How much better is silence; the coffee cup, the table. How much better to sit by myself like the solitary sea-bird that opens its wings on the stake. Let me sit here for ever with bare things, this coffee cup, this knife, this fork, things in themselves, myself being myself.

Virginia Woolf, The Waves

As I mentioned in my recent review of Alexandra Harris’s excellent little book on Virginia Woolf, I was quite shocked to realise that it’s 80 years today since she took her own life by walking into the River Ouse, fearing another bout of what she called ‘madness’. Woolf has been part of my reading life for half that time, and she’s one of the most important writers to me. I’ve read all of her novels, many of her essays, her diaries and her letters, as well as umpteen books about her and the milieu in which she moved. I can’t imagine my life without her work.

Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

And I get very emotional about her; when I visited a major exhibition based around her life at the National Portrait Gallery back in 2014 (along with Middle Child and my old friend J.), her final letter to Leonard was almost too much. So today I will remember her for her genius, her wit and her truly unique writing; and I will spend a little time dipping into her words, which certainly changed the way I thought of literature.