Virginia Woolf was born in London in 1882 to upper class, well educated parents. Her father, Leslie Stephen, was a noted biographer and writer. Her mother was a warm, loving woman whose personality held the family together. As a child, Woolf was often ill. She was schooled at home and benefited by the stream of visitors who would hold lively conversations with her parents. While she experienced some happy times with her family, her early life was marred by mental illness and death in her family. Her half sister became mentally ill, her mother died in 1895. In 1904, her father died. Woolf, always fragile emotionally, suffered mental collapses in 1895 and after the death of her father.
Fortunally she recovered and by 1905 she began writing reviews and articles. She also became a member of the Bloomsbury group-friends and other intellectuals who met to discuss issues of the day. It was there that she met Leonard Woolf, her future husband. In 1906, her beloved brother Thoby died . Woolf was distraught and soon experienced another breakdown. Again she recovered and in 1912 married Leonard Woolf. He was most supportive and they were married for thirty years. Despite her husband's loving support, Woolf fell into deep despair ( some critics have written that she may have suffered from a bipolar disorder) and fearing that she was going insane and would be a drain on her husband, she drowned herself in 1941.
Despite all her emotional troubles, Woolf was a prolific author and as critics have written, one of the most innovative writers of the 20th century. She employed " a stream of consciouness" style of writing in her novels and wrote nine of them. She was interested in the inner lives of her characters and through her writing, explored the nature of reality and the importance of the individual in the contemporary world. The author of several novels, her best know work is "To the Lighthouse"-a novel in which not much seems to happen, but which explores "the tragic futillity, the absudity, the pathetic beauty of life." Despite all her self doubt, Woolf felt compelled to write. But as she grew older, she began to loose her strength and the fight against depression became much more difficult . However, with courage, she clung to life. But finally on March 28, 1941 she wrote a final letter to her husband, filled her pockets with rocks and waded into the Ouse River, ending her life. Her final letter to him indicates both her fear of going insane and her concern that she had become a burden to him. Eventhough dead for many years, her life continues in her novels, many essays, book reviews and other critical writing.