But, you may say, we asked you to speak about women and fiction-what, has that gotto do with a room of one's own? I will try to explain. When you asked me to speak aboutwomen and fiction I sat down on the banks of a river and began to wonder what thewords meant. They might mean simply a few remarks about Fanny Burney; a few moreabout Jane Austen; a tribute to the Brontës and a sketch of Haworth Parsonage undersnow; some witticisms if possible about Miss Mitford; a respectful allusion to GeorgeEliot; a reference to Mrs Gaskell and one would have done. But at second sight thewords seemed not so simple. The title women and fiction might mean, and you mayhave meant it to mean, women and what they are like, or it might mean women and thefiction that they write; or it might mean women and the fiction that is written about them, or it might mean that somehow all three are inextricably mixed together and you wantme to consider them in that light. But when I began to consider the subject in this lastway, which seemed the most interesting, I soon saw that it had one fatal drawback. Ishould never be able to come to a conclusion. I should never be able to fulfil what is, Iunderstand, the first duty of a lecturer to hand you after an hour's discourse a nugget ofpure truth to wrap up between the pages of your notebooks and keep on themantelpiece for ever. All I could do was to offer you an opinion upon one minor point-awoman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction; and that, asyou will see, leaves the great problem of the true nature of woman and the true natureof fiction unsolved. I have shirked the duty of coming to a conclusion upon these twoquestions-women and fiction remain, so far as I am concerned, unsolved problems.But in order to make some amends I am going to do what I can to show you how Iarrived at this opinion about the room and the money. I am going to develop in yourpresence as fully and freely as I can the train of thought which led me to think this.Perhaps if I lay bare the ideas, the prejudices, that lie behind this statement you will findthat they have some bearing upon women and some upon fiction. At any rate, when asubject is highly controversial-and any question about sex is that-one cannot hope totell the truth. One can only show how one came to hold whatever opinion one doeshold. One can only give one's audience the chance of drawing their own conclusions asthey observe the limitations, the prejudices, the idiosyncrasies of the speaker. Fictionhere is likely to contain more truth than fact. Therefore I propose, making use of all theliberties and licences of a novelist, to tell you the story of the two days that preceded mycoming here-how, bowed down by the weight of the subject which you have laid uponmy shoulders, I pondered it, and made it work in and out of my daily life. I need not saythat what I am about to describe has no existence; Oxbridge is an invention; so isFernham; 'I' is only a convenient term for somebody who has no real being. Lies willflow from my lips, but there may perhaps be some truth mixed up with them; it is for youto seek out this truth and to decide whether any part of it is worth keeping. If not, youwill of course throw the whole of it into the waste-paper basket and forget all about it.
Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) ranks among the major literary figures of all time. With her novels, including To the Lighthouse, Mrs. Dalloway, and The Waves, she reinvented the art of story-telling and shaped modern culture's self-understanding to the present day. In landmark essays, letters, and diaries, Woolf insisted on a woman's right to tell her story on her own terms.