Archive for September 5th, 2023

The Common Reader, Virginia Woolf’s book of essays published in 1925 with a jacket design by her sister Vanessa Bell, was provisionally titled Reading.

In it, she planned to revise some of her previously published essays and add some new ones, according to Mark Hussey in Virginia Woolf A to Z. Among its most important essays are “On Not Knowing Greek,” “Modern Fiction,” and “How It Strikes a Contemporary.”

One hundred years ago today, in her Sept. 5, 1923, diary entry, Woolf fills the half hour before dinner with her thoughts about beginning to write her book of collected essays:

A cold douche should be taken (& generally is) before beginning a book. It invigorates; makes one say “Oh all right. I write to please myself,” & so go ahead. It also has the effect of making me more definite & outspoken in my style, which I imagine all to the good. At any rate, I began for the 5th but last time, I swear, what is now to be called The Common Reader; & did the first page quite moderately well this morning. After all this stew, its odd how, as soon as I begin, a new aspect, never all this 2 or 3 years thought of, at once becomes clear; & gives the whole bundle a new proportion. To curtail, I shall really investigate literature with a view to answering certain questions about ourselves–Characters are to be merely views: personality must be avoided at all costs. I’m sure my Conrad adventure taught me this. Directly you specify hair, age, &tc something frivolous, or irrelevant, gents the book –Dinner! – Diary 2, 265.

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