Virginia Woolf

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Was Virginia Woolf part of Gertrude Stein's group in Paris?

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Virginia Woolf was born in 1882 and committed suicide in 1941. She was a daughter of the distinguished British writer and historian Leslie Stephens. She was a member of a group known as the Bloomsbury set, consisting of generally upper class British intellectuals who lived and worked in the area of London known as Bloomsbury (an area in the neighbourhood of the British Museum).

Gertrude Stein was an expatriate American author living in Paris, and formed a circle mainly consisting of fellow Americans in Paris.

Although both writers were associated with (slightly different) forms of literary modernism, their social circles were somewhat different.

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While the two writers were contemporaries of each other, Virginia Woolf was never part of Gertrude Stein's artist group in Paris. The two, however, did meet each other when Stein visited Cambridge and Oxford as a lecturer. However, they did not take to each other and where not friends.

In 1926, Edith Sitwell succeeded in bringing Stein to Britain. Sitwell was also a poet and critic, though she wouldn't gain prominence until after World War II. She and her husband hosted Stein, and it was at their home that Steing met Leonard and Virginia Woolf.

Woolf did not like Stein, finding her haughty and too ambitious. She wrote an anti-Semitic letter to her friend about the meeting:

“It was in honour of Miss Gertrude Stein who was throned on a broken settee (all Edith’s furniture is derelict). . . .[S]he contradicts all you say; insists that she is not only the most intelligible, but also the most popular of living writers; and in particular despises all of English birth. Leonard, being a Jew himself, got on very well with her. But it was an anxious, exacerbating affair.” *

They did not meet again. Woolf took her life in 194, and Stein passed away from stomach cancer in 1946.

* Leick K. (2010) Virginia Woolf and Gertrude Stein: Commerce, Bestsellers, and the Jew. In: Dubino J. (eds) Virginia Woolf and the Literary Marketplace. Palgrave Macmillan, New York