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May 05 2021 - 01:30 PM
Today In History: Virginia Woolf Publishes To The Lighthouse

Godrevy Lighthouse

The Hebridean palettes are rather gray, green, and purple, sprinkled through the soft mist of a Highland morning; our schooner cuts slowly through the Inner Sound, like sharp scissors to cloth, reaching the patchwork mixture of stones, grass, and heather at the tail end of a Scottish summer. We listen to the quiet, suddenly interrupted by the captain calling for one of us to jump out and moor. But lost in a time of tartan clans and rock castles, with the haunting, but hopeful tune of a lone bagpipe, I picture a lighthouse to the north, and let another girl take the lead. While she fastens the rope, I'm thinking of how Applecross, our mountainous point of departure, was only accessible by boat until the early twentieth century, and Rona, towering sixty-nine meters above the sea and some dozen miles away, would cast a white light over a range of nineteen nautical miles every twelve seconds.

On May 5th, 1927 English modernist Virginia Woolf published To the Lighthouse, a novel in the stream of consciousness style that tells of the Ramsay family and their summer stays in the Isle of Skye. Her summer family home in St Ives, Cornwall, where the Godrevv Lighthouse was located, inspired the setting of her novel. Written in three parts, it takes place between 1910 and 1920 and conveys the perspectives numerous characters: the beautiful and loving Mrs. Ramsay; the passage of time; and the return of the grown Ramsay children, James, Andrew, Jaspar, Roger, Prue, Rose, Nancy, and Cam, and their painter-friend, Lily Briscoe. With little dialogue, the novel is written from each of the character's consciousness and is viewed as a literary masterpiece; the first edition, published by Hogarth Press, a firm she and her husband founded, successfully sold thousands of copies and established Virginia Woolf as a leading writer who continues to be read and whose works continue to be adapted and performed.

Virginia Woolf committed suicide at the age of 59 by drowning in the River Ouse near her home in Sussex; throughout her lifetime, she suffered from depression and mental breakdowns, caused in part by the repression of women. An ardent feminist, Virginia Woolf was a significant member of the Bloomsbury Group, consisting of British intellectuals, artists, writers, and philosophers, many of whom were educated at the University of Cambridge.

The following articles are drawn from Proquest Historical Newspapers, which informs and inspires classroom teaching and learning.

  • Evans, B. (1941, Apr 03). Virginia Woolf. The Manchester Guardian (1901-1959)

  • Braybrooke, N. (1975, Dec 14). The Voyage Out. The Times of India (1861-Current)

Slide: Virginia Woolf Publishes To the Lighthouse


  • Virginia Woolf Collection of Papers. New York Public Library. A synthetic collection consisting of manuscripts, typescripts, correspondence, diaries, notebooks, legal documents, and portraits.


  • Special News Slide, Courtesy of the Gottesman Libraries


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