Synopses & Reviews
Award-winning biographer Victoria Glendinning draws on her deep knowledge of the twentieth century literary scene, and on her meticulous research into previously untapped sources, to write the first full biography of the extraordinary man who was the dark star at the center of the Bloomsbury set, and the definitive portrait of the Woolf marriage. A man of extremes, Leonard Woolf was ferocious and tender, violent and self-restrained, opinionated and nonjudgmental, always an outsider of sorts within the exceptionally intimate, fractious, and sometimes vicious society of brilliant but troubled friends and lovers.
He has been portrayed either as Virginia's saintly caretaker or as her oppressor, the substantial range and influence of his own achievements overshadowed by Virginia's fame and the tragedy of her suicide. But Leonard was a pivotal figure of his age, whose fierce intelligence touched the key literary and political events that shaped the early decades of the twentieth century and would resonate into the post-World War II era.
Glendinning beautifully evokes Woolf 's coming-of-age in turn-of-the-century London. The scholarship boy from a prosperous Jewish family would cut his own path through the world of the British public school, contending with the lingering anti-Semitism of Imperial Age Britain. Immediately upon entering Trinity College, Cambridge, Woolf became one of an intimate group of vivid personalities who would form the core of the Bloomsbury circle: the flamboyant Lytton Strachey; Toby Stephen, the Goth, through whom Leonard would meet Stephen's sister Virginia; and Clive Bell. Glendinning brings to life their long nights of intense discussion of literature andthe vicissitudes of sex, and charts Leonard's course as he becomes the lifelong friend of John Maynard Keynes and E. M. Forster.
She unearths the crucial influence of Woolf 's seven years as a headstrong administrator in colonial Ceylon, where he lost confidence in the imperial mission, deciding to abandon Ceylon in order to marry the psychologically troubled Virginia Stephen. Glendinning limns the true nature of Leonard's devotion to Virginia, revealing through vivid depiction of their unconventional marriage how Leonard supported Virginia through her breakdowns and in her writing. In co-founding with Virginia the Hogarth Press, he provided a secure publisher for Virginia's own boldly experimental works.
As the eminence grise of the early Labour Party, working behind the scenes, Woolf became a leading critic of imperialism, and his passionate advocacy of collective security to prevent war underpinned the charter of the League of Nations. After Virginia's death, he continued to forge his own iconoclastic way, engaging in a long and happy relationship with a married woman.
Victoria Glendinning's Leonard Woolf is a major achievement a shrewdly perceptive and lively portrait of a complex man of extremes and contradictions in whom passion fought with reason and whose far-reaching influence is long overdue for the full appreciation Glendinning offers in this important book.
"[A] comprehensive and eminently readable biography." New York Times
"Leonard published five volumes of autobiographical memoirs in his lifetime, upon which Glendinning draws, in addition to his letters, diaries, other published works, and accounts by his friends and family. Highly recommended." Library Journal
"A closely reasoned, well-researched and eminently fair account of a gifted and giving man who married a miracle." Kirkus Reviews
"Of course there is always the important difference between biography and autobiography, but in Woolf's case his judicious unmisgiving and unwithholding account of himself, written in prose both graceful and humorous, gives any biographer something impressive to measure herself against. Glendinning measures up very well indeed." Boston Globe
"Throughout this richly textured and highly readable saga, Leonard's accomplishments mount impressively." San Francisco Chronicle
"Leonard Woolf: A Biography leaves the reader with the satisfying sense of a long life well-lived; and of a man emerging from the shadows into his own light." Seattle Times
In this first-ever biography of Leonard Woolf, husband to Virginia Woolf and a founding member of Bloomsbury, the creative home of early 20th-century Britain's foremost literary lights and thinkers, Glendinning brings careful research and new material to bear on every aspect of his life. Photos.
An account of the life and career of the Bloomsbury political intellectual and husband of Virginia Woolf covers his comfortable Jewish childhood, role in inspiring the League of Nations, and relationships with such figures as E. M. Forster and T. S. Eliot. 40,000 first printing.
About the Author
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.
Table of Contents
1 In the Beginning
2 Ten Thousand Hours
4 Taking Wings
6 AGA Hambantota
8 Mongoose and Mandril
9 Great War
11 Prime Time
12 The Spring has died out of our lives
13 Life and Death
14 Death and Life
17 Letters and Lives
18 Justice and Mercy