Virginia and Leonard Woolf

Adeline Virginia Woolf was born in 1882, a year before Melanie Klein. Her future husband, Leonard Woolf, was born in 1880. Virginia was brilliant, immensely imaginative and ambitious, and went on to become one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. Leonard was an intelligent, talented essayist, theorist and civil servant.

The Woolfs were at the heart of the Bloomsbury Group in the first three decades of the 20th century. Leonard became very interested in psychoanalysis, and reviewed a translation of Sigmund Freud’s Psychopathology of Everyday Life (1901) before its publication in the New Weekly. Under their Hogarth Press, the Woolfs also published Freud's work, as translated by James Strachey, a close friend of theirs.

Although Viriginia was somewhat ambivalent about psychoanalysis, her experiments in literary form and the expression of inner human experience – embodied most famously in her stream-of-consciousness style – have often been seen as sharing important connections with psychoanalytic theory. Virginia met Freud once, at his London home in Maresfield Gardens, not long before his death. However, it was Adrian and Karin Stephen, Virginia’s brother and sister-in-law, who hosted Klein’s first lectures in London in the summer of 1926.

The Woolfs met Melanie Klein at least once, and Virginia described Klein thus:

"...a woman of character & force some submerged - how shall I say? - not craft, but subtlety; something working underground. A pull, a twist, like an undertow: menacing. A bluff grey haired lady, with large bright imaginative eyes."

Virginia Woolf drowned herself in 1941, aged 59, feeling the onset of the last of several extremely distressing mental breakdowns in her life. Leonard lived until 1969, when he died aged 88.