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Strouse, L.F. (1981). Virginia Woolf—Her Voyage Back. Am. Imago, 38(2):185-202.

(1981). American Imago, 38(2):185-202

Virginia Woolf—Her Voyage Back

Louise F. Strouse

Until I was in the forties—I could settle the date by seeing when I wrote To the Lighthouse… the presence of my mother obsessed me. I could hear her voice, see her, imagine what she would do or say as I went about my day's doings… Then one day, walking around Tavistock Square, I made up … To the Lighthouse, in a great, apparently involuntary rush.

Thus, Mrs. Woolf tells us when she was 45 years old, how she came to write To the Lighthouse, completed in 1927.

The loss of her mother at 13, followed by deaths of others close to her have been often noted as affecting her life-long search for women towards whom she could be the child. Such observations, however, have stressed replacement of the lost mother at 13. This discussion will focus on the loss of the “early” mother: the first and second year mother. In this way, this study attempts to add a new dimension to the meaning of To the Lighthouse for its creator. Examination of the thoughts of Lily Briscoe about Mrs. Ramsay reveals much about them which has heretofore not been explored. My intention is to demonstrate connections between the novel, and Virginia Woolf's life as revealed in her diary, memories of her childhood, and especially her letters. One can surmise that her very early history was at least as influential in her later life as the damage she suffered in early and late adolescence. I shall consider three of the most important women in her life: her sister Vanessa (older by three years), Violet Dickenson (older by 17 years), and Vita Sackville-West (younger by 10 years).

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