Posts Tagged ‘The Voyage Out’

The news that Virginia Woolf’s personal copy of The Voyage Out (1915), discovered in 2021 after mistakenly being housed in the science section of the University of Sydney’s Fisher Library for 25 years, is all over the internet. But the best news is that the volume has been digitized and is now available online.

It is one of just two copies of the novel that were annotated with her handwriting and with preparations to revise it for a U.S. edition.

A private collector based in London owns the other. It has typesetter’s marks and a greater number of revisions, including those to other chapters, but without the chapter 25 revisions, according to the library website.

The digitization of Woolf’s novel allows scholars and readers around the globe to study and consider Woolf’s edits from their own armchairs.

More background

In the 1996 article “Virginia Woolf’s Revisions of The Voyage out: Some New Evidence” by James M. Haule, published in Vol. 42, No. 3 of Twentieth Century Literature, Haule explains the story behind this rediscovered book, saying it was a working copy that appears to be one of two in which Woolf marked up revisions of her novel for the first U.S. edition, published in 1920.

It is thought that the Fisher Library copy was kept by Woolf as a record of the main revisions, with the other being sent for use in publication, according to the library website.

“With the possible exception of The Years (1937), none of her novels was as long in preparation or as difficult for her to complete,” Haule maintains.

About the edits

Inscribed by the author on the flyleaf, the volume includes handwritten revisions to chapters 16 and 25 made by Woolf’s own hand in pen and in blue and brown pencil.

In Chapter 25, whole pages are marked for deletion, although they were ultimately not removed for the first U.S. edition, published in 1920. The volume also includes pasted-in typewritten carbons in chapter 16.

The fact that Woolf signed on the volume’s flyleaf, not the title page, indicates that it was one of her personal copies, experts say.

Where the volume came from

The University of Sydney acquired the book in the 1976 through Bow Windows Bookshop in Lewes, East Sussex, near the Woolfs’ Monk’s House. The shop currently has some first editions of Woolf’s works on hand, including a copy of The Voyage Out, at least when this piece was written. The price? £600.

The Berg Collection at the New York Public Library holds a holograph draft of The Voyage Out.

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From the BBC Radio Drama Collection come adaptations of seven of Virginia Woolf’s pioneering modernist novels, available on CD and as a digital download.

Out since last April, each is a full-cast dramatization by such notable actors as Vanessa Redgrave and Kristin Scott-Thomas. Each includes sound effects — background chatter and the pouring of tea in Night and Day; horses’ hoofs pounding the road and trumpets sounding in Orlando; the gramophone playing, the cows mooing, and the audience clapping in Between the Acts.

The original radio broadcasts took place between October 1980 and May 2012.

The audio versions of Woolf’s novels are available in the UK and the U.S. The cost of the 14-disk CD set in the U.S. is around $30. Playing time is 11 hours and 55 minutes.

Novels included

  • The Voyage Out (1915)
  • Night and Day (1919)
  • Mrs. Dalloway (1925)
  • To the Lighthouse (1927)
  • Orlando (1928)
  • The Waves (1931)
  • Between the Acts (1941)

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Artist Ruth Dent has created a handpainted scarf to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Virginia Woolf’s first novel The Voyage Out.

You can purchase The Voyage Out Centenary Scarf online through her IndieGoGo campaign. Printed digitally on silk, only 100 are available.


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The slogan “Keep calm and carry on” is now appearing on everything from coffee mugs to note pads. I have both. But where did it come from?

As this PBS video shows, the slogan originated on a propaganda poster during World War II, but the poster itself was never displayed publicly.

Watching this video led me to think about Virginia Woolf and propaganda, and that thought led me to Mark Wollaeger’s book Modernism, Media, and Propaganda: British Narrative From 1900 To 1945 (2006). It  provides an excellent discussion of Woolf’s views on the subject — and the ways she struggles with propaganda in her novels.

As Wollaeger puts it, Woolf thought of modernism as antithetical to propaganda, and her goal was to steer clear of it. He mentions, for example, that while writing “The Pargiters,” she wrote that “this fiction is dangerously near propaganda, I must keep my hands clear” (D4 300).

Woolf avoids polemic when she explores the subject of war in Mrs. Dalloway (1925) and To the Lighthouse (1927), but in his book, Wollaeger focuses on a seemingly unlikely choice for an exploration of Woolf and propaganda, her first novel, The Voyage Out (1915). In this novel, according to Wollaeger, Woolf is engaged in a developing struggle between her own emerging modernism and “the propaganda of everyday life,” also known as the “propaganda of conformity” (73). It is a struggle in which Rachel Vinrace engages as she endeavors to discover a pure native culture in South America while still being mentally immersed in the colonial culture — and popular culture — of England.

Wollaeger explains the difficulty Rachel would have had in thinking for herself — and differentiating between national identity as reinforced by her community and calculated manipulation as perpetrated by powerful institutions — after having grown up in an environment saturated by the propaganda disseminated by mass media. In this category he includes picture postcards, which became a craze at the turn of the twentieth century, along with ads; cigarette cards; newspapers and posters.

So while Woolf directly engages with the idea of war propaganda in Mrs. Dalloway and To the Lighthouse, in The Voyage Out, she does something different. She explores the subtly intrusive ways that modern propaganda invades everyday life in ways one does not consciously recognize.


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I just found a blog that offers free e-books written by women — or as the blog puts it — by “the gals.” Virginia Woolf is listed among the gals whose works are offered in several formats.

Sadly, though, one of her novels, Night and Day, has garnered just two votes from readers. Another, The Voyage Out, has three.

So in this momentous election year here in the States, let’s cast our vote for the change we need at the polls and for Virginia online at Girlebooks.

Perhaps both ballots will help us move from night to day in this country so we don’t have to take the voyage out.

All puns intended.

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