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Letters on the Death of Virginia Woolf

Edited by Sybil Oldfield


On March 28, 1941, at the height of Hitler's victories during the Second World War, Virginia Woolf filled her pockets with stones and drowned herself in the River Ouse near her home in Sussex. Since that time, Woolf's suicide has been the subject of controversy for the media, for literary scholars and for her biographers. At the time of her death, some voices in the press attacked her for showing cowardice in the face of the enemy and for setting a bad example to the general population.

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About the Author

Sybil Oldfield is Research Reader in English at the University of Sussex. She is the author of Spinsters of This Parish: The Life and Times of Mary Sheepshanks and F. M. Mayor (Virago Original, 1984), Women Against the Iron Fist - Alternatives to Militarism 1900-1989 (Blackwell, 1991) and British Women Humanitarians, 1900-1950 (Continuum, 2001).


With this volume Sybil Oldfield has given us an incredibly rich and invaluable resource ... The extent of the research has been vast and the potted biographical notes on the correspondents, as well as their letters, will be appreciated and used by scholars for years to come. … These letters are a moving and poignant emotional snapshot of a most significant moment in English literary history.
Written in the darkest days of World War II, these moving letters eloquently testify to the surprising breadth of Virginia Woolf's literary and personal appeal. As a whole, the correspondence is a unique contribution to British cultural history.
- Mark Hussey, General Editor, Harcourt Annotated Works of Virginia Woolf
What a compelling story! Sybil Oldfield’s deft editing and delightfully informative notes allow the reader to watch the drama of Virginia Woolf’s death play out without the least bit of ghoulishness. It is actually liberating to find that she was mourned so deeply as a passionate friend and a major public intellectual both by her friends and by masses of common readers, political comrades of the Labour Party left, pacifists and feminists. Virginia Woolf would have made a novel out of these condolence letters. Sybil Oldfield has made a fast-paced and gripping drama.
- Jane Marcus, author of Hearts of Darkness
A most unusual book which gives an unusually intimate insight into the attitudes of the period.
Offering unusual and privileged perspectives, this volume expands our sense of [Woolf's] life.
...the letters are remarkably moving...Oldfield has researched the authors and provides fascinating background detail, and this brings emotional relief between letters.
- Virginia Woolf Miscellany