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A Room of One's Own

by Virginia Woolf
Persephone book no:

133 134 135


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A Well Full of Leaves
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PREFACE BY CLARA JONES

192pp

ISBN 9781910263242

We take such pleasure in our collection of Persephone books, as a group rather than a mere stream of disparate titles, that it had become increasingly absurd not to include one of the great documents of twentieth-century feminist history amongst them. It is true that many of our readers will already have read A Room of One's Own, indeed we hope that this is the case. But we also hope that many of them will want to own the Persephone edition and to reread it; and that they will want to give it to someone who has not yet read it. Virginia Woolf herself, wondering what people would make of the book, assumed they would say (patronisingly) ‘Mrs Woolf is so accomplished a writer, that all she says makes easy reading… this very feminine logic… a book to be put in the hands of girls.’

Well, this has been so for ninety years, and if a Persephone reader knows a girl who has not read it, then they should remedy this error at once. For A Room of One's Own is not only one of the key texts of feminism, it also makes easy reading (and was possibly written in the very beautiful room – in Virginia Woolf’s cottage in the country – seen on this page). As the academic, and former Persephone employee, Clara Jones, points out in her Persephone Preface, the fact that it is a book to be put in the hands of girls has proved one of its greatest strengths: ‘It is fitting that an essay so preoccupied with what women pass down and what women inherit should have been one of the founding texts of feminine literary criticism, inspiring generations of women readers, writers and critics.’

Famously, the central premise of the essay is that ‘a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.’ Not only is this central to A Room, it is also central to the history of twentieth-century women’s writing. For, it is true, something that comes up time after time when women’s fiction is being discussed is that it is so middle-class. But there was a reason for this: a woman needed to buy time to write, and this was something that – unfortunately – only the better-off could do.

In the end, A Room is a political book. Clara Jones concludes: ‘The poetry and pragmatism of Woolf’s central claim about the room and the money have taken on renewed urgency today. The ubiquity of debt for a generation of young people who pay large university tuition fees, are charged prohibitive rents and paid low wages, combined with the fact that all but the luckiest (or best connected) with literary ambitions will begin their apprenticeship by working for free, make Woolf’s trinity of space, privacy and financial security as worth striving for as ever.’

Endpaper

'Stripe', a 1930 textile design by Vanessa Bell © Warner Textile Archive

Picture Caption

Monk's House, Rodmell, Virginia's Woolf's house in Sussex


Read What Readers Say

Northern Reader (blogger)

This is a well known book written up from an essay that Woolf wrote for the benefit of “girls”, based on some lectures she gave at women’s colleges in Cambridge. Using experiences of life for female students in such colleges, this book is an indictment of the discrimination against women in the 1920s. First published in 1929 by the small press owned and operated by Virginia Woolf and her husband Leonard, this new edition recently released by Persephone Books retains the charm of a small press with the availability of Persephone books generally. In the grey cover which is special to the publishing company, it represents an elegant edition of this very readable essay.

Categories: Grey Books Bloomsbury Education Gender and Race History Humour Women’s Place

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