by Virginia Woolf
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Orlando by Virginia Woolf

A Biography by Virginia Woolf

The thrill of reading Virginia Woolf's Orlando is the feeling of looking into a whirlpool just as something utterly extraordinary materializes for the first time: an exhilarating hallucination of surreal and beautiful images that remain in memory long after you put the book down. Orlando has it all: life, death, immortality, homoerotic desire, lesbianism, and the evanescence of time. Love, fear, solitude, death, and time-travel-the subjects float by like parasols in the rain. Orlando can be found on countless lists of the finest novels of the 20th century, and is one of Virginia Woolf's major achievements. It is considered one of her greatest works after Mrs. Dalloway and To The Lighthouse.

We are delighted to publish this classic book as part of our extensive Classic Library collection. Many of the books in our collection have been out of print for decades, and therefore have not been accessible to the general public. The aim of our publishing program is to facilitate rapid access to this vast reservoir of literature, and our view is that this is a significant literary work, which deserves to be brought back into print after many decades. The contents of the vast majority of titles in the Classic Library have been scanned from the original works. To ensure a high quality product, each title has been meticulously hand curated by our staff. Our philosophy has been guided by a desire to provide the reader with a book that is as close as possible to ownership of the original work. We hope that you will enjoy this wonderful classic work, and that for you it becomes an enriching experience.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781721881130
Publisher: CreateSpace Publishing
Publication date: 06/27/2018
Pages: 174
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.37(d)

About the Author

Virginia Woolf was born in London in 1882. Shortly after her father's death, she moved to Bloomsbury where, with her sister, the painter Vanessa Bell, Virginia met writers and artists such as Lytton Strachey and Roger Fry, forming what later became known as the Bloomsbury Group. In 1912 she married Leonard Woolf and together, in 1917, they founded their own printing press. Virginia Woolf met Vita Sackville-West in 1922, for whom the brilliant fantasy of Orlando was written. She died in 1941 after drowning herself in the River Ouse.

Date of Birth:

January 25, 1882

Date of Death:

March 28, 1941

Place of Birth:


Place of Death:

Sussex, England


Home schooling

Read an Excerpt

HE—FOR THERE could be no doubt of his sex, though the fashion of the time did something to disguise it—was in the act of slicing at the head of a Moor which swung from the rafters. It was the colour of an old football, and more or less the shape of one, save for the sunken cheeks and a strand or two of coarse, dry hair, like the hair on a cocoanut. Orlando’s father, or perhaps his grandfather, had struck it from the shoulders of a vast Pagan who had started up under the moon in the barbarian fields of Africa; and now it swung, gently, perpetually, in the breeze which never ceased blowing through the attic rooms of the gigantic house of the lord who had slain him.

 Orlando’s fathers had ridden in fields of asphodel, and stony fields, and fields watered by strange rivers, and they had struck many heads of many colours off many shoulders, and brought them back to hang from the rafters. So too would Orlando, he vowed. But since he was sixteen only, and too young to ride with them in Africa or France, he would steal away from his mother and the peacocks in the garden and go to his attic room and there lunge and plunge and slice the air with his blade. Sometimes he cut the cord so that the skull bumped on the floor and he had to string it up again, fastening it with some chivalry almost out of reach so that his enemy grinned at him through shrunk, black lips triumphantly. The skull swung to and fro, for the house, at the top of which he lived, was so vast that there seemed trapped in it the wind itself, blowing this way, blowing that way, winter or summer. The green arras with the hunters on it moved perpetually. His fathers had been noblesince they had been at all. They came out of the northern mists wearing coronets on their heads. Were not the bars of darkness in the room, and the yellow pools which chequered the floor, made by the sun falling through the stained glass of a vast coat of arms in the window? Orlando stood now in the midst of the yellow body of an heraldic leopard. When he put his hand on the window-sill to push the window open, it was instantly coloured red, blue, and yellow like a butterfly’s wing. Thus, those who like symbols, and have a turn for the deciphering of them, might observe that though the shapely legs, the handsome body, and the well-set shoulders were all of them decorated with various tints of heraldic light, Orlando’s face, as he threw the window open, was lit solely by the sun itself. A more candid, sullen face it would be impossible to find. Happy the mother who bears, happier still the biographer who records the life of such a one! Never need she vex herself, nor he invoke the help of novelist or poet. From deed to deed, from glory to glory, from office to office he must go, his scribe following after, till they reach what ever seat it may be that is the height of their desire. Orlando, to look at, was cut out precisely for some such career. The red of the cheeks was covered with peach down; the down on the lips was only a little thicker than the down on the cheeks. The lips themselves were short and slightly drawn back over teeth of an exquisite and almond whiteness. Nothing disturbed the arrowy nose in its short, tense flight; the hair was dark, the ears small, and fitted closely to the head. But, alas, that these catalogues of youthful beauty cannot end without mentioning forehead and eyes. Alas, that people are seldom born devoid of all three; for directly we glance at Orlando standing by the window, we must admit that he had eyes like drenched violets, so large that the water seemed to have brimmed in them and widened them; and a brow like the swelling of a marble dome pressed between the two blank medallions which were his temples. Directly we glance at eyes and forehead, thus do we rhapsodise. Directly we glance at eyes and forehead, we have to admit a thousand disagreeables which it is the aim of every good biographer to ignore. Sights disturbed him, like that of his mother, a very beautiful lady in green walking out to feed the peacocks with Twitchett, her maid, behind her; sights exalted him—the birds and the trees; and made him in love with death—the evening sky, the homing rooks; and so, mounting up the spiral stairway into his brain—which was a roomy one—all these sights, and the garden sounds too, the hammer beating, the wood chopping, began that riot and confusion of the passions and emotions which every good biographer detests. But to continue—Orlando slowly drew in his head, sat down at the table, and, with the half-conscious air of one doing what they do every day of their lives at this hour, took out a writing book labelled “Æthelbert: A Tragedy in Five Acts,” and dipped an old stained goose quill in the ink.
 Soon he had covered ten pages and more with poetry. He was fluent, evidently, but he was abstract. Vice, Crime, Misery were the personages of his drama; there were Kings and Queens of impossible territories; horrid plots confounded them; noble sentiments suffused them; there was never a word said as he himself would have said it, but all was turned with a fluency and sweetness which, considering his age—he was not yet seventeen—and that the sixteenth century had still some years of its course to run, were remarkable enough. At last, however, he came to a halt. He was describing, as all young poets are for ever describing, nature, and in order to match the shade of green precisely he looked (and here he showed more audacity than most) at the thing itself, which happened to be a laurel bush growing beneath the window. After that, of course, he could write no more. Green in nature is one thing, green in literature another. Nature and letters seem to have a natural antipathy; bring them together and they tear each other to pieces. The shade of green Orlando now saw spoilt his rhyme and split his metre. Moreover, nature has tricks of her own. Once look out of a window at bees among flowers, at a yawning dog, at the sun setting, once think “how many more suns shall I see set,” etc., etc. (the thought is too well known to be worth writing out) and one drops the pen, takes one’s cloak, strides out of the room, and catches one’s foot on a painted chest as one does so. For Orlando was a trifle clumsy. 
Copyright 1928 by Virginia Woolf
Copyright renewed 1956 by Leonard Woolf
Annotated Edition copyright © 2006 by Harcourt, Inc.
Preface copyright © 2005 by Mark Hussey
Introduction copyright © 2006 by Maria DiBattista

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 harcourt.com/contact or mailed to the following address: Permissions Department, Harcourt, Inc., 6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.

Table of Contents

Chapter 113
Chapter 265
Chapter 3119
Chapter 4153
Chapter 5227
Chapter 6263

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Orlando 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 30 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A superior and important novel by one of the geniuses of the English language. What does not add up, as I write this, is the 2 1/2 star rating which fails to characterize the two positive reviews. One reviewer entered a 5 star. Perhaps the other did not click on the 'stars' feature, something that would unfortunately be computed as a zero! In any event, Orlando deserves as many stars as B&N has to offer.
Catherine-E-Chapman More than 1 year ago
Didn’t Really Get It The odd thing about ‘Orlando’ is that, whilst it’s conceptually daring, narratively it’s far less unconventional than other of Virginia Woolf’s novels that I’ve read. And, perhaps because the book begins with an Elizabethan setting, the ‘story’ that I was constantly anticipating, was never really established, leaving me feeling dissatisfied at some level. I persevered with ‘Orlando’ because it was well-written and relatively short; had it been a longer book, I think I would almost certainly have abandoned it. Whilst others make more of Orlando’s transformation from man to woman during the course of the book, and the message that Virginia Woolf is sending the reader by virtue of this transition, I have to confess, I never really got it. Perhaps the feminist aspect of this book is just too subtle to really signify. Similarly, I didn’t read too much into the autobiographical angle of it – the idea that the character of Orlando was inspired by Vita Sackville-West – perhaps more interest is to be found in the text for fans of Woolf if you do this. Overall then, I would say that, if you’ve read and enjoyed other novels by Virginia Woolf, ‘Orlando’ is a worthwhile read to augment your understanding of her work. But, if you’re looking for an introduction to her writing, I would by far recommend reading ‘Mrs Dalloway’ or ‘To the Lighthouse’ before reading this book – I think there is a risk that ‘Orlando’ would just put you off reading her other novels.
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Talekyn More than 1 year ago
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? This Guy. I'm probably going to have to turn in my English Lit Major membership card over this, but man. I slogged through this, and didn't enjoy it at all. I'm not sure when I was last so bored by a book whose core concept intrigued me so much. Orlando is virtually immortal, changes gender mid-book, has a group of core household personnel who also seem to be immortal. The story starts in Elizabethan times and moves to the early 1900's. So much of that is fodder for great storytelling, not to mention the ability to comment on societal norms, gender reversals, etc. I won't deny that Woolf manages to pack a lot of social commentary into the book. I won't deny that she experiments with form in a way that makes most students and professors of English literature salivate. But in a book that is over 300 pages long ... nothing happens! Sure, there's the sudden deep freeze and equally sudden thaw of England that provides a momentary rush, but other than that, the protagonist spends pretty much the entire book sitting around depressed over the slights he receives from a woman, a fellow poet, and other varied personalities. I'll say it again: I was bored. And based on my reaction to this, which is supposed to be the most accessible of Woolf's works ... I can honestly say I don't think I'll be trying to read anything else by her. Also, It is interesting to me that when I looked on Amazon, BN and Goodreads, none of the product descriptions I read attempt to describe the plot of ORLANDO. These are product descriptions now, not reader reviews. They all talk about how original and influential the book is and what a great movie Tilda Swinton was in a few years back. But none of them even attempt to describe the plot beyond what's quoted in the premise above. Maybe I just looked in the wrong place, or maybe it's just become accepted that ORLANDO is one of those things you read because "it's a classic."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. It is what fiction, to me is all about; creatively obscured with alliteration. So much to take in upon first read I really want to read it again
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is quite exuberating and it gets awkward at times but in the end all of it makes sense I think Virginia did herself well.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Orlando is very rich, with deeply moving beauty that is nothing like the airy enchantment of other novels. Woolf's dramatic poetry and surreal modernism are a change from tradition, and a wonderful example of her profound concord with the 'spirit of the age' of the 1920's.