“…it is necessary to have five hundred a year and a room with a lock on the door if you are to write fiction or poetry.”
Virginia Woolf explains why she came to the above conclusion in this extended essay which grew out of a lecture she was invited to give at a women’s college in Cambridge in 1928. She uses a fictional narrator to present her arguments and traces the history of women writing fiction in England.
Virginia Woolf starts out by contrasting the menu and the interiors of a men’s college dining hall and that of a woman’s (where she was invited to speak) for “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” Then she goes on to analyse the impact of women not receiving a college education on their writing. Next, she goes on to books written by men on women. She then argues why Shakespeare talented sister (imaginary) would never have made it big even if she were more talented than him. Virginia Woolf then critiques the work of Jane Austen, George Elliot and Charlotte Bronte and argues why they couldn’t have written ‘War and Peace’. Finally she comes to women writers of her own times and points out their flaws and merits.
A Room of One’s Own is about women, about fiction, about women writing fiction, about the history of women writing fiction, and everything else a woman who reads or writes or wants to write fiction needs to know and understand.
“By hook or by crook, I hope that you will possess yourselves of money enough to travel and to idle, to contemplate the future or the past of the world, to dream over books and loiter at street corners and let the line of thought dip deep into the stream.”
“I would venture to guess that Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman.”
“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.”
“A book is not made of sentences laid end to end, but of sentences built, if an image helps, into arcades and domes”