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Virginia Woolf Quotes

60 of the best book quotes from Virginia Woolf
  1. #1
    “Intellectual freedom depends on material things. Poetry depends on intellectual freedom. And women have always been poor, not for two hundred years merely, but from the beginning of time. [...] Women, then, have not had a dog’s chance of writing poetry.”
  2. #2
    “For masterpieces are not single and solitary births; they are the outcome of many years of thinking in common, of thinking by the body of the people, so that the experience of the mass is behind the single voice.”
  3. #3
    “Gate after gate seemed to close with gentle finality behind me. Innumerable beadles were fitting innumerable keys into well-oiled locks; the treasure-house was being made secure for another night.”
  4. #4
    “Only Jane Austen did it and Emily Brontë. It is another feather, perhaps the finest, in their caps. They wrote as women write, not as men write. Of all the thousand women who wrote novels then, they alone entirely ignored the perpetual admonitions of the eternal pedagogue—write this, think that. ”
  5. #5
    “Fiction here is likely to contain more truth than fact. Therefore I propose, making use of all the liberties and licenses of a novelist, to tell you the story of the two days that preceded my coming here.”
  6. #6
    “It would be a thousand pities if women wrote like men, or lived like men, or looked like men, for if two sexes are quite inadequate, considering the vastness and variety of the world, how should we manage with one only?”
  7. #7
    “Life for both sexes—and I look at them, shouldering their way along the pavement—is arduous, difficult, a perpetual struggle. It calls for gigantic courage and strength. More than anything, perhaps, creatures of illusion that we are, it calls for confidence in oneself.”
  8. #8
    “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”
  9. #9
    “At this moment, as so often happens in London, there was a complete lull and suspension of traffic [...] A single leaf detached itself from the plane tree [...] Somehow it was like a signal falling, a signal pointing to a force in things which one had overlooked. ”
  10. #10
    “The book has somehow to be adapted to the body, and at a venture one would say that women’s books should be shorter, more concentrated, than those of men, and framed so that they do not need long hours of steady and uninterrupted work. For interruptions there will always be.”
  1. #11
    ″[Woman’s] sensibility had been educated for centuries by the influences of the common sitting room. People’s feelings were impressed on her; personal relations were always before her eyes. Therefore, when the middle-class woman took to writing, she naturally wrote novels.”
  2. #12
    “Money dignifies what is frivolous if unpaid for. It might still be well to sneer at “blue stockings with an itch for scribbling,” but it could not be denied that they could put money in their purses.”
  3. #13
    “It would have been impossible, completely and entirely, for any woman to have written the plays of Shakespeare in the age of Shakespeare.”
  4. #14
    “Literature is open to everybody. I refuse to allow you, Beadle though you are, to turn me off the grass. Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.”
  5. #15
    “In my little street, however, domesticity prevailed. The house painter was descending his ladder; the nursemaid was wheeling the perambulator.”
  6. #16
    “Indeed, if woman had no existence save in the fiction written by men, one would imagine her a person of the utmost importance [...] But this is woman in fiction. In fact, as Professor Trevelyan points out, she was locked up, beaten, and flung about the room.”
  7. #17
    “So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters. [...] But to sacrifice a hair of the head of your vision, a shade of its colour, in deference to some Headmaster with a silver pot in his hand [...] is the most abject treachery.”
  8. #18
    “One must strain off what was personal and accidental in all these impressions and so reach the pure fluid, the essential oil of truth.”
  9. #19
    “If one is a woman one is often surprised by a sudden splitting off of consciousness, say in walking down Whitehall, when from being the natural inheritor of that civilisation, she becomes, on the contrary, alien and critical. ”
  10. #20
    “That building, for example, do I like it or not? Is that in my opinion a good book or a bad? Indeed my aunt’s legacy unveiled the sky to me, and substituted for the large and imposing figure of a gentleman, which Milton recommended for my perpetual adoration, a view of the open sky.”

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  1. #21
    “It was astonishing that a man of his intellect could stoop so low as he did—but that was too harsh a phrase—could depend so much as he did upon people’s praise.”
  2. #22
    “He called them privately after the Kings and Queens of England; Cam the Wicked, James the Ruthless, Andrew the Just, Prue the Fair—for Prue would have beauty, he thought, how could she help it?—and Andrew brains.”
  3. #23
    “He asked you quite openly to flatter him, to admire him, his little dodges deceived nobody. What she disliked was his narrowness, his blindness, she said, looking after him.”
  4. #24
    “Oh, but she never wanted James to grow a day older! or Cam either. These two she would have liked to keep for ever just as they were, demons of wickedness, angels of delight, never to see them grow up into long-legged monsters. Nothing made up for the loss.”
  5. #25
    “And as she looked at him she began to smile, for though she had not said a word, he knew, of course he knew, that she loved him. He could not deny it. And smiling she looked out of the window and said (thinking to herself, Nothing on earth can equal this happiness)—”
  6. #26
    “How did she differ? What was the spirit in her, the essential thing, by which, had you found a crumpled glove in the corner of a sofa, you would have known it, from its twisted finger, hers indisputably? She was like a bird for speed, an arrow for directness. She was willful; she was commanding”
  7. #27
    “Mrs. Ramsay saw, realizing his extreme anxiety about himself, would, in her own way, see that he was taken care of, and praise him, somehow or other. But she wished it was not necessary: perhaps it was her fault that it was necessary.”
  8. #28
    ″‘How could any Lord have made this world?’ she asked. With her mind she had always seized the fact that there is no reason, order, justice: but suffering, death, the poor. There was no treachery too base for the world to commit; she knew that. No happiness lasted; she knew that.”
  9. #29
    “The house was left; the house was deserted. It was left like a shell on a sandhill to fill with dry salt grains now that life had left it.”
  10. #30
    ″‘Yes, you were right. It’s going to be wet tomorrow. You won’t be able to go.’ And she looked at him smiling. For she had triumphed again. She had not said it: yet he knew.”
  1. #31
    “He was so pleased that he was not going to let anybody share a grain of his pleasure. His father had praised him. They must think that he was perfectly indifferent.”
  2. #32
    “Oh, the dead! she murmured, one pitied them, one brushed them aside, one had even a little contempt for them. They are at our mercy.”
  3. #33
    “Then having lighted his pipe he took out his watch. He looked at it attentively; he made, perhaps, some mathematical calculation. At last he said, triumphantly:
    ‘Well done!’ James had steered them like a born sailor.”
  4. #34
    “They’re happy like that; I’m happy like this. Life has changed completely. At that all her being, even her beauty, became for a moment, dusty and out of date.”
  5. #35
    “Immediately, Mrs. Ramsey seemed to fold herself together, one petal closed in another, and the whole fabric fell in exhaustion upon itself, so that she had only strength enough to move her finger, in exquisite abandonment to exhaustion”
  6. #36
    “It is so beautiful, so exciting, this love, that I tremble on the verge of it, and offer, quite out of my own habit, to look for a brooch on a beach; also it is the stupidest, the most barbaric of human passions”
  7. #37
    “One could talk of painting then seriously to a man. Indeed, his friendship had been one of the pleasures of her life. She loved William Bankes.”
  8. #38
    “How aimless it was, how chaotic, how unreal it was, she thought, looking at her empty coffee cup. Mrs. Ramsay dead; Andrew killed; Prue dead too—repeat it as she might, it roused no feeling in her.”
  9. #39
    “Yet, she said to herself, from the dawn of time odes have been sung to love; wreaths heaped and roses; and if you asked nine people out of ten they would say they wanted nothing but this—love”
  10. #40
    “For she felt that he was still looking at her, but that his look had changed. He wanted something—wanted the thing she always found it so difficult to give him; wanted her to tell him that she loved him. And that, no, she could not do. He found talking so much easier than she did. He could say things—she never could. ”

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  1. #41
    ″[F]eeling herself suddenly shriveled, aged, breastless, the grinding, blowing, flowering of the day, out of doors, out of the window, out of her body and brain which now failed...”
  2. #42
    “What a lark! What a plunge! For so it had always seemed to her, when, with a little squeak of the hinges, which she could hear now, she had burst open the French windows and plunged at Bourton into the open air.”
  3. #43
    “She was about to split asunder, she felt. The agony was so terrific. If she could grasp her, if she could clasp her, if she could make her hers absolutely and forever and then die; that was all she wanted. But to sit here, unable to think of anything to say; to see Elizabeth turning against her; to be felt repulsive even by her – it was too much; she could not stand it. The thick fingers curled inwards.”
  4. #44
    “This late age of the world’s experience had bred in them all, all men and women, a well of tears. Tears and sorrows; courage and endurance; a perfectly upright and stoical bearing.”
  5. #45
    “The War was over, except for some one like Mrs Foxcroft at the Embassy last night eating her heart out because that nice boy was killed and now the old Manor House must go to a cousin; or Lady Bexborough who opened a bazaar, they said, with the telegram in her hand, John, her favourite, killed; but it was over; thank Heaven – over.”
  6. #46
    “Clarissa had a theory in those days ... that since our apparitions, the part of us which appears, are so momentary compared with the other, the unseen part of us, which spreads wide, the unseen might survive, be recovered somehow attached to this person or that, or even haunting certain places after death ... perhaps—perhaps.”
  7. #47
    “He said people were talking behind the bedroom walls. Mrs Filmer thought it odd. He saw things too – he had seen an old woman’s head in the middle of a fern.”
  8. #48
    “Really it was a miracle thinking of the war, and thousands of poor chaps, with all their lives before them, shovelled together, already half forgotten; it was a miracle.”
  9. #49
    “How he scolded her! How they argued! She would marry a Prime Minister and stand at the top of a staircase; the perfect hostess he called her (she cried over it in her bedroom), she had the makings of the perfect hostess, he said.”
  10. #50
    “And Clarissa had cared for him more than she had ever cared for Richard. Sally was positive of that. ‘No, no, no!’ said Peter (Sally should not have said that—she went too far).”
  1. #51
    “Septimus was one of the first to volunteer. He went to France to save an England which consisted almost entirely of Shakespeare’s plays and Miss Isabel Pole in a green dress walking in a square. There in the trenches the change which Mr Brewer desired when he advised football was produced instantly; he developed manliness ...”
  2. #52
    “But she had often said to him that she had been right not to marry Peter Walsh; which, knowing Clarissa, was obviously true; she wanted support. Not that she was weak; but she wanted support.”
  3. #53
    “Oh dear, it was going to be a failure; a complete failure, Clarissa felt it in her bones as dear old Lord Lexham stood there apologizing for his wife who had caught cold at the Buckingham Palace garden party.”
  4. #54
    “She felt somehow very like him—the young man who had killed himself. She felt glad that he had done it; thrown it away. The clock was striking. The leaden circles dissolved in the air. He made her feel the beauty; made her feel the fun. But she must go back. She must assemble.”
  5. #55
    “Look! Her wedding ring slipped – she had grown so thin. It was she who suffered – but she had nobody to tell.”
  6. #56
    “The word “time” split its husk; poured its riches over him; and from his lips fell like shells, like shavings from a plane, without his making them, hard, white, imperishable words, and flew to attach themselves to their places in an ode to Time; an immortal ode to Time.”
  7. #57
    “One cannot bring children into a world like this. One cannot perpetuate suffering, or increase the breed of these lustful animals, who have no lasting emotions, but only whims and vanities, eddying them now this way, now that.”
  8. #58
    “If only she could make her weep; could ruin her; humiliate her; bring her to her knees crying, You are right! But this was God’s will, not Miss Kilman’s. It was to be a religious victory. So she glared; so she glowered.”
  9. #59
    “Men must not cut down trees. There is a God. (He noted such revelations on the backs of envelopes.) Change the world. No one kills from hatred. Make it known (he wrote it down). He waited. He listened.”
  10. #60
    “Communication is health; communication is happiness, communication –” he muttered.”
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