The Desks of Virginia Woolf

James Barrett
2 min readFeb 22, 2016

Throughout her life as a writer Virginia Woolf paid attention to the physical act of writing. According to Quentin Bell, Virginia Woolf’s nephew and biographer, Woolf “had a desk standing about three feet six inches high with a sloping top; it was so high that she had to stand to her work.” This work habit continued until about 1912. Later in her life, Woolf often wrote in a low armchair with a plywood board across her knees (as her father, Sir Leslie Stephen (1832–1904) had done).

The first image of Virginia sitting in the armchair with the plywood board in Monk’s House (which Woolf and her husband, the political activist, journalist and editor Leonard Woolf, bought in 1919), the second is a reproduction of the standing desk (which you can purchase for $1195). The next is her desk in the writing hut at Monk’s House (from where she set out to drown herself in 1941 in the nearby Rive Ouse) and the fourth image is the customised writing desk Woolf used early in her life, finally below is Woolf’s working table she used in various places around Monk’s House, East Sussex, photographed by Gisèle Freund in 1965:

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James Barrett

Freelance scholar. Humanist. Interested in language, culture, music, technology, design & philosophy. I like Literature & Critical Theory. Traveler. I am mine.