The Early Journals | Virginia Woolf, 1897-1906



Sisters Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell as children, playing cricket                                                                  Virginia Woolf at 18


“I adore looking at blossoming flowers though for the most part, it emotionally drains me. I like getting a sense of the world constantly reborn and enhanced; yet I am melancholy because such beauty is untouchable. Such beauty is chaotically intolerable.”
Virginia Woolf (aged 15)

"Activity of mind, I think, is the only thing that keeps one’s life going, unless one has a larger emotional activity of some other kind. One’s mind that’s like a restless steamer paddle urging the ship along, tho’ the wind is non-existent and the sea is as still as glass. What a force a human being is! There are worse solitudes than drift ice, and yet this eternal throbbing heat and energy of one’s mind thaws a pathway through; and open sea and land shall come in time. Think though, what man is midst fields and woods. A solitary creature dependent on winds and tides, and yet somehow suppressing the might of a spark in his brain. What nonsense to write!"

 Virginia Woolf, Journals, 1897 - 1909


Virginia Woolf and her younger brother Adrian Stephen playing cricket.


"How can I remain peaceful without turning my face completely to the world? I belong to quick, futile moments of intense feeling. Yes, I belong to moments. Not to people. In all other ways I lead a perfectly ordinary life - except that I do not like thinking and talking about anything ordinary unless one makes me."

"The inner life has its soft and gentle beauty; an abstract formlessness as well as a subtle charm. I often consider myself as a figure in a foggy painting: faltering lines, insecure distances, and a merging of greys and blacks. An emotion or a mood - a mere wisp of color - is shaded off and made to spread until it becomes one with all that surrounds it."

Virginia Woolf, Journals, 1897-1909

"After all we are a world of imitations; all the Arts that is to say imitate as far as they can the one great truth that all can see. Such is the eternal instinct in the human beast, to try and reproduce something of that majesty in paint marble or ink. Somehow ink tonight seems to me the least effectual method of all — and music the nearest to truth."

Virginia Woolf (aged 17)

"I am interested in impossible embodiments. I wish to write; I wish to write about certain things that cannot be held. I want to create a sea of freely-flowing words of no definite form and shape waves of fluent exactness."

"I need to emerge from tiny time-stopping moments; I need to exist inside dawn’s light. I need to give in to the presence of everything humble, boundlessly sincere and extraordinarily terrifying."

Virginia Woolf, Journals, 1897-1909


Sisters Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell, 1896                                      Virginia Woolf, c.1895


"But the books are the things that I enjoy — on the whole — most. I feel sometimes for hours together as though the physical stuff of my brain were expanding, larger and larger, throbbing quicker and quicker with new blood — and there is no more delicious sensation than this."

"Oh the torture of never being left alone! I find it impossible to disentangle myself from those instincts, affections, passions, attachments…which bound me…from the first moment of consciousness to other people. I need solitude; I need to feel I belong to myself. I now begin to think that reading has become my secret life and personal refuge."

Virginia Woolf, The Early Journals 1897 - 1906


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