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Virginia Woolf and Heritage$
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Jane deGay, Tom Breckin, and Anne Reus

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781942954422

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9781942954422.001.0001

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Virginia Stephen’s Uneasy Heritage: Lessons, Readers, and Class

Virginia Stephen’s Uneasy Heritage: Lessons, Readers, and Class

(p.30) Virginia Stephen’s Uneasy Heritage: Lessons, Readers, and Class
Virginia Woolf and Heritage

Beth Rigel Daugherty

Liverpool University Press

In “A Sketch of the Past,” Virginia Woolf says she was “born into a very communicative, literate, letter writing, visiting, articulate, late nineteenth century world” (65). Mark Hussey notes that her parents “knew many of the intellectual luminaries of the late Victorian era well” (ix). Yet Leslie Stephen thought his journalism and dictionary-making put him on the periphery of the “intellectual aristocracy,” preventing him from making a real mark in philosophical or ethical thought. And although Woolf saw her parents as well-to-do (not rich), Stephen was haunted by money worries most of his life. Acutely aware of being an outsider – from her mother’s social ease, her friends’ intellectual agility, and the working classes’ material experiences – Woolf used that outsider status to see and critique class assumptions in herself and others. Yet insider contradictions and compromises abound in her life and work, as many commentators have noted, with sober understanding, spiteful glee, or dismissive shouts. In this paper, I propose to examine Virginia Stephen’s class heritage from the angle Virginia Woolf insists on in Three Guineas, that of the educated man’s daughter. What did Stephen learn from her father about the writer’s “place” in the class system? What did reading and writing do about class barriers? What did Leslie Stephen himself have to say about class in his “Thoughts of an Outsider” columns and elsewhere? How did those lessons affect Virginia Stephen’s experiences with Morley College students? What does Virginia Stephen’s class heritage reveal about class in Virginia Woolf?

Keywords:   class, money, Morley College, teaching, contradictions, readers, writers

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