Having just re-read Virginia Woolf’s Orlando after a third-of-a-century hiatus, I revelled in the liveliness and playfulness of both the author’s voice and that of the eponymous subject of this fictive biography. The introduction highlights the extent to which Woolf set out to have fun with the genre of biography and to use it as a repository for imaginative snippets that were bubbling over in her mind. It is another side of Woolf, one that doesn’t readily spring to mind, particularly in light of her bouts of mental illness and her suicide.
‘I want to kick up my heels & be off. I want to embody all those innumerable little ideas & tiny stories which flash into my mind at all seasons.’
Source: The Diary of Virginia Woolf, ed. Anne Olivier Bell and Andrew McNeillie (London: Hogarth Press, 1977-84), iii, 131, quoted in Virginia Woolf, Orlando: A Biography, ed. with an introduction by Rachel Bowlby (Oxford: World’s Classics, 1992), p. xiv
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