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Virginia Woolf

Madness and War

The Importance of Marriage

The Novelist Emerges

Leonard, also a novelist, began work on his own novel, which was about Ceylon, called The Village in the Jungle. At the same time, he was fighting an internal battle regarding his position in a colonial empire. He loved Ceylon, but had mixed feelings about England's colonial policy. Leonard proposed to Woolf, but she was undecided about her feelings. After requesting a four month extension of his leave and being denied, Leonard resigned from British service and, on May 29th, 1912, Woolf accepted Leonard's proposal, sure now she loved him. They were married on August 10th.

Thanks to the abuse of her half brother and the delicacy of her mental condition, Woolf was physically unresponsive to men in general, even to those she loved. She was simply uncomprehending of male lust. Regardless, she and Leonard had a very close relationship, even if the physical side of it left a little to be desired. Marriage gave Woolf a structure she needed. The couple moved out of Bloomsbury and was able, away from the excitement of their old neighborhood, to concentrate on their work. Leonard, to make ends meet, had taken a part-time job at Grafton Galleries where Roger Fry was preparing his Second Post-Impressionist Exhibition, which was sure to cause another uproar since Picasso and Matisse enraged traditional art lovers because of their audacity and bucking of tradition.

In November 1912, Leonard's book The Village in the Jungle was accepted for publication. Both Leonard and Woolf wanted to make a living from their writing alone and perhaps raise a family. However, doctors advised Woolf not to have children due to her history of mental instability. Sorrowfully, Woolf and Leonard agreed that it was just too risky to have children.

With The Village in the Jungle finished, Leonard began work on his second book, titled The Wise Virgins. In March 1913, Woolf finally finished The Voyage Out. She submitted the manuscript to her half-brother Gerald Duckworth, who had founded his own publishing company. It wasn't ideal, but it was a foot in the door. Gerald loved the book and said he wanted to publish it immediately. Despite Gerald's enthusiastic reaction, Woolf was incredibly anxious and nervous to the point of sickness about the reception of her first book. She was terrified. Her husband worried about her mental health and kept voluminous notes on her moods in his diary. The Woolfs had a country home by this time, which they called Asham and Woolf retired to it when she was having a bout of anxiety or madness. As publication of The Voyage Out loomed near, Woolf grew more and more ill. Her doctor told her to return to Twickenham and then go on vacation. Despite Woolf's negative feelings about Twickenham, the doctor insisted that she spent some time there. She spent two weeks in the nursing home. When Leonard picked her up, she was much worse; she was almost suicidal. The couple returned to Asham at once and Leonard called for the doctor, who insisted that they continue on with the plan to holiday in Somerset. Woolf, again, only got worse by following the doctor's orders.

They traveled back to their home in London and Woolf was left in her room to rest. It was a mistake to leave her alone, even if only for a few hours. She was found unconscious on her bed, having swallowed one hundred grains of the drug Veronal, a powerful sedative. Her stomach was pumped at the hospital and Leonard began to contemplate institutionalizing Woolf, as much as it would pain him to do it.

George Duckworth offered the couple use of his country home in Sussex for Woolf's recovery. There, finally, Woolf became to improve slowly. From Sussex, Leonard moved Woolf into Asham for what he thought was good. He thought-and would continue to think this for the rest of her life-that London was bad for Woolf's mental well-being. It was a bad year for Woolf as she was ill off and on for nearly a year. Her world, like everyone else's, was then disrupted by the onset of World War I.

In 1914, a Serbian nationalist assassinated the Arch Duke Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary. This was the most visible catalyst of the Great War, but tensions had been building in Europe for years, with Germany, France, Britain, Russia and Austria-Hungary growing more nationalist, more territorial and more hungry for power. On August 1st, Germany declared war on Russia. Two days later, it declared war on France. Great Britain, France, Russia, Serbia, and Belgium joined forces as the Allies against the Central Powers, made up of Germany, Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire. On April six, 1917, America would enter the war. It was the largest war in world history up to that point, and it disrupted the lives of nearly everyone in the countries involved in the conflict, including Woolf. Considered quite small in this context, the delay in the publication of The Voyage Out was due to the outbreak of World War One. The public would have to wait another few years before they first heard from Virginia Woolf.

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