The Voyage Out

Guest Blog by Claire Nicholson

The Voyage Out: Centenary Perspectives

Virginia Woolf’s first novel, The Voyage Out, was published in London on 26 March 1915 by her half-brother’s publishing house, Gerald Duckworth & Co. Ltd. It had taken her several years to write and had been through many variations before the final draft. To celebrate its hundredth birthday and the advent of Woolf the novelist, in 2015 the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain decided to produce The Voyage Out: Centenary Perspectives, comprising eleven essays, all, we are proud to say, contributed by members of the society.

I was delighted to be invited to join in the editing of this volume, together with Sarah M. Hall, Mary Ellen Foley and Lindsay Martin. The essays range from academic analysis of particular aspects of the text to the enthusiasm of the common reader. There are accounts of the writing of the book and how it was received in 1915, personal responses to the text as both readers and teachers, discussions on questions of censorship, classical and German influences, early signs of Woolf’s modernist style and hints of her relationship with the Argentinian writer Victoria Ocampo, to give just a flavour of this wide-ranging collection.

Professor Dame Gillian Beer generously provided an illuminating Introduction, arguing that the first novel by Woolf is ‘amusing, gripping’ and even ‘discomfiting’ because ‘the end is emphatically not evident in its beginning … it is a true voyage out in which the future is not to be forecast’.

Like many other Woolf readers, I came late to The Voyage Out, having already delighted in her better-known works such as Mrs Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, Orlando and The Waves. But as Gillian Beer says, this novel holds its own and deserves celebration. It marks the first steps of a great writer into the twentieth-century literary world; the arrival of someone who would become a towering presence in English writing.

 Claire Nicholson (Executive Council member, VWSGB)

Copies of The Voyage Out: Centenary Perspectives cost £20 each (plus £2 postage & packing) and can be obtained from the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain. Please contact Sarah M. Hall at

Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain: http:/

Literature CambridgeComment