Virginia Woolf Quotes

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It is pretty fair to say that Virginia Woolf had a way with words like no other. Here’s a compilation of some Virginia Woolf quotes from her many books, letters, diaries and essays.

“Am I a weed, carried this way, that way, on a tide that comes twice a day without a meaning?” – Virginia Woolf, The Years

“Anyone who’s worth anything reads just what he likes, as the mood takes him, and with extravagant enthusiasm.” ― Virginia Woolf, Jacob’s Room

“Against you I will fling myself, unvanquished and unyielding, O Death!” – Virginia Woolf, The Waves

“And somehow or other, the windows being open, and the book held so that it rested upon a background of escallonia hedges and distant blue, instead of being a book it seemed as if what I read was laid upon the landscape not printed, bound, or sewn up, but somehow the product of trees and fields and the hot summer sky, like the air which swam, on fine mornings, round the outline of things.” ― Virginia Woolf, The Essays, Vol. 3: 1919-1924

“And for heaven’s sake, publish nothing before you are thirty.” – Virginia Woolf, Letter to a Young Poet

“…and the suck and sighing of the waves sounded gently, persistently, for ever.” – Virginia Woolf, Jacob’s Room

“As a woman I have no country. As a woman my country is the whole world.” – Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas

“As long as she thinks of a man, nobody objects of a women thinking” – Virginia Woolf, Orlando

“A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” – Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

“All extremes of feeling are allied with madness.” ― Virginia Woolf, Orlando

“Behind the cotton wool is hidden a pattern; that we—I mean all human beings—are connected with this; that the whole world is a work of art; that we are parts of the work of art. Hamlet or a Beethoven quartet is the truth about this vast mass that we call the world. But there is no Shakespeare, there is no Beethoven; certainly and emphatically there is no God; we are the words; we are the music; we are the thing itself.” ― Virginia Woolf, Moments of Being

“Beauty was not everything. Beauty had this penalty — it came too readily, came too completely. It stilled life — froze it.” ― Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse

“Better was it to go unknown and leave behind you an arch, then to burn like a meteor and leave no dust.” ― Virginia Woolf, Orlando

“Better is silence..Let me sit with bare things, this coffee cup, this knife, this fork, things in themselves, myself being myself.” – Virginia Woolf, The Waves

“Blame it or praise it, there is no denying the wild horse in us.” – Virginia Woolf, Jacob’s Room

“Books are the mirrors of the soul.” – Virginia Woolf, Between the Acts

“Could it be, even for elderly people, that this was life? – startling, unexpected, unknown?” – Virginia Woolf, To The Lighthouse

“Disastrous would have been the result if a fire or a death had suddenly demanded something heroic of human nature, but tragedies come in the hungry hours.” – Virginia Woolf, The Voyage Out

“Did it matter then, she asked herself, walking towards Bond Street, did it matter that she must inevitably cease completely? All this must go on without her; did she resent it; or did it not become consoling to believe that death ended absolutely?” – Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

“From the trees in the meadow of life beyond a river where the dead walk, how there is no death.” – Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

“For now she need not think of anybody. She could be herself, by herself. And that was what now she often felt the need of – to think; well not even to think. To be silent; to be alone.” – Virginia Woolf, To The Lighthouse

“He was a wild man, and he would never submit to be a tame one. And for us here lies his peculiar charm. He hears a different drummer. He is a man into whom nature has breathed other instincts than ours, to whom she has whispered, one may guess, some of her secrets.” – Virginia Woolf, Essay on Henry David Thoreau, published in the Times Literary Supplement, July 1917

“He thought her beautiful, believed her impeccably wise; dreamed of her, wrote poems to her, which, ignoring the subject, she corrected in red ink.” ― Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

“How many times have people used a pen or paintbrush because they couldn’t pull the trigger?” – Virginia Woolf, Selected Essays

“I told you in the course of this paper that Shakespeare had a sister; but do not look for her in Sir Sidney Lee’s life of the poet. She died young–alas, she never wrote a word. She lies buried where the omnibuses now stop, opposite the Elephant and Castle. Now my belief is that this poet who never wrote a word and was buried at the crossroads still lives. She lives in you and in me, and in many other women who are not here tonight, for they are washing up the dishes and putting the children to bed. But she lives; for great poets do not die; they are continuing presences; they need only the opportunity to walk among us in the flesh.” – Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

“I am made and remade continually. Different people draw different words from me.” – Virginia Woolf, The Waves

“I am reading six books at once, the only way of reading; since, as you will agree, one book is only a single unaccompanied note, and to get the full sound, one needs ten others at the same time.” ― Virginia Woolf, The Letters of Virginia Woolf: Volume Three, 1923-1928

“I meant to write about death, only life came breaking in as usual.” – Virginia Woolf, Diary, February 17, 1922

“I like people to be unhappy because I like them to have souls.” – Virginia Woolf

“I feel so intensely the delights of shutting oneself up in a little world of one’s own, with pictures and music and everything beautiful.” ― Virginia Woolf, The Voyage Out

“I feel all shadows of the universe multiplied deep inside my skin.” – Virginia Woolf, Diary, November 5, 1931

“I read the book of Job last night, I don’t think God comes out well in it.” – Virginia Woolf, Letter to Lady Robert Cecil, November 12, 1922

“’I want to write a novel about Silence,’ he said; ‘the things people don’t say.’” ― Virginia Woolf, The Voyage Out

“I will go down with my colours flying.” – Virginia Woolf, Diary, March 8, 1941

“I will not be ‘famous,’ ‘great.’ I will go on adventuring, changing, opening my mind and my eyes, refusing to be stamped and stereotyped. The thing is to free one’s self: to let it find its dimensions, not be impeded.”- Virginia Woolf, A Writer’s Diary

“It might be possible that the world itself is without meaning.” ― Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

“Indeed, I would venture to guess that anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman.” – Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

“In her eyes shone the sweetness of melancholy.” – Virginia Woolf, The Voyage Out

“It would have been impossible, completely and entirely, for any woman to have written the plays of Shakespeare in the age of Shakespeare.” – Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

“It is a thousand pities never to say what one feels.” ― Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

“I’ve just stopped talking to you. It seems so strange. It’s perfectly peaceful here–they’re playing bowls–I’d just put flowers in your room. And there you sit with the bombs falling around you. What can one say– except that I love you and I’ve got to live through this strange quiet evening thinking of you sitting there alone. Dearest– let me have a line…You have given me such happiness…” ― Virginia Woolf, Letter to Vita-Sackville-West, August 30, 1940

“Julian came with his letter into my room this morning; & at once curled up on my bed, & went on reading a book with a picture of a Bird of Paradise in it. He told me he had read Gardiner’s history perhaps 50 times. Irish history bored him because it was shapeless, as far as I could make out; he couldn’t see that either side was in the right about the American war, which annoyed him; & he thought if we had given way about the taxes we should have got our way without their knowing it, as we have done with our colonies.” – Virginia Woolf, Diary, November 2, 1917

“Let us again pretend that life is a solid substance, shaped like a globe, which we turn about in our fingers.” – Virginia Woolf, The Waves

“Literature is strewn with the wreckage of men who have minded beyond reason the opinions of others.” – Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

“Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.” – Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

“Melancholy were the sounds on a winter’s night.” ― Virginia Woolf, Jacob’s Room

“Neither of us knows what the public will think. There’s no doubt in my mind that I have found out how to begin (at forty) to say something in my own voice; and that interests me so that I feel I can go ahead without praise.” – Virginia Woolf, Diary, July 26, 1922

“Nothing thicker than a knife’s blade separates happiness from melancholy.” – Virginia Woolf, Orlando

“Nothing, I know, had any chance against death.” – Virginia Woolf, The Death of the Moth

“Neither of us knows what the public will think. There’s no doubt in my mind that I have found out how to begin (at forty) to say something in my own voice; and that interests me so that I feel I can go ahead without praise.” – Virginia Woolf, Diary, July 26, 1922

“O yes, he seemed to say, death is stronger than I am .” – Virginia Woolf, The Death of the Moth

One wanted, she thought, dipping her brush deliberately, to be on a level with ordinary experience.” – Virginia Woolf, To The Lighthouse

“Often on a wet day I begin counting up; what I’ve read and what I haven’t read.” ― Virginia Woolf, Between the Acts

“Really I don’t like human nature unless all candied over with art.” – Virginia Woolf, Diary, May 13 1926

“Rhoda has rocked her ships to shore. Whether they have anchored, whether they have foundered, she cares no longer.” – Virginia Woolf, The Waves

“Some people go to priests; others to poetry; I to my friends.” – Virginia Woolf, The Waves

“…she wanted many more things than the love of one human being — the sea, the sky.” – Virginia Woolf, The Voyage Out

“She had a perpetual sense, as she watched the taxi cabs, of being out, out, far out to sea and alone; she always had the feeling that it was very, very dangerous to live even one day.” – Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

“She felt somehow very like him—the young man who had killed himself. She felt glad that he had done it; thrown it away. The clock was striking. The leaden circles dissolved in the air. He made her feel the beauty; made her feel the fun. But she must go back. She must assemble.” – Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

“Some things were very beautiful; others sheer nonsense.” – Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

“She had a perpetual sense, as she watched the taxi cabs, of being out, out, far out to sea and alone; she always had the feeling that it was very, very dangerous to live even one day.” – Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

“The moment was all; the moment was enough.” – Virginia Woolf, The Waves

“The eyes of others our prisons; their thoughts our cages.” – Virginia Woolf, Monday or Tuesday

“The autumn trees, ravaged as they are, take on the flash of tattered flags kindling in the gloom of cathedral caves.” – Virginia Woolf, To The Lighthouse

“The history of men’s opposition to women’s emancipation is more interesting perhaps than the story of that emancipation itself.” ― Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

“The English tourist in American literature wants above all things something different from what he has at home. For this reason the one American writer whom the English whole-heartedly admire is Walt Whitman. There, you will hear them say, is the real American undisguised. In the whole of English literature there is no figure which resembles his – among all our poetry none in the least comparable to Leaves of Grass” – Virginia Woolf, Essay titled “American Fiction“; Published in the Saturday Review of Literature

“They are very large in effect, these painters; very little self-conscious; they have smooth broad spaces in their minds where I am all prickles & promontories.” – Virginia Woolf, The Diary Of Virginia Woolf, Vol. 1 1915-1919

“Thoughts without words… Can that be?” – Virginia Woolf, Between the Acts

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” – Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

“To put it in a nutshell, he was afflicted with a love of literature. It was the fatal nature of this disease to substitute a phantom for reality.” ― Virginia Woolf, Orlando

“Thus Mr. Lawrence, Mr. Douglas and Mr. Joyce partly spoil their books for women readers by their display of self-conscious virility; and Mr. Hemingway, but much less violently, follows suit.” – Virginia Woolf, Essay on American Writers, Published in New York Herald Tribune, 1927

“There it was before her – life. Life: she thought but she did not finish her thought. She took a look at life, for she had a clear sense of it there, something real, something private, which she shared neither with her children nor with her husband. A sort of transaction went on between them, in which she was on one side, and life was on another, and she was always trying to get the better of it, as it was of her; and sometimes they parleyed (when she sat alone); there were, she remembered, great reconciliation scenes; but for the most part, oddly enough, she must admit that she felt this thing that she called life terrible, hostile, and quick to pounce on you if you gave it a chance.” – Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse

“There was a star riding through clouds one night, & I said to the star, ‘Consume me.'” – Virginia Woolf, The Waves

“There must be another life, she thought, sinking back into her chair, exasperated. Not in dreams; but here and now, in this room, with living people. She felt as if she were standing on the edge of a precipice with her hair blown back; she was about to grasp something that just evaded her. There must be another life, here and now, she repeated. This is too short, too broken. We know nothing, even about ourselves.” ― Virginia Woolf, The Years

“Things have dropped from me. I have outlived certain desires; I have lost friends, some by death – Percival – others through sheer inability to cross the street.” – Virginia Woolf, The Waves

“Thoughts are divine.” – Virginia Woolf, Orlando

“Twice Flush had done his utmost to kill his enemy; twice he had failed. And why had he failed, he asked himself? Because he loved Miss Barrett. Looking up at her from under his eyebrows as she lay, severe and silent on the sofa, he knew that he must love her for ever. Things are not simple but complex. If he bit Mr. Browning he bit her too. Hatred is not hatred; hatred is also love.” – Virginia Woolf, Flush

“We are only lightly covered with buttoned cloth; and beneath these pavements are shells, bones and silence.” – Virginia Woolf, The Waves

“Well, I really don’t advise a woman who wants to have things her own way to get married.” – Virginia Woolf, Night and Day

“What is the meaning of life? That was all – a simple question; one that tended to close in on one with years, the great revelation had never come. The great revelation perhaps never did come. Instead, there were little daily miracles, illuminations, matches struck unexpectedly in the dark; here was one.” – Virginia Woolf, To The Lighthouse

“When I cannot see words curling like rings of smoke round me I am in darkness—I am nothing.” ― Virginia Woolf, The Waves

“Women have served all these centuries as looking glasses possessing the magic and delicious power of reflecting the figure of man at twice its natural size.” ― Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

“Why is it that people won’t be honest?” – Virginia Woolf, The Voyage Out

“What is the meaning of life? That was all – a simple question; one that tended to close in on one with years, the great revelation had never come. The great revelation perhaps never did come. Instead, there were little daily miracles, illuminations, matches struck unexpectedly in the dark; here was one.” – Virginia Woolf, To The Lighthouse

“Walden – all his books, indeed – are packed with subtle, conflicting, and very fruitful discoveries. They are not written to prove something in the end. They are written as the Indians turn down twigs to mark their path through the forest. He cuts his way through life as if no one had ever taken that road before, leaving these signs for those who come after, should they care to see which way he went.” – Virginia Woolf, Essay on Henry David Thoreau, published in the Times Literary Supplement, July 1917

“Yes, I was thinking: we live without a future. That’s what’s queer: with our noses pressed to a closed door.” – Virginia Woolf, Diary, January 26, 1941Virginia Woolf Orlando Writing Quote

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About Rebecca Beatrice Brooks

Rebecca Beatrice Brooks is a freelance writer and history lover who got her start in journalism working for small-town newspapers in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Rebecca graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a B.A. in Journalism in 2001.

4 thoughts on “Virginia Woolf Quotes

    1. Anonymous

      can u tell me the meaning of the quote ” really i don’t like human nature unless all candied over with art”…. thanks in advance

      Reply
  1. Kristina

    Hi
    Am trying to find out at least an estimate on how many novels there up until now are that include quotes from Virginia Wolf or mention Virginia Wolf. Any idea or any references to give? Would really appreciate any info on this.

    Kind regards
    Kristina, Sweden

    Reply

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