At the age of fifteen or sixteen, as she recalled in her diary, Virginia Woolf wrote a long essay on the Christian religion ‘proving that man has need of a God; but the God was described in process of change’ (D III, 271; entry for 8 December 1929). The topic of spirituality in Woolf’s fiction may seem counterintuitive, given that Woolf was surrounded by agnostics and sceptics all her life and frequently expressed marked hostility to institutional religion, particularly as embodied in a patriarchal Church of England. Her letters and diaries reveal, however, that despite her agnostic upbringing, Woolf continued to read the Bible and wrestle with Christianity throughout her life. She was unafraid to use language that had connotations of the sacred, explaining once to Ethel Smyth: ‘irreligious as I am (to your eyes) I have a devout belief in the human soul’ (L IV, 208).
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