Virginia Woolf Was a Plant Sensitive and Tough


A glorious find for any Virginia Woolf fan. For a Virginia Woolf fan writing a book about a scientifico-botanical metaphor about the nature of sensitivity and flexibility, it is a treasure. This is from Forster’s  slim 1942 volume, Virginia Woolf, taken from lectures he gave in Cambridge and London in the year after her suicide.

There are two obstacles to a summing up. The first is the work’s richness and complexity. As soon as we dismiss the legend of the Invalid Lady of Bloomsbury, so guilelessly accepted by Arnold Bennett, and we find ourselves in a bewildering world where there are few headlines. We think of The Waves and say “yes – that is Virginia Woolf”; then we think of The Common Reader, where she is different; of A Room of One’s Own or of the preface to Life As We Have Known It: different again. She is like a plant which is supposed to grow in a well-prepared garden bed – the bed of esoteric literature – and then pushes up suckers all over the place, through the gravel of the front drive, and even through the flagstones of the kitchen yard.  She was full of interests, and their number increased as she grew older, she was curious about life, and she was tough, sensitive but tough.