Leonard Woolf

Fred Leventhal
Oxford University Press
Publication - Peter Stansky

Leonard Woolf: Bloomsbury Socialist is an invaluable biography of an extremely important and somewhat neglected figure in British life. Leonard Woolf (1880-1969) was somewhat overshadowed by his wife, Virginia Woolf, and his role in helping her is a part of this study. He was born in London to a father who was a successful barrister but whose early death left the family in some economic difficulty. Although in his youth he abandoned his Judaism, Fred Leventhal and Peter Stansky expertly show that being Jewish was deeply significant in shaping Woolf's ideas as well as the Hellenism he imbibed both as a student at St Paul's and Trinity College Cambridge. While there, as a member of the famous small discussion group, the Apostles--as were his close friends, Lytton Strachey and John Maynard Keynes--he became part of what would become some years later the Bloomsbury Group. He then spent seven years as a very successful civil servant in Ceylon, gaining experience that would later enable him to write brilliantly about empire as well as a powerful novel, The Village in the Jungle. Returning to London in 1911, he married Virginia Woolf the next year and in 1917 they founded the Hogarth Press, which went on to be a successful and significant publishing house. In the course of his long life he became a major figure, as a prolific author of important texts and many shorter pieces on a wide range of subjects, but most importantly on international affairs, notably in the creation of the League of Nations, on a whole range of domestic problems and on the issues of imperialism, particularly in Africa. Throughout this authoritative study, Stansky and Leventhal illustrate how this seminal figure in twentieth-century British society was shaped by religion and spirituality.