The Heroine’s Journey Update: Virginia Woolf on to conquer a phantom hoovering over her

“And the phantom was a woman, and when I came to know her better I called her after the heroine of a famous poem. The Angel in the House………. It was she who boterhed me and wasted my time and so tormented me that at last I killed her. You who come of a younger and happier generation may not have heard of her …… She was intensely sympathetic. She was immensely charming. She was utterly unselfish. She excelled in the difficult arts of family life. She was sacrified herself daily. If there was chicken, she took the leg; if there was a draught she sat in – in short she was so constituted that she never had a mind or a wish of her own, but preferred to sympathise always with the minds and wishes of others. Above all – I need not say it – she was pure. Her purity was supposed to be her chief beauty – her blushes, her great grace… And when I came to write I encountered her with the very first words. The shadow of her wings fell on my page; I heard the rustling of her skirts in the room ” – Virginia Woolf

Having killed the Angel in the House, what was the woman writer to do? She need only be herself?

“Ah, but what is herself? I mean, what is a woman? I assure you, I do not know ….. I do not believe that anybody has known until she has expressed herself in all the arts and professions open to human skill” – Virginia Woolf

Despite the world’s inhibitions, Virginia Woolf found in herself the resource for her creations. Her birth, her father’s library, her female loves and the circle of leading male intellectuals all helped.

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