Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Virginia Woolf's First Short Story

"Phyllis and Rosamond" by Virginia Woolf (1906, 22 pages)

One of my long term  projects is reading  the complete fiction of Virginia Woolf (1882 to 1941-UK-there is some background information on her in my prior posts).    I have read and posted on seven of her novels and a few of her essays and short stories. My post on her "Solid Objects", one of my all time favorite short stories, is among the most viewed of the 1129 posts on The Reading Life.    Sometimes the short stories of Woolf seem to be neglected.   Maybe that is because of the towering status of her four most important novels.   

"Phyllis and Rosamond" is a historically important piece because it is the very first work of fiction Woolf published.   It is a story about five sisters, their mother, husband hunting and their relationship to each other and their parents.  It seems to me very much in the mode of a late Victorian comedy of manners story centering on the family issues of the affluent sisters.  The story is narrated as if it were a biography of the sisters.   Two are described as having a pugnacious state of mind which applies itself to political, economic, and social problems.   Two of the sisters are "frivolous, domestic, of lighter and more sensitive temperaments.   These two are then condemned to be what in the slang of the century is called daughters at home".  The fifth sisters vacillates between the two pairs.   The first two sisters will go to college, cultivate their minds and become the wives of men of consequence.   The fun of the story revolves around Woolf's remaking of the husband hunt theme worked so well in the 19th century and the narrative observations on marriage.  

"Phyllis and Rosamond" is a good short story and it was very exciting to see the start of one of the great writing careers of all time.

I also want to let my readers known about a great new edition of the complete works of Virginia Woolf published as an E-Book by Delphi Classics.   It contains all the novels, all of the essays, her play, all of the short stories (including numerous ones I personally could not find online)  and all of the essays, including ones not in any of the collections of essays.   It has a smart table of contents with is very helpful.   One great thing about the set is that you can search the whole collection for words or expressions.  Just for fun I did a search on "London" and it came up 200 times, "Marriage" came 335 times, and "Ireland" 48 times.   I think to serious students of  Woolf just this feature alone would be worth the very reasonable purchase price.  It would certainly make a post on "Ireland and Virginia Woolf" a lot easier.  "Death" comes up 425 times.  

Further information on this title and the many other works offered by Delphi Classics can be found on their webpage.

Mel u


Anonymous said...

Hi Mel: Thanks for the info about the Delphi Group - I hadn't heard of them, I went on their site and registered. They are doing good work and I like supporting someone other than Amazon.

I haven't read much Woolf - I recently read a biography of her, which I liked very much. But I'm put off by her novels' reputations as "modern" - I'm a pretty traditional, linear narrative kind of read. But she's on my list. After reading your post, I see that I could get a good inexpensive version of her work from Delphi and start in with her short stories, which would probably be a good, accessible entry point. Thanks! Kathy aka Ruby

Mel u said...

Kathy. To me the Delphi volumes represent a great value. On Woolf, maybe as a first longer work try Flush, her very funny traditionally done biography of the dog of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Which V W bio did you read?

Valerie Sirr said...

Delphi's site looks like an interesting resource. Thanks for the info, Mel.