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MHS Library | Mrs Dalloway

Key Facts

  • Virginia Woolf was born name was Adeline Virginia Stephen, born January 25, 1882 in London, UK. Died March 28, 1941 Aged 59 near Rodmell, Sussex
  • She was one of 8 children in her family, a blended family.
  • Her family were affulent, with the boys receiving University educations while the girls were home schooled in literature and English classics.
  • The family had a holiday house in St Ives, Cornwall, which was an important part of Virginia's childhood
  • Virginia's childhood was marked by many sadnesses - her mother died in 1895, and her step-sister Stella died in 1897, her father in 1904 and her brother Thoby in 1906. These traumatic experiences left her subject to breakdowns for the rest of her life
  • She married Leonard Woolf in 1912
  • in 1941, at the age of 59, she filled her pockets with rocks and drowned herself in the River Ouse

The Bloomsbury Group


The network of relationships in the Bloomsbury Group, illustrated by Rory Midhani

The Hours

Lit Guide

Plot Summary

  • The novel covers one day of Mrs Clarissa Dalloway's life
  • Set in London, Clarissa Dalloway is an upper class housewife
  • It begins with Clarissa flower shopping for the party she's hosting that night
  • We are given small clues as to what her life is like: she's upset her husband has been invited to lunch without her, that she is currently sleeping separately to her husband.
  • She reveals she's been thinking about her old friend Sally, and confesses a sexual attraction to her
  • An old friend (Peter Walsh) turns up and we learn he is disappointed in the conservative life that Clarissa has chosen for herself. 
  • Year earlier, Peter had proposed marriage to Clarissa and she refused him, and he's never quite forgiven her for it. 
  • Clarissa's daughter, Elizabeth arrives and interrupts their conversation
  • We then meet Septimus, a WW1 veteran who is suffering with shell shock. Septimus and his wife are waiting to see a psychiatrist. 
  • When they do see him (Sir William Bradshaw), Bradshaw dismisses his suicidal feelings and plans to just send him to a mental institute in the country
  • Richard Dalloway is meanwhile enjoying his lunch with Lady Bruton and Hugh Whitbread
  • Richard returns home with flowers for Clarissa, but finds himself unable to tell her that he loves her 
  • Elizabeth leaves with her History teacher, a woman who Clarissa despises (and the feeling is mutual) 
  • Meanwhile, Septimus and Lucrezia are in their apartment, enjoying a moment of happiness together before the men come to take Septimus to the asylum. One of Septimus’s doctors, Dr. Holmes, arrives, and Septimus fears the doctor will destroy his soul. In order to avoid this fate, he jumps from a window to his death.
  • The party begins, and despite her hard work, Clarissa feels disappointed with her efforts
  • Sir William Bradshaw arrives late, and his wife explains that one of his patients (Septimus) has committed suicide 
  • Clarissa retreats to her room to contemplate this death, feeling in some way responsible. She admires Septimus' ability to take control of his life and not comprise his beliefs 
  • The novel ends with us seeing Clarissa through Peter's eyes

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