The least interesting sections of the book were about Leonard s Civil Service positions I was somewhat bored as I plowed through those chapters, resisting the temptation to skip them I felt that I needed to read the entire book in order to write a review that discussed Leonard s life in a comprehensive way.
I ll be reading biographies by Glendinning in the future her books are well written and generally keep me reading on.
An interesting read, but Glendinning is too much of an apologist for Woolf.
Award Winning Biographer Victoria Glendinning Draws On Her Deep Knowledge Of The Twentieth Century Literary Scene, And On Her Meticulous Research Into Previously Untapped Sources, To Write The First Full Biography Of The Extraordinary Man Who Was The Dark Star At The Center Of The Bloomsbury Set, And The Definitive Portrait Of The Woolf Marriage A Man Of Extremes, Leonard Woolf Was Ferocious And Tender, Violent And Self Restrained, Opinionated And Nonjudgmental, Always An Outsider Of Sorts Within The Exceptionally Intimate, Fractious, And Sometimes Vicious Society Of Brilliant But Troubled Friends And Lovers He Has Been Portrayed Either As Virginia S Saintly Caretaker Or As Her Oppressor, The Substantial Range And Influence Of His Own Achievements Overshadowed By Virginia S Fame And The Tragedy Of Her Suicide But Leonard Was A Pivotal Figure Of His Age, Whose Fierce Intelligence Touched The Key Literary And Political Events That Shaped The Early Decades Of The Twentieth Century And Would Resonate Into The Post World War II Era Glendinning Beautifully Evokes Woolf S Coming Of Age In Turn Of The Century London The Scholarship Boy From A Prosperous Jewish Family Would Cut His Own Path Through The World Of The British Public School, Contending With The Lingering Anti Semitism Of Imperial Age Britain Immediately Upon Entering Trinity College, Cambridge, Woolf Became One Of An Intimate Group Of Vivid Personalities Who Would Form The Core Of The Bloomsbury Circle The Flamboyant Lytton Strachey Toby Stephen, The Goth, Through Whom Leonard Would Meet Stephen S Sister Virginia And Clive Bell Glendinning Brings To Life Their Long Nights Of Intense Discussion Of Literature And The Vicissitudes Of Sex, And Charts Leonard S Course As He Becomes The Lifelong Friend Of John Maynard Keynes And E M Forster She Unearths The Crucial Influence Of Woolf S Seven Years As A Headstrong Administrator In Colonial Ceylon, Where He Lost Confidence In The Imperial Mission, Deciding To Abandon Ceylon In Order To Marry The Psychologically Troubled Virginia Stephen Glendinning Limns The True Nature Of Leonard S Devotion To Virginia, Revealing Through Vivid Depiction Of Their Unconventional Marriage How Leonard Supported Virginia Through Her Breakdowns And In Her Writing In Co Founding With Virginia The Hogarth Press, He Provided A Secure Publisher For Virginia S Own Boldly Experimental Works As The Minence Grise Of The Early Labour Party, Working Behind The Scenes,Woolf Became A Leading Critic Of Imperialism, And His Passionate Advocacy Of Collective Security To Prevent War Underpinned The Charter Of The League Of Nations After Virginia S Death, He Continued To Forge His Own Iconoclastic Way, Engaging In A Long And Happy Relationship With A Married Woman Victoria Glendinning S Leonard Woolf Is A Major Achievement A Shrewdly Perceptive And Lively Portrait Of A Complex Man Of Extremes And Contradictions In Whom Passion Fought With Reason And Whose Far Reaching Influence Is Long Overdue For The Full Appreciation Glendinning Offers In This Important Book I m such a nerd The man died before I was born, but when I got to the account of Leonard s death, I cried OK, I m a nerd, but the book is also that good Glendinning writes vividly, accounting for Woolf s contradictions, his mannerisms, his friendships, his relations with all the many sorts of people whose lives he touched She makes it clear that although he was a central part of Bloomsbury, Bloomsbury was not necessarily the center of his life She provides a beautiful and moving account of his relationship with Virginia Woolf And perhaps she fell as hard for him as did the many female correspondents she describes in his later life and as I did.
The book was very well researched as well as enjoyable to read I would recommend it to anyone who loves biography, and especially to anyone interested in Bloomsbury or England in the early twentieth century.
What is it about elm trees the good tempered tree Elms tolerate a great deal and this could be why cabinet makers had an interest in them, but the Woolfs Glendinning has written a unique and beautiful biography of a man she clearly has a lot of respect for Enough respect that we don t only get to see what Leonard Woolf did in his life, in a curriculum vitae kind of way, but there are descriptions of the way people treated him and his wife and later his mistress The book contains descriptions of their dogs, the way the house really was very mouldy , what plants grew there, descriptions of their clothes these are all personal details that make the people she describes real As real as the two elm trees Trekkie Parsons was going to paint after Virginia s death Leonard had buried his wife s ashes under one of the elm trees that grew in his garden in 1941 the elms were known as Leonard and Virginia A couple of days after Trekkie left, the elm beneath which Virginia s ashes were buried crashed down in a gale Glendinning 2006 381 Following Leonard s death in 1969 She Trekkie buried Leonard s ashes under the surviving elm which later, like its companion, blew down in a gale Glendinning 2006 492 The mere fact that these trees couldn t bear this precious load on their roots, was because they sensed the important lives that had been laid to rest there Leonard Woolf lived a fairly ordinary life as an English gentleman until he returned from Ceylon where he d been working for the British government because he d decided to marry Virginia Woolf This famous writer needs no introduction On the contrary, as Glendinning makes it clear, we can thank Leonard for looking after this genius the way he did Glendinning 2006 369 466 Sadly the world merely knows him as her husband , but he was much than that He started the Hogarth Press together with Virginia and kept it going long after she d committed suicide this press, incidentally, was the first to publish Sigmund Freud s work in English Following World War I, Leonard s work and his ideas were used at the Peace Conference in 1919 which was to lead to the birth of the League of Nations 2006 232 just as significantly His work had contributed to the very existence of international relations as a university subject Glendinning 2006 414 Isn t ironic that a Jew s ideas were employed in this way While he was nearing the end of his life, he came to the devastating conclusion that I see clearly that I achieved practically nothing Glendinning 2006 484 But for scholars of literature the world over, he achieved much he was the ink in Virginia s pen, he was the one that stayed with her through thick and thin and absence of sex , he was the one that knew her best and how best to help her cope with her debilitating illness The mantra for his life was Nothing Matters This is how he coped with everything life threw at him This is also how he consoled the people that flowed to him following his wife s death For some or other reason, they had decided he can help them with their problems and his response Nothing Matters.
This is only looking at it from the eye of eternity In one s personal life , he wrote in his last book, certain things are of immense importance human relations, happiness, truth, beauty or art, justice and mercy Glendinning 2006 486 Sage words indeed Words that he not only wrote and spoke, but lived out personally Like Ted Hughes, he took on the responsibility of nurturing his wife s literary legacy in her absence, though, unlike Hughes, he didn t feel any need to control what went into biography this could have something to do with the fact that Plath and Hughes had had children, whereas the Woolfs had been childless.
There are some who view elm trees as noble minded Leonard and Virginia were just that Of course they gossiped and Virginia is known for her sharp tongue, but an appreciation for aesthetics was always there Once on his own, Leonard fell in love with none other than an artist, who was prepared to take care of him right to the end So even though he thought that nothing mattered to him, everything mattered, otherwise he would never have left such deep footsteps behind Footsteps that made it much easier for biographers, literary critics and academia to follow the route of his life with Virginia Janet Malcom makes the point that it is almost impossible to give any reader a real idea of what another person s life was like years ago Because the Woolfs and Leonard in particular kept copious notes of so many things, people today are able to find out what their lives could ve been like Glendinning must ve read through tons of letters, manuscripts and lists before embarking on this book She managed, in a very professional way, to depict for us two durable elm trees They were entwined for a while, but the gale of time and change caused them to come crashing down A fate that will befall us all.
How to make it through a time of great social and political change while a being of a marginalized race, b being the stabilizing influence for a very creative and bright but very unstable wife, c influencing 20th century social and political thinking, d starting an important press and e living 89 productive years Among many other things there would have been no Virginia Woolf had there been no Leonard Wolf Well written, typically name ridden it is a biography it s an empathetic look into a member of the damaged and damaging Bloomsbury group The book makes LW out to be the one stable member I would have liked to have known Leonard Woolf This is a masterful biography of a most intriguing man The book is a wonderfully detailed account of the long life of Leonard Woolf Mr Woolf was a rather enigmatic figure and Victoria Glendinning presents insights into his character and his outlook, all the while providing the many significant details necessary to support those insights This is a fine account of a long life well lived.
Very well researched as you would expect from Victoria Glendinning but I found it difficult to get a real sense of the man underneath the mass of detail.
Because I ve also read Victoria Glendinning s excellent biography of Vita Sackville West, and now her life of Leonard Woolf, I think she knows these people well Leonard was a person who certainly deserved the attention this book provides Despite his own considerable achievements as writer and publisher, he s obviously important as the first critic and care giver and nurturer Glendinning s word of Virginia Woolf He played a very large role in making it possible for her to have the health and creative atmosphere in which to produce the literary milestones her novels are And he carefully single handedly preserved what he considered important in her personal writings that help form much of the critical basis and appreciation of her work, the diaries and letters Glendinning doesn t break new ground in Virginia Woolf studies She doesn t reveal any startling new facts or perspectives But she shows that Leonard is interesting in his own right, and she allows him to stand outside Virginia s shadow so we can see him clearly One thing did surprise me the nagging symptoms and effects of Virginia s illness are here portrayed as overpowering and constantly threatening, always at crisis Other books about Virginia and her circle aren t so dark on this point.
Over the years Leonard has begun to get his due It was when reading William Zinsner s On Writing Well and Jon Hassler s Simon s Night that I discovered Woolf s evocative memoirs.
Now Victoria Glendinning who has written incredibly readable biographies of Vita Sackville West and Anthony Trollope has turned her attention to Leonard Woolf and written a fabulous book about how he managed to deal with a wife who was often ill and remain a force in both literature and politics The chapter on how he fielded requests for interviews, doctoral candidates, and Edward Albee s request that I be able to use your wife s name in a play I m writing as his wife s reputation grew is fascinating as well