Before Leonard: The Early Suitors of Virginia Woolf
by Sarah M Hall
A fascinating biographical study of the "suitors" who wooed Virginia Woolf or became her intimate friends while she was still Virginia Stephen"I wish ... Show synopsis A fascinating biographical study of the "suitors" who wooed Virginia Woolf or became her intimate friends while she was still Virginia Stephen"I wish everyone didn't tell me to marry," was Virginia Stephen's exasperated protest at the end of 1906. She wanted freedom and time to practise her craft as a writer, but since the engagement of her elder sister Vanessa a few weeks earlier, she had been bombarded with questions and unsolicited advice about her own unmarried state. This well-intentioned matchmaking would continue for another five years until her marriage to Leonard Woolf in 1912. Beautiful, witty, and independent, Virginia did not want for admirers. The intervening period was crammed with romances and close friendships with men, varying in nature and depth. There were prolonged but ill-judged flirtations with the classical scholar Walter Headlam and her sister's husband Clive Bell, and loving friendships with the groundbreaking biographer Lytton Strachey and the enigmatic Saxon Sydney-Turner. There was straightforward courtship too, by the future cabinet minister Hilton Young, by Henry Lamb's less Byronic brother Walter, and by the married diplomat Sydney Waterlow. And a romance that never was, with the widely-adored poet Rupert Brooke. Traces of all the suitors would eventually appear in Woolf's work. Most of these relationships have been relatively neglected by biographers, although the years in which they occurred--before Leonard and before the novels--were Woolf's formative years as a writer and as a woman. Using original research from letters, unpublished writings, interviews, and personal reminiscences, Sarah M. Hall uncovers the backgrounds, characters, and achievements of the suitors--all notable figures in their own right--and explores their importance to Virginia Woolf and to her books.