Glendinning, author of Leonard Woolf - A Life
I ask Victoria Glendinning, the award-winning biographer who
is coming to Lewes on Thursday afternoon to do a signing of
her latest book, why she chose Leonard Woolf as its subject.
“Because I was fascinated by him,” she replies.
“He is always in the shadows, people always talk about
Virginia and Leonard Woolf, in that order. And because there
are great differences of opinion about him. Some people see
him as a saint who sacrificed his own career to help Virginia
achieve what she achieved - as a carer and nurturer. Others,
particularly North American feminists, have portrayed him
as something of a monster, as an oppressor and conniver, who
was in some way responsible for her death.”
Glendinning spent years wading through documents and travelling
to relevant places, as far away as Sri Lanka, to research
the book. “Leonard kept everything,” she says.
“Thousands of letters he received, carbon copies of
all the thousands he sent. Decades of lawnmower repair bills,
decades of complaints about small parts of kitchen appliances
that didn’t work, lists of gramophone records he listened
to. When he died he left all this material in the hands of
his companion Trekkie Parsons. “There are hundreds of
boxes of it,” says Victoria, “which is all stored
in the library of Sussex University. I went along there for
several years, and went through it all. It was fascinating.
All biographers are nosey, inquisitive, and voyeuristic.”