The Daily


Have You Ever Heard Virginia Woolf Speak?

May 21, 2013 | by

What follows is the only known surviving recording of Virginia Woolf, part of a BBC radio broadcast from 1937. The talk is titled “Craftsmanship.”




  1. Shelley | May 21, 2013 at 11:14 am

    Wow. Writers owe you a debt of gratitude for this.

    Words: “They hate being useful. They hate making money. They hate being lectured about in public.”

    And thanks to Woolf.

  2. MacEvoy | May 21, 2013 at 11:19 am

    I’ve always thought she sounded a bit like Dame Edna. Side-by-side comparison here.

  3. Gerard O. Hemmerle | May 21, 2013 at 3:18 pm

    Adept!Thank you.

  4. Alexei | May 22, 2013 at 8:08 am

    Thank you!

  5. Carrie Ballard | May 22, 2013 at 3:44 pm

    When she says beauty, glory, and question, I cringe. We would recognize that pronunciation today as coming from a poseur. Is it just that it seems old-fashioned, or is it (dare I say it) pompous?

  6. bob | May 30, 2013 at 10:58 am

    @Carrie Ballard

    She has a slight period accent. Sounds similar to my Grandmother.

    Where do you live that she sounds like a “poseur”?

  7. Rebecca Brooks | December 19, 2013 at 2:57 pm

    She definitely has an old upper class British accent. I couldn’t help but notice on a recording of one of Vita Sackville-West’s radio broadcasts that her accent was very similar to Virginia’s, which makes sense since they were both upper class and from the same time era.

  8. Marc Smirnoff | January 25, 2014 at 6:10 pm

    So. She sounds like a poseur. Or sounds like your grandma. Or Dame Edna. Who cares? If some of you could just go beyond your comfort zone for a moment and focus instead on the actual argument she makes–an argument of eloquence, depth, playfulness, illumination, and variety–maybe you’d discover that a more appropriate, let alone interesting, response would be more like Shelley’s up above: one of gratitude.

  9. Sally Eckhoff | January 25, 2014 at 10:12 pm

    How lovely to hear this voice. She sounds like a book, like pages turning.
    Words are lovely things, aren’t they? And books. And Orlando, which has a hotel in Amsterdam named after it.

  10. Sarah Rayne | January 26, 2014 at 4:32 am

    I loved the part where Woolf says that words, ‘…dash first this way then that, unintelligible to one generation, plain as a pikestaff to the next.’
    How true!

  11. Micki Rhodes | January 26, 2014 at 2:15 pm

    Is this what was known in her era as a “finishing school ” accent? It really is lovely, with such precise diction…none of that mumbling that assaults the senses and the language today! We heard a similar elocution from JFK’s wife, Jackie, in all American aristocrats of the time and even the middle classes (probably due to the “mimicking/trickle-down” effect on “lower” classes of popular “wealthy” styles and phrases, etc. – a tendency still obvious today…) My grandmother, who was strictly middle-class but was fixated on proper pronunciation, spoke much like this recording , and she was born in 1910, so yes, I do also associate it with the era. I believe the changes came after the 1920s when the privileges of class began to disappear after the full end of leadership from those of the “Gilded Age”.

  12. Janet Sternburg | February 1, 2014 at 12:17 pm

    HISTORICAL CORRECTION re: ‘only known surviving recording of Virginia Woolf’s voice.

    I have a recording (very brief) of Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West speaking with one another. It was given to me by Nigel Nicholson when I was in England some years ago.

12 Pingbacks

  1. […] writing a book is like. | Talking Heads ft Arthur Russell: Psycho Killer. | Have you ever heard Virginia Woolf speak?  Also: Virginia Woolf tshirt at Otherwild. | The photography of Aileen Son. | “Overpraised […]

  2. […] RT @TerenceBlacker The voice of Virginia Woolf, talking about about words. Thanks to @parisreview. … […]

  3. […] is one surviving recording of Virginia Woolf’s voice. She delivered a talk called “Craftsmanship,” part of a 1937 BBC radio […]

  4. […] This one’s from Friend D. Hearing an author’s voice is transformative. You don’t quite read books the same way after. Ladies and gentlemen, Virginia Woolf. […]

  5. […] just beyond history’s reach in terms of recorded mementos, but her voice endures thanks to a single 1937 lecture on the subject of “Craftsmanship.” This isn’t exactly where Nicole Kidman ended up with her character voice in “The […]

  6. […] ➻ Ouça a única gravação da voz de Virigina Woolf já registrada, no blog da Paris Review […]

  7. […] Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath talking about their work (there’s a bit of Ted Hughes in the latter, but thankfully he doesn’t say much). […]

Leave a Comment