This bust of Virginia Woolf stands in the garden at Monk's House where her ashes were scattered.

On this day in 1941, Virginia Woolf took her life. She took a short walk from her home, Monk’s House at Rodmell in Sussex, to commit suicide.

She walked into the River Ouse, after filling her coat pockets with stones.

More than perhaps any other literary figure I can think of, Virginia Woolf has a profound effect on me. And it’s hard to say why exactly. Other than to say vaguely she is a writer who inspires.

Reading her novels, short stories, letters and diaries as well as her nonfiction, essays and articles, provide a constant source of inspiration, fascination and delight. Some of the biographies and literary criticism that I have read about her also offer similar experiences.

Beware, however, as her life has generated an industry of activity, some of which is quite middling in quality.

I do not profess to be an expert. And nor do I strive to be one. Nevertheless, Virginia’s writing, whatever form it takes, stands apart from almost all others. With one or two notable exceptions, this point is repeatedly made to me whenever I read anyone else other than her.

I read her mostly at night, particularly when I cannot sleep. Virginia has become my companion in the hours between — dare I say? — night and day. I pick at random one of her books off the shelf, lay on the sofa, open it up at any page and begin to read. I am never disappointed.

This is why it is important for me to remember her on this day.

 

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