A Passionate Apprentice

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Mitchell Leaska’s edition of Virginia Woolf’s early journals belongs to the growing body of information regarding Virginia Stephen Woolf, her works, and the Bloomsbury Circle. A PASSIONATE APPRENTICE consists of seven notebooks covering the period extending from 1897, when Woolf was fifteen, to 1909, when she was twenty-seven.

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The editor Mitchell Leaska retains the careful editing procedures established by Anne Oliver Bell in her editions of the later journals, but his interpretive commentary merits critical scrutiny. The abnormalities hinted at in the introduction are not reflected in the journals themselves. They depict the development of a precocious and engaging Victorian girl into a woman whose extraordinary intelligence and commitment to writing made her a great novelist.

The early entries in Woolf’s journals constitute little more than a diary of her daily events. The Stephen family visited relatives, went on trips to the Zoo, attended lectures at the Polytechnic Institute, enjoyed the theater, and spent summers at rented houses in the country. They enjoyed the affluent existence of a prosperous and cultivated family in the late nineteenth century.

References to people and book titles in the entries are carefully annotated, and an index to the principal figures allows the reader to study biographical connections. Unfortunately, there is no subject index to facilitate research of readers who may want to explore Woolf’s development as a feminist or pacificist. Likewise, anyone who wants to trace the impact of Woolf’s early reading on her intellectual development will have to retrieve that information from entries in the journal.

Sources for Further Study

Booklist. LXXXVII, December 15, 1990, p. 798.

Chicago Tribune. February 17, 1991, XIV, p. 6.

Choice. XXVIII, July, 1991, p. 1784.

The Economist. CCCXVIII, January 19, 1991, p. 80.

Kirkus Reviews. LVIII, December 15, 1990, p. 1731.

London Review of Books. XIII, April 25, 1991, p. 17.

New Statesman and Society. III, October 26, 1990, p. 34.

The New York Times Book Review. XCVI, February 17, 1991, p. 5.

Publishers Weekly. CCXXXVII, December 14, 1990, p. 57.

The Times Literary Supplement. December 14, 1990, p. 1346.

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