he knew that he must love her for ever. Things are not simple but complex. If he bit Mr. Browning he bit her too. Hatred is not hatred; hatred is also love.” – Virginia Woolf, Flush

Virginia Woolf Quotes About Being Yourself:

“Blame it or praise it, there is no denying the wild horse in us.” – Virginia Woolf, Jacob’s Room

“Why is it that people won’t be honest?” – Virginia Woolf, The Voyage Out

“I will go down with my colours flying.” – Virginia Woolf, Diary, March 8, 1941

“I will not be ‘famous,’ ‘great.’ I will go on adventuring, changing, opening my mind and my eyes, refusing to be stamped and stereotyped. The thing is to free one’s self: to let it find its dimensions, not be impeded.”- Virginia Woolf, Diary, October 29, 1933

“Rhoda has rocked her ships to shore. Whether they have anchored, whether they have foundered, she cares no longer.” – Virginia Woolf, The Waves

Virginia Woolf Quotes About Solitude:

“For now she need not think of anybody. She could be herself, by herself. And that was what now she often felt the need of – to think; well not even to think. To be silent; to be alone.” – Virginia Woolf, To The Lighthouse

“Better is silence..Let me sit with bare things, this coffee cup, this knife, this fork, things in themselves, myself being myself.” – Virginia Woolf, The Waves

Virginia Woolf Quotes About Friendship:

“Some people go to priests; others to poetry; I to my friends.” – Virginia Woolf, The Waves

“Things have dropped from me. I have outlived certain desires; I have lost friends, some by death – Percival – others through sheer inability to cross the street.” – Virginia Woolf, The Waves

Virginia Woolf Quotes About Beauty:

“Beauty was not everything. Beauty had this penalty — it came too readily, came too completely. It stilled life — froze it.” ― Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse

“Some things were very beautiful; others sheer nonsense.” – Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

“No sooner have you feasted on beauty with your eyes than your mind tells you that beauty is vain and beauty passes.” – Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf Quotes About Nature:

“Melancholy were the sounds on a winter’s night.” ― Virginia Woolf, Jacob’s Room

“A very cold winter’s night, so silent that the air seemed frozen” – Virginia Woolf, The Years

“I am sure however many years I keep this diary, I shall never find a winter to beat this. It seems to have lost all self control.” – Virginia Woolf, Diary, February 13, 1915

“So the winter gloom is over, for which I am half sorry, since the dark evening over the fire has its charm.” – Virginia Woolf, Diary, March 30, 1919

“Never are voices so beautiful as on a winter’s evening, when dusk almost hides the body, and they seem to issue from nothingness with a note of intimacy seldom heard by day.” – Virginia Woolf, Night and Day

“The autumn trees, ravaged as they are, take on the flash of tattered flags kindling in the gloom of cathedral caves.” – Virginia Woolf, To The Lighthouse

“Let us go, then, exploring, this summer morning, when all are adoring the plum blossom and the bee.” – Virginia Woolf, Orlando

Virginia Woolf Quotes About Other Writers:

“Thus Mr. Lawrence, Mr. Douglas and Mr. Joyce partly spoil their books for women readers by their display of self-conscious virility; and Mr. Hemingway, but much less violently, follows suit.” – Virginia Woolf, Essay on American Writers, Published in New York Herald Tribune, 1927

“All women together ought to let flowers fall upon the tomb of Aphra Behn, for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds.” – Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

“He was a wild man, and he would never submit to be a tame one. And for us here lies his peculiar charm. He hears a different drummer. He is a man into whom nature has breathed other instincts than ours, to whom she has whispered, one may guess, some of her secrets.” – Virginia Woolf, Essay on Henry David Thoreau, published in the Times Literary Supplement, July 1917

“Walden – all his books, indeed – are packed with subtle, conflicting, and very fruitful discoveries. They are not written to prove something in the end. They are written as the Indians turn down twigs to mark their path through the forest. He cuts his way through life as if no one had ever taken that road before, leaving these signs for those who come after, should they care to see which way he went.” – Virginia Woolf, Essay on Henry David Thoreau, published in the Times Literary Supplement, July 1917

Virginia Woolf About Americans:

“I had even gone so far as to shape a theory that the American genius is an original genius and that it has borne and is bearing fruit unlike any that grows over here…” – Virginia Woolf, letter published in The New Republic magazine in response to a reader, 1929

“I had been reading these [American] writers and thinking how magnificent a language American is, how materially it differs from English, and how much I envy it the power to create new words and new phrases of the utmost vividness…” – Virginia Woolf, letter published in The New Republic magazine in response to a reader, 1929

“’The Americans themselves,’ replies Imagination, ‘are a most remarkable people. Superficially, they differ little from ourselves. That is to say, they wear petticoats and trousers; marry and bear children. But whether it is that the mountains are so high and may at any moment belch out fire and decimate a town, or that the rivers are so huge and may at any moment roll out their long liquid tongues and swallow up a city, or that the air is decidedly alcoholic so that everyone is always a little tipsy, the Americans are much freer, wilder, more generous, more adventurous, more spontaneous than we are.’” – Virginia Woolf, Essay, “America, Which I have Never Seen,” 1938


About Rebecca Beatrice Brooks

Rebecca Beatrice Brooks is a freelance writer and history lover who got her start in journalism working for small-town newspapers in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Rebecca graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a B.A. in Journalism in 2001.

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Virginia Woolf was born 136 years ago today. It almost seems silly to write that her books are wonderful, or world-changing—but they are. I’d wager that, if you’re reading this space, you knew that already. Woolf’s writing has been essential reading for so long that there have been countless editions and reprints, redesigns and rebrandings, of all of her books—and not just the most famous ones, Mrs. DallowayTo the LighthouseA Room of One’s Own, etc., but even the deep backlist. Sometimes her books get they covers they deserve—and sometimes they don’t. (The current Wordsworth Classics, for instance, are truly awful.) So below, I’ve dug up some of the most interesting, or at least representative. Of course, because of the onslaught of covers, this isn’t anywhere close to a complete collection, and that the exact dates of particular editions are not always easy to track down, and in some cases are approximate. This is only a way to look at the general progression of the treatment her work has been given over the years—the good, the bad, and the ugly—with some fan-designed covers thrown in there for fun.

Hogarth Press Early Editions, designed by Vanessa Bell:

Kew Gardens (1919), Monday or Tuesday (1921), Jacob’s Room (1922); design by Vanessa BellMrs. Dalloway (1925), The Common Reader (1925), To the Lighthouse (1927); design by Vanessa BellA Room of One’s Own (1929), On Being Ill (1930), The Waves (1931); design by Vanessa BellThe Common Reader, Second Series (1932), The Years (1937), Three Guineas (1938); design by Vanessa BellBetween the Acts (1941), The Death of the Moth and Other Essays (1942), A Haunted House and Other Short Stories (1943); design by Vanessa BellThe Moment and Other Essays (1947), The Captain’s Death Bed and Other Essays (1950), A Writer’s Diary (1953), Granite and Rainbow (1958); design by Vanessa Bell

Many of Virginia Woolf’s earliest dust jackets were designed by her older sister and fellow member of the Bloomsbury Group, the artist Vanessa Bell. “Your style is unique, because so truthful,” Woolf told her when some criticized the designs, “and therefore it upsets one completely.” Bell designed a total of 38 book covers for Hogarth Press, the publishing house Woolf founded with her husband.

The first edition of Orlando looked a little different:

Orlando, first edition (1928)

Harcourt, Brace & World editions from the mid-1950s:

Harcourt, Brace & World Inc., 1953 and 1955

Harvest/HBJ editions from the mid-1950s:

To the Lighthouse (1955), Mrs. Dalloway (1953), Orlando (1956)Night and Day (1948), The Voyage Out (1948), A Room of One’s Own (1957)

Three miscellaneous covers from the ’60s:

Jacob’s Room & The Waves, Harvest (1960); Orlando, Signet Classic (1960); Orlando, Penguin; design by Paul Hogarth (1965)

Penguin Modern Classics & Penguin Modern Classics Reprints, 1960s and early 1970s:

Penguin Modern Classics, various editions: To the Lighthouse (1966), The Waves (1964), OrlandoMrs. Dalloway (1972; from a painting of Woolf by Vanessa Bell), The Voyage Out (1970), Night and Day (1969), The Death of the Moth and Other EssaysJacob’s Room (1965; cover design by John Sewell), A Room of One’s Own (1963; cover drawing by Paul Hogarth), To the Lighthouse (1964; cover drawing by Duncan Grant)

Grafton/Triad/Panther Books editions, 1970s:

Grafton/Triad/Panther Books editions, 1970s Grafton/Triad/Panther Books editions, 1970s

Two more Harvest books (probably) from the ’70s:

Granite and Rainbow (1975); The Waves (date unknown)

Two international covers from the 1980s (and one unknown):

Orlando, unknown origin (Spain?), Mrs. Dalloway, France (Livre de Poche, 1982); Mrs. Dalloway, Portugal (Editora Ulisseia, design by Luiz Duran, 1982)

Penguin 20th Century Classics series, from the 1990s:

Current Wordsworth Classics editions, first released in the ’90s: 

Wordsworth Classics editions: Mrs. Dalloway (1996), Orlando (1995), To the Lighthouse (1994), A Room of One’s Own and The Voyage Out (2012), The WavesNight and Day and Jacob’s Room

Mariner Books editions, circa 1990:

These are still being printed; they are the paperback editions I see most often today.

Vintage Classics editions, 1992-2014:

Vintage Classics editions, 1992-2014

More Vintage Classics editions, circa 2004:

Vintage Classics editions, 2004-2008

Penguin Books editions, designed by Angus Hyland, 2011:

Design by Angus Hyland for Penguin Books, 2011 Design by Angus Hyland for Penguin Books, 2011

In 2011, Penguin Books UK commissioned these hardcover designs from Pentagram designer Angus Hyland in 2011. The abstract painted designs are reportedly inspired by the famous textile designs of Omega Workshop—and thus of Vanessa Bell herself, the books’ first designer, who was a Director of Omega and designer of many of those textiles. Some hardcore Woolf fans, however, were not impressed.

Leanne Shapton’s comps and cover for Mrs. Dalloway, 2011:

Two rough cover concepts (left) and the final cover (right) of Mrs. Dalloway for the Penguin Essentials collection, designed by Leanne Shapton, 2011

Vintage Classics editions, designed by Aino-Maija Metsola, 2016:

Aino-Maija Metsola for Vintage Classics, 2016 Aino-Maija Metsola for Vintage Classics, 2016

Helsinki-based Marimekko illustrator Aino-Maija Metsola created these complementary designs for six books in Woolf’s backlist for Vintage Classics UK. “Painting with water color enabled me to create pictures that suit Woolf’s fluid writing,” Metsola told AIGA Eye on Design. “I was interested in making pictures with strong, possibly mysterious atmospheres, pictures that captivate the viewer, but not in an obvious way. . . For Orlando, I was thinking of the great oak tree that connects the main character to his/her roots while he/she changes, and evolves through the centuries. . . For A Room of One’s Own, I painted abstract characters falling. I was thinking that they could symbolize text flowing freely without restriction, like rays of sun, or rain.”

But she wasn’t actually that familiar with the books before she started the project, and didn’t have time to read them all before her deadline. “I tried to convey something essential about the atmosphere of the books,” she told Culture Trip, “but I wanted the illustrations to be rather abstract so that they are open for interpretations. With each of the Woolf covers I simply picked one little detail from each text or some visual image that started to build up in my mind. Then I started painting. . .I wish I had known Woolf’s works better before starting with the covers so I was first a little nervous about the possibility of completely misunderstanding what is relevant. But I tried to view that as an interesting challenge.”

Three fan-designed covers for Orlando:

Eleanor Percival; May Tobias; maymaynot

Three more fan-designed covers:

Orlando, designed by Jennie Ottinger (not a fan cover exactly, but a piece from her Read the Classics series); Mrs. Dalloway, designed by Anita Stevens Rundles; A Haunted House, designed by Krista Quiroga

Three fan-designed series treatments:

Orlando, To the Lighthouse, and Mrs. Dalloway, by Caitlin AlderferOrlando, To the Lighthouse, and Mrs. Dalloway, designed by Caitlin AlderferKew Gardens, The Mark on the Wall, and Mrs. Dalloway, designed by Lucy SempleMrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, and The Waves, designed by McKenna Kemp


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