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What’s new — and old — in the world of Virginia Woolf and books? A couple of things.

A graphic biography

First, the new. In the summer of 2024, Weidenfeld & Nicolson will publish Virginia Woolf: A Graphic Biography,  Ella Bucknall’s “fascinating, engaged and deeply scholarly” graphic biography of Virginia Woolf.

The publisher says: “From Woolf’s earliest memoirs of the sound of the sea in St. Ives to her final submersion in the River Ouse, Bucknall tells the story of Woolf’s life, recalling deaths and marriages, friendships and rivalries, creative droughts and floods of inspiration.

“Combining her distinctive and intricate illustrations, with a scholar’s intellect and understanding of Woolf’s life and works, Bucknall’s is a completely original approach to this most beloved author, and a pioneering contribution to the biography genre.”

This is the first book for Bucknall, a writer and illustrator currently studying for a Ph.D. in creative writing at King’s College London.

Woolf tells all in Literary Confessions

Now the old. The book Really and Truly: A Book of Literary Confessions, was expected to sell for between £4,000 – £6,000 at Dominic Winter Auctioneers in Gloucestershire in January. Instead, it fetched £21,000.

In it, Woolf, along with Rose Macaulay, Rebecca West, Hilaire Belloc, Stella Benson and Margaret Kennedy, shares her thoughts on the best and worst writers in the literary world.

Woolf completed her questionnaire on May 6, 1924, answering all 39 questions and signing it using her trademark purple ink. The questions ranged from “who is the greatest prose writer that ever lived” to who was the “worst living English playwright”. The ten sets of handwritten answers were dated between 1923 and 1927.

Woolf named T.S. Eliot and Clive Bell as “the best living critic of literature.” She answered that Jane Austen was “the best deceased English novelist.” And when asked to name the deceased men of letters whose character she most disliked, she wrote: “I hate all dead men of letters.”

Margaret Kennedy’s grandson William Mackesy found the book while sorting through his late grandmother’s effects.

In under 100 handwritten words, in her distinctive purple ink, Virginia Woolf tells us so much about her literary passions and aversions. One could read whole biographies to seek out such snippets and here all is set out pithily on two pages. – Chris Albury, auctioneer

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