Book-signing: Victoria 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.”


Leonard Woolf and Virginia Stephens, in 1912, shortly before
they married (pic and two following pics courtesy of Simon and Schuster)