I was walking through Kensington via Google Streetview, doing some research for a story, when I came across the house where Virginia Woolf was born. It was exactly what you’d expect the London home of a rich 19th Century family to be like.
I read some of her books back when I was about seventeen, and I really liked them, which isn’t that strange. I liked lots of things that I read when I was seventeen, in the way that a man in the desert dying of thirst would like just about any beverage you served him with.
She was such an awful snob, but that doesn’t spoil her writing.* I didn’t have to be like her or sympathise with her affluent, pampered background to enjoy her writing, because that’s the thing about reading, it takes you places you wouldn’t otherwise visit and you meet people that you would never meet if you didn’t turn the page.
If nothing else, Orlando. For that alone she is worth reading, and I learned so much of an England I would never otherwise know, reading that novel. An England that perhaps never really existed, except in the imagination of Virginia Woolf, but was real because she made it so.
*Without getting all class-warrior, it does make me wonder how many poor women didn’t get published, because they were too busy washing and ironing the clothes and scrubbing the floors of rich women like Woolf, and how many poor men had to do fourteen-hour shifts in factories and coalmines, who would have otherwise done quite well if they’d been given the chance to write. Woolf had the good fortune to be married to a man who purchased a publishing company.
But still, Orlando.