Quotes by Virginia Woolf

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Virginia Woolf was an English novelist and essayist regarded as one of the foremost modernist literary figures of the twentieth century. Her most famous works include the novels Mrs Dalloway (1925), To the Lighthouse (1927), and ... more

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The man who is aware of himself is henceforward independent; and he is never bored, and life is only too short, and he is steeped through and through with a profound yet temperate happiness.

Why are women so much more interesting to men than men are to women?
Things have dropped from me. I have outlived certain desires; I have lost friends, some by death... others through sheer inability to cross the street.
On the outskirts of every agony sits some observant fellow who points.
I thought how unpleasant it is to be locked out; and I thought how it is worse, perhaps, to be locked in.
The history of men's opposition to women's emancipation is more interesting perhaps than the story of that emancipation itself.
Once conform, once do what other people do because they do it, and a lethargy steals over all the finer nerves and faculties of the soul. She becomes all outer show and inward emptiness; dull, callous, and indifferent.
As a woman I have no country. As a woman my country is the whole world.
The truth is, I often like women. I like their unconventionality. I like their completeness. I like their anonymity.
Humor is the first gift to perish in a foreign language.
For love... has two faces; one white, the other black; two bodies; one smooth, the other hairy. It has two hands, two feet, two tails, two, indeed, of every member and each one is the exact opposite of the other. Yet, so strictly are they joined together
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.
The eyes of others our prisons; their thoughts our cages.
I am to be broken. I am to be derided all my life. I am to be cast up and down among these men and women, with their twitching faces, with their lying tongues, like a cork on a rough sea. Like a ribbon of weed I am flung far every time the door opens.
One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.
When the shriveled skin of the ordinary is stuffed out with meaning, it satisfies the senses amazingly.
These are the soul's changes. I don't believe in aging. I believe in forever altering one's aspect to the sun. Hence my optimism.
Young women... you are, in my opinion, disgracefully ignorant. You have never made a discovery of any sort of importance. You have never shaken an empire or led an army into battle. The plays by Shakespeare are not by you, and you have never introduced a barbarous race to the blessings of civilization. What is your excuse?
Mental fight means thinking against the current, not with it. It is our business to puncture gas bags and discover the seeds of truth.
Arrange Whatever pieces come your way.
One has to secrete a jelly in which to slip quotations down people's throats --and one always secretes too much jelly.
To enjoy freedom we have to control ourselves.
It's not catastrophes, murders, deaths, diseases, that age and kill us; it's the way people look and laugh, and run up the steps of omnibuses.
Inevitably we look upon society, so kind to you, so harsh to us, as an ill-fitting form that distorts the truth; deforms the mind; fetters the will.
Sleep, that deplorable curtailment of the joy of life.
Rigid, the skeleton of habit alone upholds the human frame.
Some people go to priests; others to poetry; I to my friends.
When a subject is highly controversial... one cannot hope to tell the truth. One can only show how one came to hold whatever opinion one does hold. One can only give one's audience the chance of drawing their own conclusions as they observe the limitations, the prejudices, the idiosyncrasies of the speaker.
Life for both sexes is arduous, difficult, a perpetual struggle. More than anything... it calls for confidence in oneself...And how can we generate this imponderable quality most quickly? By thinking that other people are inferior to oneself.
Those comfortably padded lunatic asylums which are known, euphemistically, as the stately homes of England.
One of the signs of passing youth is the birth of a sense of fellowship with other human beings as we take our place among them.
If you insist upon fighting to protect me, or our country, let it be understood soberly and rationally between us that you are fighting to gratify a sex instinct which I cannot share; to procure benefits which I have not shared and probably will not share.
A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.
Every secret of a writer's soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind is written large in his works.
The connection between dress and war is not far to seek; your finest clothes are those you wear as soldiers.
We all indulge in the strange, pleasant process called thinking, but when it comes to saying, even to someone opposite, what we think, then how little we are able to convey! The phantom is through the mind and out of the window before we can lay salt on
The interest in life does not lie in what people do, nor even in their relations to each other, but largely in the power to communicate with a third party, antagonistic, enigmatic, yet perhaps persuadable, which one may call life in general.
Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end.
A good essay must have this permanent quality about it; it must draw its curtain round us, but it must be a curtain that shuts us in not out.
Henry James seems most entirely in his element, doing that is to say what everything favors his doing, when it is a question of recollection. The mellow light which swims over the past, the beauty which suffuses even the commonest little figures of that
My own brain is to me the most unaccountable of machinery --always buzzing, humming, soaring roaring diving, and then buried in mud. And why? What's this passion for?
Where the Mind is biggest, the Heart, the Senses, Magnanimity, Charity, Tolerance, Kindliness, and the rest of them scarcely have room to breathe.
We can best help you to prevent war not by repeating your words and following your methods but by finding new words and creating new methods.
Each had his past shut in him like the leaves of a book known to him by heart; and his friends could only read the title, James Spalding, or Charles Budgeon, and the passengers going the opposite way could read nothing at all -- save a man with a red moustache, a young man in gray smoking a pipe.
Boredom is the legitimate kingdom of the philanthropic.
The poet gives us his essence, but prose takes the mold of the body and mind.
Most of a modest woman's life was spent, after all, in denying what, in one day at least of every year, was made obvious.
To depend upon a profession is a less odious form of slavery than to depend upon a father.
The current flows fast and furious. It issues in a spate of words from the loudspeakers and the politicians. Every day they tell us that we are a free people fighting to defend freedom. That is the current that has whirled the young airman up into the sky and keeps him circulating there among the clouds. Down here, with a roof to cover us and a gas mask handy, it is our business to puncture gas bags and discover the seeds of truth.
For such will be our ruin if you, in the immensity of your public abstractions, forget the private figure, or if we in the intensity of our private emotions forget the public world. Both houses will be ruined, the public and the private, the material and the spiritual, for they are inseparably connected.
Publicity in women is detestable. Anonymity runs in their blood. The desire to be veiled still possesses them. They are not even now as concerned about the health of their fame as men are, and, speaking generally, will pass a tombstone or a signpost without feeling an irresistible desire to cut their names on it.
What is meant by reality? It would seem to be something very erratic, very undependable -- now to be found in a dusty road, now in a scrap of newspaper in the street, now a daffodil in the sun. It lights up a group in a room and stamps some casual saying
Without self-confidence we are as babes in the cradles. And how can we generate this imponderable quality, which is yet so invaluable most quickly? By thinking that other people are inferior to oneself.
It is curious how instinctively one protects the image of oneself from idolatry or any other handling that could make it ridiculous, or too unlike the original to be believed any longer.
This soul, or life within us, by no means agrees with the life outside us. If one has the courage to ask her what she thinks, she is always saying the very opposite to what other people say.
The first duty of a lecturer is to hand you after an hour's discourse a nugget of pure truth to wrap up between the pages of your notebooks and keep on the mantelpiece forever.
Methinks the human method of expression by sound of tongue is very elementary, and ought to be substituted for some ingenious invention which should be able to give vent to at least six coherent sentences at once.
But when the self speaks to the self, who is speaking? The entombed soul, the spirit driven in, in, in to the central catacomb; the self that took the veil and left the world -- a coward perhaps, yet somehow beautiful, as it flits with its lantern restlessly up and down the dark corridors.
If one could be friendly with women, what a pleasure -- the relationship so secret and private compared with relations with men. Why not write about it truthfully?
There can be no two opinions as to what a highbrow is. He is the man or woman of thoroughbred intelligence who rides his mind at a gallop across country in pursuit of an idea.
Yet it is in our idleness, in our dreams, that the submerged truth sometimes comes to the top.
Really I don't like human nature unless all candied over with art.
Masterpieces are not single and solitary births; they are the outcome of many years of thinking in common, of thinking by the body of the people, so that the experience of the mass is behind the single voice.
Different though the sexes are, they inter-mix. In every human being a vacillation from one sex to the other takes place, and often it is only the clothes that keep the male or female likeness, while underneath the sex is very opposite of what it is above.
It would be a thousand pities if women wrote like men, or lived like men, or looked like men, for if two sexes are quite inadequate, considering the vastness and variety of the world, how should we manage with one only? Ought not education to bring out and fortify the differences rather than the similarities? For we have too much likeness as it is, and if an explorer should come back and bring word of other sexes looking through the branches of other trees at other skies, nothing would be of greater service to humanity; and we should have the immense pleasure into the bargain of watching Professor X rush for his measuring-rods to prove himself superior.
Novels so often provide an anodyne and not an antidote, glide one into torpid slumbers instead of rousing one with a burning brand.
Fiction is like a spider's web, attached ever so lightly perhaps, but still attached to life at all four corners. Often the attachment is scarcely perceptible.
Tom's great yellow bronze mask all draped upon an iron framework. An inhibited, nerve-drawn; dropped face -- as if hung on a scaffold of heavy private brooding; and thought.
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.
There is much to support the view that it is clothes that wear us, and not we, them; we may make them take the mould of arm or breast, but they mould our hearts, our brains, our tongues to their liking.
For what Harley Street specialist has time to understand the body, let alone the mind or both in combination, when he is a slave to thirteen thousand a year?
Against you I will fling myself, unvanquished and unyielding, O Death!
Great bodies of people are never responsible for what they do.
It is the nature of the artist to mind excessively what is said about him. Literature is strewn with the wreckage of men who have minded beyond reason the opinions of others.
Some collaboration has to take place in the mind between the woman and the man before the art of creation can be accomplished. Some marriage of opposites has to be consummated. The whole of the mind must lie wide open if we are to get the sense that the
If we help an educated man's daughter to go to Cambridge are we not forcing her to think not about education but about war? -- not how she can learn, but how she can fight in order that she might win the same advantages as her brothers?
A strange thing has happened -- while all the other arts were born naked, this, the youngest, has been born fully-clothed. It can say everything before it has anything to say. It is as if the savage tribe, instead of finding two bars of iron to play with, had found scattering the seashore fiddles, flutes, saxophones, trumpets, grand pianos by Erhard and Bechstein, and had begun with incredible energy, but without knowing a note of music, to hammer and thump upon them all at the same time.
That great Cathedral space which was childhood.
Somewhere, everywhere, now hidden, now apparent in what ever is written down, is the form of a human being. If we seek to know him, are we idly occupied?
Almost any biographer, if he respects facts, can give us much more than another fact to add to our collection. He can give us the creative fact; the fertile fact; the fact that suggests and engenders.
What I like, or one of the things I like, about motoring is the sense it gives one of lighting accidentally, like a voyager who touches another planet with the tip of his toe, upon scenes which would have gone on, have always gone on, will go on, unrecorded, save for this chance glimpse. Then it seems to me I am allowed to see the heart of the world uncovered for a moment.
Thus when I come to shape here at this table between my hands the story of my life and set it before you as a complete thing, I have to recall things gone far, gone deep, sunk into this life or that and become part of it; dreams, too, things surrounding me, and the inmates, those old half-articulate ghosts who keep up their hauntings by day and night... shadows of people one might have been; unborn selves.
At 46 one must be a miser; only have time for essentials.
Now, aged 50, I'm just poised to shoot forth quite free straight and undeflected my bolts whatever they are.
The older one grows, the more one likes indecency.
One likes people much better when they're battered down by a prodigious siege of misfortune than when they triumph.
If we didn't live adventurously, plucking the wild goat by the beard, and trembling over precipices, we should never be depressed, I've no doubt; but already should be faded, fatalistic and aged.
It is no use trying to sum people up. One must follow hints, not exactly what is said, nor yet entirely what is done.
Literature is strewn with the wreckage of men who have minded beyond reason the opinions of others.
The beauty of the world which is so soon to perish, has two edges, one of laughter, one of anguish, cutting the heart asunder.
The history of men's opposition to women's emancipation is more interesting perhaps than the story of that emancipation itself.
On the outskirts of every agony sits some observant fellow who points
To enjoy freedom we have to control ourselves.
As a woman I have no country. As a woman my country is the whole world
Some people go to priests; others to poetry; I to my friends.
Literature is strewn with the wreckage of men who have minded beyond reason the opinions of others.
My own brain is to me the most unaccountable of machinery - always buzzing, humming, soaring roaring diving, and then buried in mud. And why? What's this passion for?
One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.
Odd how the creative power at once brings the whole universe to order.
When she looked in the glass and saw her hair grey, her cheek sunk, at fifty, she thought, possibly she might have managed things better--her husband; money; his books. But for her own part she would never for a single second regret her decision, evade difficulties, or slur over duties.
She had the oddest sense of being herself invisible; unseen; unknown; there being no more marrying, no more having of children now, but only this astonishing and rather solemn progress with the rest of them, up Bond Street, this being Mrs. Dalloway; not even Clarissa any more; this being Mrs. Richard Dalloway.
The whole edifice of female government is based on that foundation stone; chastity is their jewel, their centre piece, which they run mad to protect, and die when ravished of.
Why, she asked, pressing her chin on James's head, should they grow up so fast? Why should they go to school? She would have liked always to have had a baby.
The word-coining genius, as if thought plunged into a sea of words and came up dripping.
I was in a queer mood, thinking myself very old: but now I am a woman again -- as I always am when I write.
We are nauseated by the sight of trivial personalities decomposing in the eternity of print.
Every time she gave a party she had this feeling of being something not herself, and that every one was unreal in one way; much more real in another. It was, she thought, partly their clothes, partly being taken out of their ordinary ways, partly the background, it was possible to say things you couldn't say anyhow else, things that needed an effort; possible to go much deeper.