Study Guide

Virginia Woolf Suicide

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Darkness settled over Virginia Woolf's life in her final years. The increasing threat of a Second World War unnerved her. The Woolfs, like most of their friends, were pacifists, and Three Guineas was as much an antiwar tract as a feminist one. When Great Britain finally declared war on Germany in 1939, Virginia and Leonard Woolf made plans to kill themselves if the Germans successfully invaded England, fearing how the Nazis would treat a Jewish intellectual and his wife. To escape the German bombs dropping on London, the couple moved out to Monk's House, the country home in the village of Rodmell that they had maintained since 1919. It was a wise choice—the Blitz destroyed their London home and Hogarth's offices.

Woolf began work on what turned out to be a final novel. Writing novels was always mentally taxing for her, and the combined stress of her writing and the war began to overtake her. She fell into a very deep depression. Virginia Woolf was certain that she was not going to win this battle. On 28 March 1941, she put on her overcoat, left the house, filled the pockets with heavy stones and walked into the Ouse River to drown. Her body was found three weeks later. "I feel we can't go through another of those terrible times. And I shant recover this time. … So I am doing what seems the best thing to do," she wrote in the suicide note Leonard Woolf found later in their home. "If anybody could have saved me it would have been you. Everything has gone from me but the certainty of your goodness. I can't go on spoiling your life any longer. I dont think two people could have been happier than we have been. V."

Virginia Woolf's final novel, Between the Acts, was published posthumously in 1941. In the years since her death, scholars have pored over every aspect of her personal life and career, fascinated by the Bloomsbury Group and the unique woman who was its most famous member. Virginia Woolf's goal was not to be famous, or wealthy, or even a great writer. Her goal was only to be herself. And on that, her fans and critics can surely agree, she succeeded.

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