The Diary of Virginia Woolf Essay - Masterplots II: Women’s Literature Series The Diary of Virginia Woolf Analysis

Virginia Woolf

Masterpieces of Women's Literature The Diary of Virginia Woolf Analysis

Virginia Woolf sprinkles her diary with judgments of her literary contemporaries. Her dissatisfaction with the popular novelists John Galsworthy, Arnold Bennett, and H. G. Wells is well known from her essay “Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown” (1924), but the diary provides unguarded remarks about the somewhat younger generation of novelists whom the critical consensus has come to esteem more highly. She had reservations about James Joyce for his “indecencies,” she could not accept D. H. Lawrence as an artist because of what she saw as his inclination to preach, and she thought that Aldous Huxley “makes people into ideas.” Woolf could be jealous of women rivals and recognized that fact. Katherine Mansfield, some of whose work the Woolfs published, is one such example. She also had little good to say about Dorothy Richardson, Woolf’s main rival as an early female exploiter of the possibilities of stream-of-consciousness fiction.

As a record of her concern with her own literary technique, the diary is invaluable. She had very little to say about her distinctive style while she was in the process of developing it in her short fiction between 1917 and 1920. This fact seems to reflect her discovery—later often expressed as a disagreement with Percy Lubbock’s influential The Craft of Fiction (1921)—that craft is less often something articulated and imposed on one’s work than the result of considerable trial-and-error writing. When Woolf began the attempt to apply her “new method” to works which took months and even years to complete, however, she had much to say about it. She sought a “loose” and “light” effect without “scaffolding” while writing her first novel in her new manner, Jacob’s Room (1922).

She reports her husband as both highly encouraging and constructively critical of the completed manuscript of this novel. He thought the characters were like “ghosts,” which she took as a compliment, but he suggested that she apply...

(The entire section is 818 words.)