VIRGINIA Woolf expert and University of Brighton's college of arts and humanities academic Dr Theodore Koulouris.

Virginia Woolf lived long periods of her life in Sussex.

She and her husband Leonard Woolf occupied two houses in Sussex: first, Asheham House near Beggingham, which was Woolf’s favourite and which sadly no longer exists, and then Monk’s House, in Rodmell, which they bought in July 1919 at an auction held in the White Hart Hotel in Lewes.

Woolf used to visit, and later drive to, Brighton often.

She once wrote that it was ‘the most beautiful town in the world’ and that she loved wandering through its ‘back streets full of [the] most improper little shops, and past the great bow windows, where the old ladies and their pets were sunning themselves’.

In fact, her activities in Brighton would not ring untrue to the ears of contemporary visitors; in a letter to Sydney Waterlow, she writes: ‘[w]e had a wonderful day at Brighton, hot, noisy, band, pier, ices, buns, prostitutes … old gentlemen, home over the downs, sunset etc’.

That said, and although Brighton was always an escape from ‘monotony’, she didn’t always associate it with ‘good taste’; and if we are to believe her letters, she did not like Hove at all.

Woolf loved to walk; she would routinely ramble through the Sussex countryside to Charleston Manor, her sister Vanessa Bell’s home, which would take anything between two and four hours, even if we factor in that Woolf knew all the short-cuts.

It is important to note that Sussex enabled Woolf to be what she wanted to be: a female novelist in pursuit of a literary form that would capture the ordinary, the quotidian – in her own words, that which cannot be written in ‘a language known to men’.

Indeed, in Sussex she could be where she wanted to be, that is to say, in the middle of things.

To the time-honoured adage of the old Bloomsbury, ‘what exactly do you mean by that’, Woolf’s fiction remains reassuringly puzzling and Sussex had a lot to do with that.

In Rodmell, she was both the famous writer to the villagers and the ‘country-woman’ to her London visitors; she was both one of the London invaders and the ‘snooty local’ who objected to the sale of the land behind her garden to Australian developers; she was both Mrs Woolf, the respectable local employer, and, in the eyes of the local conservatives, the pacifist, the socialist upstart, whose husband had taken to organising Labour Party meetings in 1938.

Woolf also wrote specifically about Sussex.

In one of her lesser known essays, ‘Evening over Sussex – Reflections in a Motor Car’ (1927), she writes ‘Evening is kind to Sussex, for Sussex is no longer young, and she is grateful for the veil of evening as an elderly woman is glad when a shade is drawn over a lamp, and only the outline of her face remains’.

Then she goes on to describe how the lines of Sussex are still there, and how they have remained unchanged ‘since William (sic) came over from France’, and how ‘the freckle of red villas on the coast is washed over by a thin lucid lake of brown air, in which they and their redness are drowned’ – ‘It was still too early for lamps; and too early for stars.’

To my mind, Woolf’s Sussex stands for textual mourning; for elegy.

The work she produced in her writing-lodge, in the garden of Monk’s House, is at pains to monumentalise unrecorded human experience, the ‘moments of non-being’, as she famously notes in the autobiographical piece ‘A Sketch of the Past’ (written in Sussex in 1939).

2016 marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of Woolf’s suicide; fearing that she would not recover from yet another bout of depression, she flung herself in the river Ouse on 28 March 1941.

Woolf is, most assuredly, a writer of life; ‘I meant to write about death’, she writes in her diary in 1922, ‘but life came breaking in as usual’.

Mourning for her is not something external to life, but an indivisible part of it.

In so far as it is the nature of writing to outlive its author, the very experience of engaging with it involves an exercise in mourning.

But, as she writes in the closing sentence of The Waves (1931), the author ought to be fearless: ‘I strike spurs into my horse.

Against you I will fling myself, unvanquished and unyielding, O Death’.