> Skip to content
About the book
  • Published: 26 February 2015
  • ISBN: 9781448182145
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 288

The Common Reader: Volume 1




Virginia Woolf's first collection of essays demonstrates her eccentric, entertaining brilliance as a literary critic

Discover Virginia Woolf’s informative and erudite critical essays on some of the key novelists and dramatists of the canon – from the ancient Greeks to Jane Austen and beyond.

Virginia Woolf read, and wrote, as an outsider, denied the educational privileges of her male contemporaries. She was perhaps better able, then, to address a 'common reader' in this wide-ranging collection of essays. With all the imagination and gaiety that are the stamp of her genius, she turns from medieval England to tsarist Russia, and subjects Elizabethan playwrights, Victorian novelists and modern essayists to her wise, acute and entertaining scrutiny.

Essays on Jane Austen, George Eliot, Nancy Mitford, Joseph Conrad, Michel de Montaigne, Daniel Defoe and many others.

  • Pub date: 26 February 2015
  • ISBN: 9781448182145
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 288

About the Author

Virginia Woolf

Date: 2004-06-24
Virginia Woolf was born in London in 1882. After her father's death in 1904 Virginia and her sister, the painter Vanessa Bell, moved to Bloomsbury and became the centre of ‘The Bloomsbury Group’. This informal collective of artists and writers exerted a powerful influence over early twentieth-century British culture.

In 1912 Virginia married Leonard Woolf, a writer and social reformer. Three years later, her first novel The Voyage Out was published, followed by Night and Day (1919) and Jacob's Room (1922). Between 1925 and 1931 Virginia Woolf produced what are now regarded as her finest masterpieces, from Mrs Dalloway (1925) to The Waves (1931). She also maintained an astonishing output of literary criticism, short fiction, journalism and biography. On 28 March 1941, a few months before the publication of her final novel, Between the Acts, Virginia Woolf committed suicide.


Virginia Woolf is now recognized as a major twentieth-century author, a great novelist and essayist and a key figure in literary history as a feminist and a modernist. Born in 1882, she was the daughter of the editor and critic Leslie Stephen, and suffered a traumatic adolescence after the deaths of her mother, in 1895, and her step-sister Stella, in 1897, leaving her subject to breakdowns for the rest of her life. Her father died in 1904 and two years later her favourite brother Thoby died suddenly of typhoid.

With her sister, the painter Vanessa Bell, she was drawn into the company of writers and artists such as Lytton Strachey and Roger Fry, later known as the Bloomsbury Group. Among them she met Leonard Woolf, whom she married in 1912, and together they founded the Hogarth Press in 1917, which was to publish the work of T. S. Eliot, E. M. Forster and Katherine Mansfield as well as the earliest translations of Freud. Woolf lived an energetic life among friends and family, reviewing and writing, and dividing her time between London and the Sussex Downs. In 1941, fearing another attack of mental illness, she drowned herself.

Her first novel, The Voyage Out, appeared in 1915, and she then worked through the transitional Night and Day (1919) to the highly experimental and impressionistic Jacob's Room (1922). From then on her fiction became a series of brilliant and extraordinarily varied experiments, each one searching for a fresh way of presenting the relationship between individual lives and the forces of society and history. She was particularly concerned with women's experience, not only in her novels but also in her essays and her two books of feminist polemic, A Room of One's Own (1929) and Three Guineas (1938).

Her major novels include Mrs Dalloway (1925), the historical fantasy Orlando (1928), written for Vita Sackville-West, the extraordinarily poetic vision of The Waves (1931), the family saga of The Years (1937), and Between the Acts (1941). All these are published by Penguin, as are her Diaries, Volumes I-V, and selections from her essays and short stories.

Also by Virginia Woolf

See all

Praise for The Common Reader: Volume 1

“Her essays are delightful in the way that serious play is delightful. She is enjoying herself, and reading her gives me that leaping sense of being in excellent company”

Jeanette Winterson, The Times

“More like novels than ordinary criticism”

New Statesman

“Woolf was easily the greatest literary journalist of her age”

James Wood,, Guardian

“It is all pure Woolf, so distinctive is her voice - ironic, cool, conversational and playful, shrewd and fantastical by turns”

Literary Review


Related titles