The Second Common Reader

Front Cover
Harcourt, 1932 - Literary Collections - 330 pages
2 Reviews
Here, in twenty-six essays, Woolf writes of English literature in its various forms, including the poetry of Donne; the novels of Defoe, Sterne, Meredith, and Hardy; Lord Chesterfielde(tm)s letters and De Quinceye(tm)s autobiography. She writes, too, about the life and art of women. Edited and with an Introduction by Andrew McNeillie; Index.

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Review: The Second Common Reader

User Review  - Michael Graaf - Goodreads

I haven't been reading a lot of essays recently, and typically what I would read in that vein these days are more the longer form newspaper or magazine articles that usually look at contemporary ... Read full review

Review: The Second Common Reader

User Review  - Sherwood Smith - Goodreads

Here's the thing about Woolf. Even if you disagree with her (as I do over Chesterfield, for example), you can hold a mental conversation with her, and you sense that she will listen sympathetically ... Read full review

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About the author (1932)

Virginia Woolf was born in London, the daughter of the prominent literary critic Leslie Stephen. She never received a formal university education; her early education was obtained at home through her parents and governesses. After death of her father in 1904, her family moved to Bloomsbury, where they formed the nucleus of the Bloomsbury Group, a circle of philosophers, writers and artists. As a writer, Woolf was a great experimenter. She scorned the traditional narrative form and turned to expressionism as a means of telling her story. Mrs. Dalloway (1925) and To The Lighthouse (1927), her two generally acknowledged masterpieces, are stream-of-consciousness novels in which most of the action and conflict occur beneath a surface of social decorum. Mrs. Dalloway, set in London shortly after the end of World War I, takes place on a summer's day of no particular significance, except that intense emotion, insanity, and death intrude.To the Lighthouse's long first and third sections, each of which concerns one day 10 years apart, of the same family's summer holidays, are separated and connected by a lyrical short section during which the war occurs, several members of the family die, and decay and corruption run rampant. Orlando (1928) is the chronological life story of a person who begins as an Elizabethan gentleman and ends as a lady of the twentieth century; Woolf's friend, Victoria Sackville-West, served as the principal model for the multiple personalities. (The book was made into a movie in 1993.) Flush (1933) is a dog's soliloquy that, by indirection, recounts the love story of Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning and their elopement and life in Florence. Her last short novel, Between the Acts (1941), was left without her final revision, but it is, nonetheless, a major representation of a society on the verge of collapse. Having had periods of depression throughout her life and fearing a final mental breakdown from which she might not recover, Woolf drowned herself in 1941. Her husband published part of her farewell letter to deny that she had taken her life because she could not face the terrible times of war. Leonard Woolf also edited A Writer's Diary (1953), which provides valuable insights into his wife's private thoughts and literary development. Equally informative are his own autobiographies, particularly Beginning Again and Downhill All the Way (1967), and The Letters of Virginia Woolf and Lytton Strachey . Virginia Woolf's Granite and Rainbow contains 27 essays on the art of fiction and biography. There are many sidelights on Woolf in the writings, letters, and biographies of other members of her Bloomsbury circle, such as Roger Fry, John Maynard Keynes (see Vol. 3), and Lytton Strachey (see Vol. 3). Also casting much light on her life, thought, and creative processes are The Common Reader (1925), The Second Common Reader (1933), A Room of One's Own (1929), Three Guineas (1938), The Captain's Death Bed and Other Essays, The Death of the Moth and Other Essays (1942), and various collections of her autobiographical writings, diaries, and letters. In addition, in recent years there has been a veritable industry of writers dealing with Woolf and her work.

Andrew McNeillie is the literature editor at Oxford University Press. His collection of poems Nevermore was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection in 2000, and he is the author of the memoir An Aran Keening.

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