The Diary of Virginia Woolf : 1920-1924

This second volume of The Diary of Virginia Woolf covers five years, from the beginning of 1920 to the end of 1924, a crucial period in her development as an imaginative writer. Night and Day, the conventional novel which marks the end of her apprenticeship, had been published towards the end of 1919; earlier in the same year, however, in Kew Gardens she had already shown the method—that ‘grazing nearer to my individuality’—which she was to use during the years recorded here.

Her new approach to fiction was extended in Jacob’s Room, published in 1922, and further developed in Mrs Dalloway which she had finished by the end of 1924. A factor in Virginia Woolf’s ability and determination to follow her own path was undoubtedly the Hogarth Press.

That which in 1917 had begun as a hobby was now growing fast and becoming a serious business which, though it demanded (and received) a good deal of her attention, also gave Virginia the singular advantage of being able to publish as she wished, without the intervention of alien publishers or their Reader’s opinions.

Kew Gardens and her collection Monday or Tuesday were among the first dozen of small books issued under the imprint of Leonard and Virginia Woolf at the Hogarth Press, Paradise Road, Richmond; Jacob’s Room was the first full-length novel they were to publish.

The editor of such a personal diary has of course to consider whether or not to omit passages which diminish or dishonour the writer, or which might wound or give offence to the reader.

The decision having, rightly or wrongly, been taken that Virginia Woolf’s diary merits publication in exienso, I do not think it is my function to attempt to beautify her self-portrait by cutting away ugly bits here and there. I should be very sorry to wound or offend anybody, and would, and will, make omissions should I think them essential (there are none in this volume).

But this is intended to be a complete and definitive publication of the diary of a rare and remarkable woman, and I incline to follow the advice of one to whom it might well have given pain: ‘It is Virginia’s truth, not absolute truth, we hope to read; do not tamper with it.’

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