© The Society of Authors as the Literary Representative of the Estate of Virginia Woolf. You may not use the material for commercial purposes. Please credit the copyright holder when reusing this work.
In 1929 Virginia Woolf published A Room of One’s Own, a feminist treatise that urges readers to establish a new tradition of women’s writing and history-making. Women, Woolf argues, are notably absent from fiction – as authors – and from history – as subjects. Addressing the limitations faced by women past and present, Woolf argues that the act of writing is intricately connected to our position and mobility within society.
In this letter from Woolf to the poet Frances Cornford, who had previously written to praise the essay, Woolf modestly describes A Room of One’s Own as ‘That little book’. Although evidently pleased to receive Cornford’s compliments, Woolf continues ‘[it was] rather a jump in the dark full of guesses + dashes + everything had to be boiled to a jelly in the hope that the young women would swallow it’. These comments, although self-effacing, also serve to highlight the new, radical nature of Woolf’s thinking. It was not until 1928, for instance – the year that Woolf drafted A Room of One’s Own – that all British women over the age of 21 finally received the vote.
Written on 29 December 1929, Woolf comments upon the ‘chaos of London’ at Christmas time. Wanting to correct Cornford’s ‘poetic impressions’ of her, Woolf conjures a self-deprecating yet humorous description of herself as ‘a harassed middle class middle aged (47 to your 43) woman’ in the midst of Hamley’s toy shop, shopping for her niece and nephews.