Three Guineas

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Overview

Virginia Woolf received three separate requests for a guinea--one for a women's college building fund, one for a society promoting employment for professional women, and one to help prevent war.

This book is an answer to these requests--and as Wolfe examines the three causes and points out that they are inseparably the same, she declares a new tactic of feminine purpose.

"She follows two streams of thought until they flow into the same sea; and that end, that finally ...

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Overview

Virginia Woolf received three separate requests for a guinea--one for a women's college building fund, one for a society promoting employment for professional women, and one to help prevent war.

This book is an answer to these requests--and as Wolfe examines the three causes and points out that they are inseparably the same, she declares a new tactic of feminine purpose.

"She follows two streams of thought until they flow into the same sea; and that end, that finally encompassing wholeness is not merely peace, not merely freedom and equality for race and sex, it is human civilization, a civilization which must be better, sounder....Toward so broad a purpose must we move if wars are to be prevented and the human mind and spirit are to stand erect and fearless in this world." (The New York Times)

A discussion of the role of woman in modern society and an examination of the causes of war and the means of preventing it.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Three of Woolf's top works get annotated by individual scholars, who also supply introductions and additional reading lists. Other extras include a chronology of the author's life and illustrations. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780156901772
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 5/28/1963
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 400,430
  • Product dimensions: 5.33 (w) x 7.96 (h) x 0.48 (d)

Meet the Author

Virginia Woolf

VIRGINIA WOOLF (1882-1941) was one of the major literary figures of the twentieth century. An admired literary critic, she authored many essays, letters, journals, and short stories in addition to her groundbreaking novels.

Biography

Virginia Woolf is now recognized as a major twentieth-century author, a great novelist and essayist and a key figure in literary history as a feminist and a modernist. Born in 1882, she was the daughter of the editor and critic Leslie Stephen, and suffered a traumatic adolescence after the deaths of her mother, in 1895, and her stepsister Stella, in 1897, leaving her subject to breakdowns for the rest of her life. Her father died in 1904 and two years later her favorite brother Thoby died suddenly of typhoid. With her sister, the painter Vanessa Bell, she was drawn into the company of writers and artists such as Lytton Strachey and Roger Fry, later known as the Bloomsbury Group. Among them she met Leonard Woolf, whom she married in 1912, and together they founded the Hogarth Press in 1917, which was to publish the work of T. S. Eliot, E. M. Forster and Katherine Mansfield as well as the earliest translations of Freud. Woolf lived an energetic life among friends and family, reviewing and writing, and dividing her time between London and the Sussex Downs. In 1941, fearing another attack of mental illness, she drowned herself.

Her first novel, The Voyage Out, appeared in 1915, and she then worked through the transitional Night and Day (1919) to the highly experimental and impressionistic Jacob's Room (1922). From then on her fiction became a series of brilliant and extraordinarily varied experiments, each one searching for a fresh way of presenting the relationship between individual lives and the forces of society and history. She was particularly concerned with women's experience, not only in her novels but also in her essays and her two books of feminist polemic, A Room of One's Own (1929) and Three Guineas (1938). Her major novels include Mrs. Dalloway (1925), the historical fantasy Orlando (1928), written for Vita Sackville-West, the extraordinarily poetic vision of The Waves (1931), the family saga of The Years (1937), and Between the Acts (1941).

Author biography courtesy of Penguin Group (USA).

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    1. Also Known As:
      Adeline Virginia Stephen Woolf (full name)
    1. Date of Birth:
      January 25, 1882
    2. Place of Birth:
      London
    1. Date of Death:
      March 28, 1941
    2. Place of Death:
      Sussex, England

Read an Excerpt

ONE
THREE YEARS is a long time to leave a letter unanswered, and your letter has been lying without an answer even longer than that. I had hoped that it would answer itself, or that other people would answer it for me. But there it is with its question—How in your opinion are we to prevent war?—still unanswered.

 It is true that many answers have suggested themselves, but none that would not need explanation, and explanations take time. In this case, too, there are reasons why it is particularly difficult to avoid misunderstanding. A whole page could be filled with excuses and apologies; declarations of unfitness, incompetence, lack of knowledge, and experience: and they would be true. But even when they were said there would still remain some difficulties so fundamental that it may well prove impossible for you to understand or for us to explain. But one does not like to leave so remarkable a letter as yours—a letter perhaps unique in the history of human correspondence, since when before has an educated man asked a woman how in her opinion war can be prevented?—unanswered. Therefore let us make the attempt; even if it is doomed to failure.

 In the first place let us draw what all letter-writers instinctively draw, a sketch of the person to whom the letter is addressed. Without someone warm and breathing on the other side of the page, letters are worthless. You, then, who ask the question, are a little grey on the temples; the hair is no longer thick on the top of your head. You have reached the middle years of life not without effort, at the Bar; but on the whole your journey has been prosperous. There is nothing parched, mean or dissatisfied in your expression. And without wishing to flatter you, your prosperity—wife, children, house—has been deserved. You have never sunk into the contented apathy of middle life, for, as your letter from an office in the heart of London shows, instead of turning on your pillow and prodding your pigs, pruning your pear trees—you have a few acres in Norfolk—you are writing letters, attending meetings, presiding over this and that, asking questions, with the sound of the guns in your ears. For the rest, you began your education at one of the great public schools and finished it at the university.

 It is now that the first difficulty of communication between us appears. Let us rapidly indicate the reason. We both come of what, in this hybrid age when, though birth is mixed, classes still remain fixed, it is convenient to call the educated class. When we meet in the flesh we speak with the same accent; use knives and forks in the same way; expect maids to cook dinner and wash up after dinner; and can talk during dinner without much difficulty about politics and people; war and peace; barbarism and civilization—all the questions indeed suggested by your letter. Moreover, we both earn our livings. But . . . those three dots mark a precipice, a gulf so deeply cut between us that for three years and more I have been sitting on my side of it wondering whether it is any use to try to speak across it. Let us then ask someone else—it is Mary Kingsley—to speak for us. “I don’t know if I ever revealed to you the fact that being allowed to learn German was all the paid-for education I ever had. Two thousand pounds was spent on my brother’s, I still hope not in vain.”1 Mary Kingsley is not speaking for herself alone; she is speaking, still, for many of the daughters of educated men. And she is not merely speaking for them; she is also pointing to a very important fact about them, a fact that must profoundly influence all that follows: the fact of Arthur’s Education Fund. You, who have read Pendennis, will remember how the mysterious letters A.E.F. figured in the household ledgers. Ever since the thirteenth century English families have been paying money into that account. From the Pastons to the Pendennises, all educated families from the thirteenth century to the present moment have paid money into that account. It is a voracious receptacle. Where there were many sons to educate it required a great effort on the part of the family to keep it full. For your education was not merely in book-learning; games educated your body; friends taught you more than books or games. Talk with them broadened your outlook and enriched your mind. In the holidays you travelled; acquired a taste for art; a knowledge of foreign politics; and then, before you could earn your own living, your father made you an allowance upon which it was possible for you to live while you learnt the profession which now entitles you to add the letters K.C. to your name. All this came out of Arthur’s Education Fund. And to this your sisters, as Mary Kingsley indicates, made their contribution. Not only did their own education, save for such small sums as paid the German teacher, go into it; but many of those luxuries and trimmings which are, after all, an essential part of education—travel, society, solitude, a lodging apart from the family house—they were paid into it too. It was a voracious receptacle, a solid fact—Arthur’s Education Fund—a fact so solid indeed that it cast a shadow over the entire landscape. And the result is that though we look at the same things, we see them differently. What is that congregation of buildings there, with a semi-monastic look, with chapels and halls and green playing-fields? To you it is your old school; Eton or Harrow; your old university, Oxford or Cambridge; the source of memories and of traditions innumerable. But to us, who see it through the shadow of Arthur’s Education Fund, it is a schoolroom table; an omnibus going to a class; a little woman with a red nose who is not well educated herself but has an invalid mother to support; an allowance of £50 a year with which to buy clothes, give presents and take journeys on coming to maturity. Such is the effect that Arthur’s Education Fund has had upon us. So magically does it change the landscape that the noble courts and quadrangles of Oxford and Cambridge often appear to educated men’s daughters2 like petticoats with holes in them, cold legs of mutton, and the boat train starting for abroad while the guard slams the door in their faces.
 
Copyright © 1938 by Harcourt, Inc.

Copyright renewed 1966 by Leonard Woolf
Annotated Edition copyright © 2006 by Harcourt, Inc.
Preface copyright © 2005 by Mark Hussey
Introduction copyright © 2006 by Jane Marcus

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

 
Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work should be submitted online at www.harcourt.com/ contact or mailed to the following address: Permissions Department, Harcourt, Inc., 6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.

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Table of Contents

CONTENTS
Preface: Virginia Woolf 
Chronology 
Introduction 
Three Guineas 
Notes to Three Guineas  
Appendix: Excerpts from the  
 Three Guineas Scrapbooks
Suggestions for Further Reading: 
Virginia Woolf
Suggestions for Further Reading: 
Three Guineas

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