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The Art of Literary Biography$
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John Batchelor

Print publication date: 1995

Print ISBN-13: 9780198182894

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198182894.001.0001

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Virginia Woolf and ‘The Proper Writing of Lives’

Virginia Woolf and ‘The Proper Writing of Lives’

(p.245) 16 Virginia Woolf and ‘The Proper Writing of Lives’
The Art of Literary Biography


Oxford University Press

Virginia Stephen confided that she would like to write a very subtle work on the proper writing of lives. Many years later, she would fulfil her ambition, writing subtle essays. That the young Virginia Stephen should equate the possibilities of and constraints upon writing with the writing of biography is scarcely surprising given her status as ‘daughter of the DNB’. Leslie Stephen had accepted the editorship of the DNB in 1882, the year Virginia was born. Its purpose was to keep a national record of the lives of great men. Later, both of Woolf's essays on biography, in which Lytton Strachey played a key role, analyse the nature of biography. Woolf's friends and family provided her with subjects and a strictly limited but familiar audience for her earliest experiments in biography. In terms of Woolf's own development, she had reached the point where she would abandon conventional form altogether.

Keywords:   Virginia Woolf, Virginia Stephen, biography, The Proper Writing of Lives

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