Virginia Woolf on Words

Good grief, I was just trying to say some of the same things, struggling to explain to someone the fragility and friability of language, what a writer can reasonably expect and accomplish with it, took a break and tripped over this. Thank God. Here it is, compliments of Virginia Woolf.



English: Portrait of Virginia Woolf

English: Portrait of Virginia Woolf (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Brain Pickings: On April 19, 1937, as part of their Words Fail Me series, BBC broadcast a segment that survives as the only recorded voice of Virginia Woolf. The meditation, which was eventually edited and published in The Death of the Moth and Other Essays in 1942, a year after Woolf’s death, was titled “Craftsmanship” and explores the art of writing.

The beginning of the essay isn’t preserved in the recording, which begins about a third in. Among what’s omitted is Woolf’s faith in words as an antidote to the impermanence of life:

Since the only test of truth is length of life, and since words survive the chops and changes of time longer than any other substance, therefore they are the truest. Buildings fall; even the earth perishes. What was yesterday a cornfield is to-day a bungalow. But words, if properly used, seem able to live for…

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About Margaret Jean Langstaff

A lifelong critical reader with literary tastes, a novelist, short story writer, essayist, book critic, and professional book editor for many years. A consultant to publishers and authors, providing manuscript critiques and a full range of editorial services. A friend and supporter of all other readers and writers. A collector of signed modern first editions. Animal lover and tree hugger. Follow me on Twitter @LangstaffEditor
This entry was posted in Literature, Rants, writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Virginia Woolf on Words

  1. Beautiful, and it suggests a certain responsibility in using words that, I’m afraid, not many word users bother acknowledging anymore. Thanks for posting this!


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