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Woolf's daily diary bought by Sussex university
Fiona Courage from University of Sussex, left, and Sybil Oldfield, Emeritus Reader in English and Womens History take a closer look at some of Virginia Woolf's diaries
Diaries detailing the final years of Virginia Woolf’s life are to be made public for the first time.
The writer’s personal diaries have been bought by the University of Sussex and list important meetings between the tortured writer and other leading literary figures.
The final entry in the diaries – which list her appointments from 1930 to 1941 – is the single word “died” written in pencil by her husband Leonard Woolf.
On March 28, 1941, Woolf filled the pockets of her coat with stones and walked into the River Ouse near their home Monks House, in Rodmell, near Lewes, to drown herself.
Woolf famously suffered a number of mental breakdowns. The diaries include numerous entries crossed out accompanied by the word “bed” indicating periods of fragile health.
The pages of the diaries are liberally scattered with the names of her illustrious Bloomsbury circle: her sister Vanessa Bell “Nessa” and her husband Clive, T.S. Eliot (Tom), E.M. Forster (Morgan), Vita Sackville-West, John Maynard Keynes, Roger Fry, Lytton Strachey, Ottoline Morrell (Ott), Duncan Grant, William Plomer, Robert Graves, Christopher Isherwood, Elizabeth Bowen and a number of others.
The university bought the diaries at an auction at Sotheby’s for £60,000, to accompany their existing Monks House paper collection of correspondence.
The university’s special collections manager, Fiona Courage, said: “The activities recorded in these engagement diaries may not have found their way into her more detailed daily diaries, but are significant in terms of her daily life, her social circle and her physical and mental state.
“The diaries also complement a set of appointment diaries belonging to Leonard Woolf, and held within his papers at the university.
“By acquiring them we can now make them accessible to scholars, enthusiasts and the general public.”
Sybil Oldfield, emeritus reader in English and Women’s History at the University of Sussex, said: “It’s wonderful to see the entries in these engagement diaries, and then to be able to cross-reference them with her letters and details in her journals to see what happened and who said what.
“You can see that there were periods of her life when she was very sociable.
“She was curious to meet and talk to people, to hear what they had to say.
“And then there are long stretches without any engagements.
“This was when she would have been ill.”
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