The Great War scarred Virginia Woolf for life. Her friend, the poet Rupert Brooke, died in action, as well as two of her cousins and a brother-in-law, Cecil Woolf, who was killed by the same shell that left his brother Philip severely wounded. In addition she experienced a number of German air raids first-hand, during which she and the servants took refuge in the coal cellar of her London home. The closest she came to being killed in a raid was in January 1918, as she wrote to her sister Vanessa: ‘Well, you almost lost me. Nine bombs on Kew; seven people killed in one house, a hotel crushed’ (L II, 214). The War haunts her third novel, Jacob’s Room (1922), mainly by its absence; her fourth novel, Mrs. Dalloway (1925), by its refusal to go away; and her next novel, To The Lighthouse (1927), by the poignancy of the death of Andrew Ramsay as a young man. Her opposition to war grew steadily over the years. In an extended essay, Three Guineas (1938), she proclaimed that ‘War … is an abomination; a barbarity; war must be stopped at whatever cost’ (R/TG, 165). How to express this view satisfactorily in her writing was a challenge that she faced in each of her novels in succession.
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