The Death of the Moth, and other essays, by Virginia Woolf

Editorial Note

It is ten years since Virginia Woolf published her last volume of collected essays, THE COMMON READER: SECOND SERIES. At the time of her death she was already engaged in getting together essays for a further volume, which she proposed to publish in the autumn of 1941 or the spring Of 1942. She also intended to publish a new book of short stories, including in it some or all of MONDAY OR TUESDAY, which has been long out of print.

She left behind her a considerable number of essays, sketches, and short stories, some unpublished and some previously published in newspapers; there are, indeed, enough to fill three or four volumes. For this book I have made a selection from these. Some of them are now published for the first time; others have appeared in THE TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT, THE NEW STATESMAN & NATION, THE YALE REVIEW, THE NEW YORK HERALD TRIBUNE, THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY, THE LISTENER, THE NEW REPUBLIC, and LYSISTRATA.

If she had lived, there is no doubt that she would have made large alterations and revisions in nearly all these essays before allowing them to appear in volume form. Knowing this, one naturally hesitates to publish them as they were left. I have decided to do so, first because they seem to me worth republishing, and second because at any rate those which have already appeared in journals have in fact been written and revised with immense care. I do not think that Virginia Woolf ever contributed any article to any paper which she did not write and rewrite several times. The following facts will, perhaps, show how seriously she took the art of writing even for the newspaper. Shortly before her death she wrote an article reviewing a book. The author of the book subsequently wrote to the editor saying that the article was so good that he would greatly like to have the typescript of it if the editor would give it to him. The editor forwarded the letter to me, saying that he had not got the typescript and suggesting that if I could find it, I might send it to the author. I found among my wife’s papers the original draft of the article in her handwriting and no fewer than eight or nine complete revisions of it which she had herself typed out.

Nearly all the longer critical essays included in this volume have been subjected by her to this kind of revision before they were originally published. This is, however, not true of the others, particularly of the first four essays. These were written by her, as usual, in handwriting and were then typed out in rather a rough state. I have printed them as they stand, except that I have punctuated them and corrected obvious verbal mistakes. I have not hesitated to do this, since I always revised the MSS. of her books and articles in this way before they were published.

Leonard Woolf.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/w/woolf/virginia/w91d/preface.html

Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 11:53