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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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A Critical Heritage: Virginia Woolf, Leslie Stephen, and Walter Scott

A Critical Heritage: Virginia Woolf, Leslie Stephen, and Walter Scott

(p.115) A Critical Heritage: Virginia Woolf, Leslie Stephen, and Walter Scott
Virginia Woolf and Heritage

Danielle Gilman

Liverpool University Press

“Questions of affection are, of course, always disputable. I can only reiterate that while I would cheerfully become Shakespeare’s cat, Scott’s pig, or Keats’s canary […] I would not cross the road (reasons of curiosity apart) to dine with Wordsworth, Byron, or Dickens” – Woolf, review of David Copperfield in Dickens’s Complete Works, p. 225. On the occasion of her fifteenth birthday, Virginia Woolf received J. G. Lockhart’s Life of Scott from her father, Sir Leslie Stephen—a Walter Scott devotee. Critics often mark Woolf’s enduring interest in Scott to be a function of grief or nostalgia. Although her diaries, letters, fiction, and critical writings are rife with mentions of the Scottish novelist, such mentions have largely been ascribed to Woolf’s attempts at preserving the memory of Leslie Stephen. However, in this paper I argue that Woolf’s interest in the “masterly” Scott moved beyond simple interest and speaks to the origins of her interest in literary criticism. Focusing specifically on Leslie Stephen’s 1871 article for Cornhill Magazine entitled “Hours in a Library with Walter Scott,” and Virginia Woolf’s 1924 article “The Antiquary,” I will analyze both their critical engagement with Scott and also the suggestions that even considering Scott’s shortcomings, there is a strong case to be made for his inclusion in the literary canon. Indeed, the “superb genius” of Scott is something worthy of both preservation and veneration, Woolf believes; after all, it was in the study of the fiction and writings of Walter Scott in which Woolf’s own literary education and novelistic intentions were born (Woolf, Essays II, 218).

Keywords:   Woolf, women authors, periodicals, Leslie Stephen, Walter Scott, family relations, essay, literary style, To The Lighthouse, modernism

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