Cover image for Leonard and Virginia Woolf : a literary partnership
Leonard and Virginia Woolf : a literary partnership
Alexander, Peter (Peter F.)
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Press, 1992.
Physical Description:
xi, 265 pages, 12 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PR6045.O67 Z537 1992 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order


Author Notes

Peter F. Alexander, author of Alan Paton (a biography of the South African novelists), teaches at the University of New South Wales.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Admitting that he dislikes Virginia Woolf's novels, Alexander has written a strongly negative study of Woolf in the guise of exploring the Woolfs' influence on each other's writing. Presenting Virginia as a frigid, anti-Semitic snob who lacked domestic skills, Alexander holds her responsible for Leonard's alienation from his Jewishness (expressed in his second novel, The Wise Virgins ). Drawing on the Woolfs' diaries and letters, as well as on interviews with Trekkie Parsons (with whom Leonard had a romance after Virginia's death), Alexander asserts that Leonard's decision against allowing Virginia to have children was directly responsible for her literary work, as she subliminated her desire for babies by writing. He also credits Leonard for whatever feminist attitudes she expressed in her novels (which Alexander judges as lacking both characterization and plots). This polemical work is sure to be controversial in scholarly circles. Alexander is an associate professor of English in Australia. Photos not seen by PW. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

In this dual biography, Alexander charts the lives of Bloomsbury's famous couple, emphasizing their influence on each other and taking issue with those who consider Virginia one of the most important novelists of the 20th century. Drawing on recently published letters and early journals, Alexander points out her racism, her inability to deal with reality, and her madness, stressing Leonard's role in helping keep her sane. Although informative in its revelations about the Woolfs' marriage and literary interaction, the book fails to present convincing evidence to support the contention that Virginia's writing has been overrated. Alexander criticizes her behavior without sufficient analysis of her work and fails to credit her with the substantial innovations she made in the novel. Of interst only to scholars.-- Nancy R. Ives, SUNY at Geneseo (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Describing his idea for this book to a friend who is also a publisher and "distinguished man of letters," Alexander was warned: "I think your suggestion of a volume on Leonard and Virginia Woolf is the worst I have heard in a long time. . . . Readers are sick and tired of blather about Bloomsbury and you would be writing for a nonexistent public. In any case I should say Virginia's influence on Leonard's writing was nil, and his influence on her little more, except in the matter of encouragment and cherishing." What perceptive and perilously ignored foresight! Trying to prove that Bloomsbury did not exist, Alexander makes it seem all the more real by arguing that Virginia, too, was influenced by G.E. Moore, the Cambridge don who inspired Leonard and the others. Truisms abound e.g., "Nietzsche was passionately anti-Christian." Most value judgments are substantiated only quirkily if at all: Virginia is a lesser writer than Tolstoy because he would never have done a whole book from a dog's point of view, as she did in Flush; and The Years is to be discarded as a failure simply because repeated over and over Leonard did not like it. At best this book is pedestrian rehash; at worst it reads like a parody of its type. Yes, Bloomsbury, there is a Virginia, but she is not here. J. Hafley; St. John's University (NY)