- Hardcover: 512 pages
- Publisher: Free Press; First Edition edition (November 14, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780743246538
- ISBN-13: 978-0743246538
- ASIN: 0743246535
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.5 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 12 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,624,891 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Leonard Woolf: A Biography Hardcover – November 14, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Although Leonard Woolf (1880– 1969) was a seminal figure in the Bloomsbury set, he is known today primarily as the devoted caregiver of his wife, Virginia. That his life and career encompassed significant contributions to the literary, political and cultural events of his times will be evident to readers of this exemplary biography, the first to do justice to a complex man empowered by his intellect and the friends he made at Cambridge but professionally hobbled by British anti-Semitism and his decision to put aside his aspirations in deference to his wife's crushing needs and his belief in her genius. Glendinning, noted biographer of Vita Sackville-West, Trollope and others, brings her brilliant critical eye to an appraisal of Woolf's difficult personal life, which began with his father's premature death and the family's fall from middle-class comfort. Because the Woolves (as they were known) had a rich intellectual partnership, Leonard endured their celibate marriage and Virginia's lesbian affairs. Only after Virginia's death did he enjoy a sexually fulfilling relationship, with a married woman, which Glendinning documents through previously unreferenced material. This lucid biography is enhanced by Glendinning's humane and perceptive insight into Woolf's conflicted personality as well as by her assessment of his signal role in the literary flowering and political issues of the early 20th century. 16 pages of b&w photos. (Nov. 11)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
*Starred Review* Late in life, Leonard Woolf found that many of the people initially attracted to him because of their love for his deceased wife's work began developing an appreciation for his own talents and vision. The posthumous continuation of that pattern ensures a wide readership for this excellent biography. Predictably, Glendinning does highlight Leonard's peculiar but productive relationship with his brilliant wife, Virginia, illuminating the abiding affection in a union of minds but not bodies. Readers see how Leonard's tender solicitude helped Virginia endure the psychological agony she experienced in writing each of her groundbreaking novels. But even as readers see more clearly Leonard's formative influence in Virginia's life, they come also to recognize how many other writers--including E. M. Forster, Katherine Mansfield, and T. S. Eliot--likewise owed much to this multifaceted man. As a founding editor of Hogarth Press and as a leader of the Bloomsbury Group, Leonard helped stimulate an epoch-making ferment of cultural ideas. Refocusing the talents he had earlier developed as a novelist, Leonard emerged as one of the most influential political commentators on the British Left, fighting tirelessly for peace through the League of Nations and for freedom from Nazi and Communist dictators. A satisfying portrait of a neglected figure. Bryce Christensen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Glendinning remedies this gap in the record. Her biography is detailed, thoughtful, sympathetic and objective, and brings Leonard Woolf to life, particularly the Leonard Woolf who lived and continued to work and write in the years after Virginia Woolf's death. Of course, a good part of this history is devoted to Leonard's life with Virginia, since their marriage was the central relationship in his life and the source of much of his creative energy. Yet in describing his experiences in Ceylon in the early 1900s, where he served in the British foreign service, his political work, including his influence on the League of Nations; his role in the creation of the British Labour Party; and his contributions as editor, not merely of the legendary Hogarth Press, which he founded with Virginia, but also of the political journal, The New Stateman, Glendenning has provided us not only with a history of the development of the British left, but also with a portrait of a unique individual, a person notable in his own right for his vision, wisdom and humanity. Glendenning quotes an associate as describing Woolf as "the only man I ever met who seemed to me to be right about everything that matters." I read this book because of my interest in Virginia Woolf; I came away with an appreciation for Leonard Woolf as a separate, remarkable person.
Over the years Leonard has begun to get his due It was when reading William Zinsner's On Writing Well and Jon Hassler's "Simon's Night" that I discovered Woolf's evocative memoirs.
Now Victoria Glendinning who has written incredibly readable biographies of Vita Sackville-West and Anthony Trollope has turned her attention to Leonard Woolf and written a fabulous book about how he managed to deal with a wife who was often ill and remain a force in both literature and politics. The chapter on how he fielded requests for interviews, doctoral candidates, and Edward Albee's request that "I be able to use your wife's name in a play I'm writing" as his wife's reputation grew is fascinating as well
I wanted to know more about Leonard Woolf; I find him to be as inter-
esting as Virginia. The fact that he helped her when she had bouts
of madness is impressive. He was a good hudband for her. Insanity
is still considered to be a taboo in our society; no one wants to
talk about it and if happens in one's own family, I find it consoling
to read about other people and how they cope with mental problems.
Everything I want in a biography most of all - compelling writing
62 Pictures with detailed credits
28 pages of notes
18 page Index
3 page bibliography
2 pages of Family Trees
Leonard Woolf ran in some pretty heady circles, the poet Rupert Brooke, Lytton Strachey, John Maynard Keynes, Clive Bell, Saxon Sydney- Turner, Thoby Stephen (Virginia's brother), E.M. Forster, Bertrand Russell, G.E. Moore, Desmond MacCarthy, basically the intellectual elite that would become the Bloomsbury set.
The book shows Woolf to be passionate about many things, one being his adoration and deep care of his wife whom (because of her battle with mental illness before the days of zoloft and xanex to treat it) he was a part time caregiver through most of their marriage. Wolf comes off as stoic (almost noble), reserved and controlling but not the repressive husband I imagined him to be. Their letters and diaries show them both to be deeply caring and loving for the other. In 1937 Virginia wrote in her diary "after 25 years can't bear to be separate" and "it is enormous pleasure being wanted: a wife. And our marriage so complete." And yet the author concludes that their marriage was probably not consummated in the traditional sense (that makes me kinda sad). Virginia had a brief affair with family friend Vita Sackville-West (her novel "Orlando" is said to be inspired by their relationship).
Leonard Woolf (1880-1969) was born the third 10 children to a Jewish father (although not religious) who died when he was 11, the family was in the upper 2percent and he was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge University. His career began in the colonial civil service in Ceylon/Sri Lanka (1904-1911). He wrote the widely respected and enjoyed `The Village in the Jungle' from his experiences in that time.
He proposed and was married to Virginia in 1912. Together they founded and ran the Hogarth Press. Leonard also was editor of The International Review, The Nation, The Political Quarterly and director of The New Statesman. He was active in the Labor Party and ran for Parliament in 1922. He enjoyed gardening, animals, classical music and the Sussex countryside. They lived in village fifty miles outside of London. His wife's breakdowns during the next 29 years (when her rages were on occasion directed at him) he would move out to give them both a break.
When he was 63, two years after his wife's suicide, he began lifetime romance with the married `Trekkie' Parsons. Trekkie lived Friday evening to Monday morning with her husband and with Leonard the rest of the time (the rich are different). The remainder of his life he traveled (to Israel in his 70's and in his 80's to Sri Lanka and North America), handled Virginia's literary estate with publication of her papers, and published his memoirs (which this book entices me to devour):
1960. Sowing: an autobiography of the years, 1880-1904
1961. Growing: an autobiography of the years 1904-1911
1963. Diaries in Ceylon, 1908-1911, and Stories from the East: records of a colonial administrator
1964. Beginning again: an autobiography of the years 1911-1918
1967. Downhill all the way: an autobiography of the years 1919-1939
1969. The journey not the arrival matters: an autobiography of the years 1939-1969
From the publisher: 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 and the 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 éminence 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.