Bust of Leonard Woolf at Monk's House
|Born||Leonard Sidney Woolf
25 November 1880
Kensington, London, England, United Kingdom
|Died||14 August 1969
Rodmell, East Sussex, England, United Kingdom
|Occupation||Political theorist, author, publisher and civil servant|
(m. 1912–41) (her death)
Woolf was born in London, the third of ten children of Solomon Rees Sydney, a Jewish barrister and Queen's Counsel and Marie (née de Jongh). After his father died in 1892, Woolf was sent to board at Arlington House School near Brighton, Sussex. From 1894 to 1899 he attended St Paul's School (London), and in 1899 won a classical scholarship to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was elected to the Cambridge Apostles. Other members included Lytton Strachey, John Maynard Keynes, GE Moore, and EM Forster, as well as Bertrand Russell. Thoby Stephen, Virginia Stephen's brother, was friendly with the Apostles, though not a member himself. Woolf was awarded his B.A. degree in 1902 but stayed for another year to study for the civil service examination.
In October 1904 Woolf moved to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) to become a cadet in the Ceylon Civil Service, in Jaffna and later Kandy, and by August 1908 was named an assistant government agent in the Southern Province, where he administered the District of Hambantota. Woolf returned to England in May 1911 for a year's leave. Instead, he resigned in early 1912 and that same year married Adeline Virginia Stephen (Virginia Woolf).
As a couple, Leonard and Virginia Woolf became influential in the Bloomsbury group, which also included various other 'Apostles'. In December 1917, he was one of the co-founders of the 1917 Club which met in Gerrard Street, Soho.
After marriage, Woolf turned his hand to writing, publishing his first novel, The Village in the Jungle in 1913 based on his years in Sri Lanka. A series of books was to follow at roughly two-year intervals. On the introduction of conscription in 1916 during World War I, Woolf was rejected for military service on medical grounds, and turned to politics and sociology. He joined the Labour Party and Fabian Society and became a regular contributor to the New Statesman. In 1916 he wrote International Government, proposing an international agency to enforce world peace.
As his wife began to suffer greatly from mental illness, Woolf devoted much of his time to caring for her (Leonard Woolf himself suffered with depression/mental illnesses). In 1917 the Woolfs bought a small, hand-operated printing press; with it they founded the famous Hogarth Press. Their first project was a pamphlet, hand-printed and bound by themselves. Within ten years, the Press had become a full-scale publishing house with a highly distinguished authors list. Woolf continued as its director until his death. His wife's mental problems continued, however, until her suicide in 1941. After Virginia Woolf's suicide, Leonard fell in love with a married artist, Trekkie Parsons.
In 1919 Woolf became editor of the International Review, and edited the international section of the Contemporary Review (1920–22). He was literary editor of The Nation and Atheneum, referred to simply as the Nation (1923–30), joint editor of The Political Quarterly (1931–59), and for a time served as secretary of the Labour Party's advisory committees on international and colonial questions.
In 1960 Woolf revisited Sri Lanka and was surprised at the warmth of the welcome he received, and even the fact that he was still remembered, according to EFC Ludowyk in his introduction to The Village in the Jungle. Woolf accepted an honorary doctorate from the then new University of Sussex in 1964 and in 1965 was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, but declined the CH in the Queen's Birthday honours list in 1966.
Among his nine siblings, Bella was also an author.
Woolf died on 14 August 1969 from a stroke and was cremated with his ashes being buried beneath an elm tree in his beloved garden at Monk's House, with his wife's ashes in Rodmell, Sussex. (The tree subsequently blew down; Woolf's remains since have been marked by a bronze bust). His papers are held by the University of Sussex at Falmer.
- The Village in the Jungle – 1913
- The Wise Virgins – 1914 (Republished in 2003 by Persephone Books)
- International Government – 1916
- The Future of Constantinople – 1917
- Cooperation and the Future of Industry – 1918
- Economic Imperialism – 1920
- Empire and Commerce in Africa – 1920
- Socialism and Co-operation – 1921
- Fear and Politics – 1925
- Essays on Literature, History, Politics – 1927
- Hunting the Highbrow – 1927
- Imperialism and Civilization – 1928
- After the Deluge (Principia Politica), 3 vols. – 1931, 1939, 1953
- Quack! Quack! – 1935
- Barbarians At The Gate – 1939
- The War for Peace – 1940
- A Calendar of Consolation – selected by Leonard Woolf, 1967
- Woolf, Leonard (1960). Sowing: an autobiography of the years, 1880–1904. London: Hogarth Press. OCLC 185524636. Published in America as Woolf, Leonard (1960). Sowing: an autobiography of the years, 1880–1904 (1st American ed.). New York: Harcourt, Brace. ISBN 978-0-15-683945-7. OCLC 1346957. Also OCLC 1339821.
- Woolf, Leonard (1961). Growing: an autobiography of the years 1904–1911 (1st American ed.). New York: Harcourt, Brace & World. OCLC 494500. Also OCLC 21246847 (1977), OCLC 67527334 (1967).
- Woolf, Leonard (1963). Diaries in Ceylon, 1908–1911, and Stories from the East: records of a colonial administrator. London: Hogarth Press. OCLC 30240642. Also OCLC 4194108
- Woolf, Leonard (1964). Beginning again: an autobiography of the years 1911–1918. London: Hogarth Press. ISBN 978-0-7012-0250-7. OCLC 186031278. Published in America as Woolf, Leonard (1964). Beginning again: an autobiography of the years 1911–1918 (1st American ed.). New York: Harcourt, Brace & World. OCLC 264298.
- Woolf, Leonard (1967). Downhill all the way: an autobiography of the years 1919–1939 (1st American ed.). New York: Harcourt, Brace & World. OCLC 1065888.
- Woolf, Leonard (1969). The journey not the arrival matters: an autobiography of the years 1939–1969. London: Hogarth Press. ISBN 978-0-7012-0326-9. OCLC 186031338. Published in America as Woolf, Leonard (1969). The journey not the arrival matters: an autobiography of the years 1939–1969 (1st American ed.). New York: Harcourt, Brace & World. OCLC 58615.
Biographical works on Woolf
- Glendinning, Victoria (2006). Leonard Woolf: a biography. New York: Free Press. ISBN 978-0-7432-4653-8. OCLC 71779088.
Related works and cultural references
- In 1982 a film version in Sinhala of Woolf's novel, Village in the Jungle, called Bæddegama was released. It featured Arthur C. Clarke in the role of Woolf.
- A film version of Michael Cunningham's 1998 Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Hours, was released in 2002, starring Nicole Kidman as Virginia Woolf. The part of Leonard Woolf was played by Stephen Dillane.
- In 2005 a book titled Woolf in Ceylon was published by author Christopher Ondaatje. This is an unusual "in-the-footsteps of" book by the older brother of novelist Michael Ondaatje.
- Trekkie Parsons
- Woolf, Leonard; Ritchie, Trekkie (2002). Adamson, Judith, ed. Love letters. London: Pimlico. ISBN 978-0-7126-6473-8. OCLC 49551724.
- Adam Smith, Janet (29 July 1995). "Obituary: Trekkie Parsons". The Independent. UK: BNET. Retrieved 8 December 2008.[dead link]
- Works by Leonard Woolf at Internet Archive (scanned books original editions illustrated)
- Works by Leonard Woolf at Project Gutenberg (plain text and HTML)
- The Leonard Woolf fonds at the Victoria University Library at the University of Toronto consists of correspondence from Woolf to Ellen Alderm, 1935, and Mrs. Easdale, 1935, 1964–1968, primarily re submissions to Hogarth Press