Woolf, ca. 1902.
In July 1910, after she had attempted to kill herself by defenestration, Virginia Woolf (then Virginia Stephen) was institutionalized at Burley House, “a nursing home for women with nervous disorder.” She wrote the letter below to her sister, Vanessa Bell. Read more of Woolf’s correspondence in the five-volume Letters of Virginia Woolf.
I meant to write several days ago, although you do say you dont care a damn. But in that too I was hoodwinked by Miss Thomas. I gather that some great conspiracy is going on behind my back. What a mercy we cant have at each other! or we should quarrel till midnight, and Clarissas (the coming ‘neice’) deformities, inherited from generations of hard drinking Bells, would be laid at my door. She-(Miss T.) wont read me or quote your letters. But I gather that you want me to stay on here. She is in a highly wrought state, as the lunatic upstairs has somehow brought her case into court; and I cant make her speak calmly. Do write and explain.
Having read your last letter at least 10 times—so that Miss Bradbury (nurse) is sure it is a love letter and looks very arch—I cant find a word about my future … I really dont think I can stand much more of this. Miss T. is charming, and Miss Bradbury is a good woman, but you cant conceive how I want intelligent conversation—even yours. Religion seems to me to have ruined them all. Miss T. is always culminating in silent prayer. Miss Somerville (patient), the absent minded one with the deaf dog, wears two crucifixes. Miss B. says Church Bells are the sweetest sound on earth. She also says that the old Queen the Queen Mother and the present Queen represent the highest womanhood. They reverence my gifts, although God has left me in the dark. They are always wondering what God is up to. The religious mind is quite amazing. Read More