Music and Woolf
“All great writers are great colorists, just as they are musicians into the bargain.”
Woolf, “Walter Sickert” 199
Virginia Woolf had an intricate relationship with music. She and her sister Vanessa had some music lessons in their youth: governesses were hired to teach them how to sing and play the piano (Bell 27). Although Virginia could not play any instrument nor professionally comprehend music (Bell 149), music became her lifelong interest. From her diary entries and letters, we know she was a regular concert-goer. She often attended several music performances in a single week, and her short story “The String Quartet” was inspired by the Schubert piano quintet to which she listened in Campden Hill, on March 9, 1920 (Woolf, Diary v.2 24). When attending musical performances seemed a distraction to her literary project, gramophone became a suitable substitute. The Woolfs usually listened to it after dinner and Virginia enjoyed the “snatches of divine loveliness” (Lette...