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The Wise Virgins: A Story of Words, Opinions, and a Few Emotionsby Leonard Woolf
Synopses & Reviews
The Wise Virgins (1914), Leonard Woolfand#8217;s second novel, was published two years after the authorand#8217;s marriage to Virginia Stephenand#151;and begun during their honeymoon. The autobiographical elements of the book are well documented. Its publication caused acute distress to Woolfand#8217;s family. Leonardand#8217;s sister, Bella, urged him to bury the novel, while his mother was shocked and mortified by unflattering portraits of herself and her neighbors. Two weeks after reading the novel, Virginia Woolf suffered the worst of her many breakdowns.
As a roman and#224; clef the novel holds considerable interest for its picture of Leonard and Virginiaand#8217;s courtship, as well as its sketches of Vanessa Stephen and Clive Bell. (Virginia would later retell the story, from a much different perspective, in Night and Day.) But the novel offers the contemporary reader other rewards. It remains a witty, engaging satire about English society just before World War I and its conventions and prejudices. In Harry Davis, Woolf created a memorable Jewish antihero who rails against societyand#8217;s conventions but tragically finds himself unable to escape them. Award-winning biographer Victoria Glendinning contributes a foreword to this new paperback edition.
About the Author
Leonard Woolf (1880-1969) was a noted political historian, autobiographer, novelist, civil servant, and member of the Bloomsbury Group. In 1912 he married Virginia Stephen, and together the couple founded the Hogarth Press. Among his most important writings are After the Deluge (1931-51), a multivolume modern political and social history, and his five-volume autobiography (1960-69), which begins with Sowing. Victoria Glendinning is the award-winning author of Anthony Trollope and Vita: The Life of Vita Sackville-West, both of which won the Whitbread biography award, as well as Elizabeth Bowen, Edith Sitwell, Rebecca West, Jonathan Swift, and, most recently, Leonard Woolf: A Biography.
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