A biography of one’s own

After six volumes of letters and five volumes of diaries we know what Virginia Woolf did and said on almost every day of her life. Penelope Fitzgerald considers why we care

By Penelope Fitzgerald   12

More literary biographies are published than any other kind, presumably because writers like writing about writers. And they find readers who like reading them, although those readers are not seen at their best in the introduction to Hermione Lee’s new biography of Virginia Woolf. “I have noticed,” says Lee, “that in the course of conversation about the book I would, without fail, be asked one or more of the same four questions: Is it true that she was sexually abused as a child? What was her madness and why did she kill herself? Was Leonard a good or a wicked…

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