In celebration of her birthday, here are nine Virginia Woolf quotes about writing, writers, and reading, pulled from two of her most well-known works, Orlando and A Room of One’s Own.
While searching for these nine Virginia Woolf quotes, some poignant and some with her characteristic subtle humor, I flipped through all the books on my shelves dedicated to the early 20th century writer. Just browsing through those books encourages a relapse of, what she calls in the second quote below, the “disease of reading.” Now the question is, which Woolf book to revisit?
Green in nature is one thing, green in literature another. Nature and letters seem to have a natural antipathy; bring them together and they tear each other to pieces. The shade of green Orlando now saw spoilt his rhyme and split his meter. – Orlando
For once the disease of reading has laid hold upon the system it weakens it so that it falls an easy prey to that other scourge which dwells in the ink pot and festers in the quill. The wretch takes to writing. – Orlando
Orlando, comparing that achievement with those of his ancestors, cried out that they and their deeds were dust and ashes, but this man and his words were immortal. – Orlando
For it would seem—her case proved it—that we write, not with the fingers, but with the whole person. The nerve which controls the pen winds itself about every fibre of our being, threads the heart, pierces the liver. – Orlando
But the living poets express a feeling that is actually being made and torn out of us at the moment. One does not recognize it in the first place; often for some reason one fears it; one watches it with keenness and compares it jealously and suspiciously with the old feeling that one knew. – A Room of One’s Own
Fiction must stick to facts, and the truer the facts the better the fiction—so we are told. – A Room of One’s Own
To Jane Austen there was something discreditable in writing Pride and Prejudice. And, I wondered, would Pride and Prejudice have been a better novel if Jane Austen has not thought it necessary to hide her manuscript from visitors? – A Room of One’s Own
Speaking crudely, football and sport are “important”; the worship of fashion, the buying of clothes “trivial.” And these values are inevitably transferred from life to fiction. This is an important book, the critic assumes, because it deals with war. This is an insignificant book because it deals with the feelings of women in the drawing room. A scene in a battlefield is more important than a scene in a shop—everywhere and much more subtly the difference of value persists. – A Room of One’s Own
So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for the ages or only for hours, nobody can say. – A Room of One’s Own